Last season, after the Phillies defeated the Dodgers in Los Angeles to advance to the World Series for the first time in 15 years, Charlie Manuel relayed the story of the final conversation he had with his mother before she passed away during the playoffs. June said, "Charlie, you're gonna win those games. You're going to the World Series." I think Charlie and his team may have thought she meant the Phillies were going to win those games and go to the World Series forever, because that's what they've done ever since, now two years in a row.
This season has been a rocky road to say the least. Then again, so was last year. Yeah, in 2008, Brad Lidge was perfect and the bullpen was awesome, but lest we forget, the No. 2 starter in the postseason was sent down to the minors, the shortstop was injured and the starters were shaky. Oh, and Adam Eaton was on the team. But the Phils put it all together, got on a run and won the World Series. In a season where the shortstop was in a major slump, their No. 2 starter went down to injury, the bullpen imploded, the closer was the opposite of perfect and the ace regressed, the Phillies find themselves four more wins from another parade down Broad Street. These guys just know how to win, and they know how to put teams away. They proved that again last night.
Last postseason's golden boy, Cole Hamels, was on the mound for the second straight year with a chance to eliminate the Dodgers and send his Phillies to the World Series. Unlike last year, Cole didn't didn't dominate. Far from it. In fact, Cole couldn't even get through five innings, and I think it's officially time to state the obvious: the 2009 version of Cole Hamels stinks. I'm tired of hearing about how close he is, how he's just a few pitches off, how unlucky he is. The numbers don't lie, and his numbers aren't good. They haven't been all season. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. You are, as they say, what you are. And right now, Cole Hamels is a bad starting pitcher. Even worse, he's a dumb starting pitcher.
The first-inning home run he surrendered to Andre Ethier came on a horrendous pitch — a pitch he should have never thrown. Hamels was ahead of Ethier 1-2. He threw a changeup and a curveball to get those first two strikes. Then he pumped Ethier five straight fastballs. Five. On the fifth, Ethier sent it to the bleachers. Repeatedly in the at-bat, Hamels shook off Ruiz, who I can only assume was calling for that disappearing changeup at least once or twice with two strikes. The changeup is Hamels' putaway pitch, his strikeout pitch, his best pitch. And he refused to throw it. He's refused to throw it ever since Manny hit that three-run bomb in game 1. Instead, he thought it was a good idea to pump fastballs to Andre Ethier. Horrible, horrible pitching.
Then in the second, he gave up another home run on a 1-2 pitch, this time to James Loney. Guess what kind of pitch it was … yeah, a fastball. Instead of, again, going to his strikeout pitch, his swing and miss pitch, Hamels tried to sneak a fastball by Loney high and inside. He did not. Loney was all over it, crushing it