I still can't believe it. I really can't. Nothing is impossible with team. Nothing. They may be down, but they're never out. Ever. The Dodgers were the better team for 26 outs. They didn't commit any errors. They got clutch two-out hit after clutch two-out hit. The Phillies didn't. They threw a ball away again. They left runners on base. They failed to get the big hit after an explosive start. Until it mattered the most. Then they struck, and they just obliterated any chance the Dodgers had at avenging last year's NLCS. This god damn team is amazing.
For five and half innings last night, I was a miserable prick. Sure, things started off great, with Ryan Howard sending a missile into the right field stands to put the Phils up 2-0. Right then and there, I thought the game was over. Former Phillie Randy Wolf got a little squeezed in the at-bat and was clearly upset. Then he made a mistake to Ryan Howard, who did what he's done all postseason, putting the Phils ahead right from the start for the second straight night. Howard now has at least one RBI in all eight games the Phils have played this postseason, and he tied Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive playoff games with an RBI.
When he hit it, I started losing my mind, screaming at the time of my lungs, "YOU ARE A FUCKING MONSTER, RYAN!!!! A FUCKING MONSTER!!!!" In my mind, the game was already over. Joe Blanton came out dealing, breezing through the first three innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. But then in the 4th, a one-out walk to Matt Kemp completely changed the complexion of the game and the tempo of Joe Blanton.
Whether it was working out of the stretch or losing rhythm with a runner on, Blanton wasn't the same pitcher the rest of the way. After Andre Ethier flew out, Manny followed with a two-out single, then Loney made it back-to-back hits to plate Kemp, and the walk hurt him, bringing LA within a run. The damage wasn't done. Blanton then walked Ronnie Belliard and gave up another single, this time to Russell Martin, to tie the game. Both runs scored with two out. I was pissed, barking at Blanton that you can't walk people, especially with a lead.
To make matters worse, Wolf settled in and rebounded from his tough first inning. He didn't let the home run to Howard shake him, and he certainly showed he spent considerable time in Philadelphia, refusing to let the crowd rattle him. This is why Joe Torre opted for Wolf to pitch in Citizens Bank. He knew he could handle the bright lights and the raucous crowd. And he did, retiring 12 straight Phillies after that first-inning bomb, giving his teammates new life.
I was starting to get nervous, and the roommate I despise walked in the house. I was in no mood to deal with him. He has no knowledge of sports, and he sucks at living. I wish he'd just go away. My other roommates were at the game, so I had no buffer from this stupid fuck, and my patience was already wearing thin. Shortly thereafter, Matt Kemp sent a towering drive to centerfield, and Shane couldn't reach over the fence and get it. Home run, with two outs again, 3-2 Dodgers. Fuck.
As the Phils were going down in the bottom of the 5th, though finally getting a baserunner in the form of a Carlos Ruiz walk, this fucking asshole comes in the room and says to me, "I cleaned up all the recycling and sorted all the beer cans and bottles from the weekend, you think you can get the dishes and take care of the dishwasher?" I turned to this dumb fuck and said, "The Phillies are on," and left it at that. Here's a fucking note for you there, retard roommate: I didn't ask you to clean up anything, you did that shit on your own. Don't fucking ask me to, especially when I clean up after myself all the fucking time. And die. Like, today. In the most horrifying, embarrassing way. I'm not even kidding. Go away. Forever. Fuck I hate him.
Seriously, the Phillies were down a run, I'm an awful human being during playoff baseball games and then this. And things were about to get worse. The normally sure-handed Pedro Feliz led off the 6th by making an errant throw to first, one in the dirt on a short hop that Howard couldn't quite pick, and Ramirez was safe, E-5. The errors are beginning to get out of hand, no? It was a ball that handcuffed Feliz a bit, and he had to back up on it, but he should have known he still could have set his feet and not rush the throw. Manny was running, and we all know he doesn't always run the hardest.
As they have all series, the Dodgers made the Phillies pay, capitalizing on the error. Though for a moment, it looked like Joe was going to get out of it. He got Loney to fly out, then gave up a single to Belliard, but struck out Martin for out number 2 with Casey Blake up. Of course Blanton was going to get Blake, he's been the least intimidating hitter in the series this side of Pedro Feliz. But no, Blake got a two-out single to right to score Ramirez, and the Dodgers led 4-2, scoring all four runs with two outs. Fuck. Ing. Gay.
Intermittently, my roommate would walk in the room and say something stupid regarding the game. I ignored him, and I was fuming. Thankfully, Shane got me a little more excited with his one-out triple, and when Chase drove him in, I was pumping my fist and yelling, "Fuck yeah, Chase. Fuck yeah." After Howard walked to put runners on first and second with one out, Torre sent Wolf to the showers. The second the game went to commercial for the pitching change, my roommate turned to me and, I shit you not, asked me, "So, how was your day?" ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!? The Phillies are trailing 4-3 in game 4 of the NLCS and you're trying to make small talk? Seriously, die. I didn't even turn to look at him and simply said, "Dave, I'm not in any kind of mood to talk right now." He shut the fuck up the rest of the night and left me alone, disappearing to his room for the most part. Sadly, I don't think he died in his sleep. What an asshole.
The tension of this game was killing me. In came Belisario, sawing off Jay Werth's bat and getting him to ground into a fielder's choice, getting Howard out at second. Runners on first and third with two outs. In came Kuo to face Raul, and all the Phils needed was a base hit to tie it. When Ibanez hit a scorching line drive to left on the first pitch he saw, I was ecstatic … until somehow, some way, Manny Ramirez came in on it and made a shoestring catch. Off the bat, I thought for sure that Ibanez had come through. It looked like a clean single, if not more. But then Manny, one of the worst fielders in the history of the game, made a tremendous shoestring catch. If he had been literally one step slow, the ball would have rolled by him and the Phils would have had the lead. Instead, it was out number 3, and the Phils still trailed 4-3. I couldn't believe it. And I was pissed. I had the same reaction as Ryan Howard, which they replayed from the dugout — utter joy and excitement when it came off the bat, and stunned silence when it was miraculously caught by Manny. It was a crushing blow.
The Dodgers were making all the big plays, getting all the big hits. And even though it was a one-run game, it just seemed like the Phils didn't quite have it, while the Dodgers were determined to get this thing back to Los Angeles. Plus, you know, that whole Dodgers bullpen is great, Phillies bullpen is garbage thing that we keep hearing so much about.
Speaking of that awful Phillies bullpen, Chan Ho Park came in and had an easy 8th, getting Furcal to ground out, striking out Kemp and then after walking Ethier, allowing Curbball to throw him out at second trying to steal. You'd think runners would stop testing Ruiz back there, at least until Brad Lidge takes the mound. He is deadly accurate and has a ridiculously strong arm. Andre Ethier found that out the hard way.
In the bottom of the 7th, I was begging guys to come through with a hit. Of course, Feliz struck out. And Chooch, with all his heroics, couldn't muster anything up, grounding out. In came Ben Francisco, and on a mighty cut, I thought he may have gotten a hold of one. He didn't, flying out to left center, and my emotions were just about drained … but there still was hope. If Madson could get through the 8th, the top of the lineup loomed, meaning a golden opportunity to get this thing back tied or to take the lead. Madson did his job, and up came the Phils.
After a ground out by Jimmy, Shane was hit on his back foot by a George Sherrill pitch. Then he walked Chase Utley and I was beginning to have visions of game 1. Here we were, runners on first and second with one out and Ryan Howard at the plate. The way he has been going, you had to like their chances. But Sherrill made some excellent pitches to Howard and struck him out with a high and tight fastball. With that whiff, I thought the Phils had just lost the game. I really did. And Jayson Werth's fly out to right off closer Jonathan Broxton, who came in after Sherrill retired Howard, cemented that feeling. I was furious, miserable and silent. The Dodgers had simply outplayed the Phillies, I thought. They earned this win, evening up the series at 2-2. And I hated every second of it.
I don't know why I ever doubted these guys. I guess it's just my nature, our nature. In Philadelphia, we've been programmed to expect the worst. Even last season's World Series title couldn't wash away a lifetime of that feeling. But really, with these guys, I should have known better. We all should have.
Scott Eyre began the 9th by getting Orlando Hudson to foul out. Then he gave up a single to Furcal, a speedy runner who could get in scoring position with a steal and give the Dodgers a chance at adding an insurance run, especially since Charlie lifted Eyre to bring in Lidge, who can't hold runners worth a shit.
It didn't matter. Lidge was going to take care of the hitters himself, runner be damned. His slider was back, filthier than ever, and he struck out Matt Kemp. Sure, Furcal swiped second to get in scoring position, but so what? And yeah, he moved to third on a wild pitch. Big deal. Lidge got ahead of Ethier and dropped in a perfect, filthy, unhittable slider for a called strike three. It was a long half inning, but the Phils got out of it still within a run … and Broxton was left sitting in the bullpen mulling over this Phillies lineup.
Broxton didn't seem fazed at first. He got Raul to weekly ground out to second, and the Phils were down to their final two outs. That's when Matt Stairs came to the plate to hit for Feliz. Before the series started, hell, during the regular season, I heard Broxton say numerous times that he'd like a chance to face Stairs again, to redeem himself. Bullshit. Broxton wanted no part of Stairs, walking him on four pitches that came nowhere near the strike zone. Surely, he was scared to death of this:
Matt Stairs struck fear in the heart of Broxton, the supposedly unhittable closer that would be the difference for the Dodgers. Stairs was lifted for pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett and the very next pitch, Broxton plunked Ruiz. Uh, oh. You just gave this team life. Big mistake. Though I wasn't so confident. I was begging Greg Dobbs to get a hit. If ever there was a time to regain his 2008 form, this was it. I couldn't tell you the last time Dobbs has had a big hit for this ball club. It's been that kind of year for him. This was his chance. But he didn't get it done, hitting a humpback liner to third for out number 2.
That was that, I thought. Series tied 2-2. The Phils were down to their last out, and Broxton seemed like he could get one more. Except he couldn't. Jimmy sensed that fear, looked for a pitch to drive, and on the third pitch he saw from Broxton, a 1-1 fastball in, Rollins roped one to the right-centerfield gap. The second he hit it, I jumped up off my chair and starting screaming/laughing/yelling/screaming some more. I knew not only was Bruntlett gonna score, but Chooch was too. I just knew. And I as I saw him coming into home, I screamed at the tops of my lungs, "I LOVE THESE FUCKING GUYS!!!!!!!!" I was losing my mind, running around the house, to the back door and running right into it. Then out the front door, running up and down Girard screaming. I couldn't believe it. I still can't. In an instant, I went from despondent, depressed and pissed to overcome with joy. In an instant, the Phils went from a 4-3 loss to even the series at 2-2, to an improbable, impossible 5-4 win to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. This team is un-fucking-real.
That was, without question, one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of playoff baseball. This team just has no quit. They aren't satisfied with one World Series. They want to keep winning, again and again and again. Five more wins. Just five more wins.
LET'S GO PHILS!!!!!!!!!!!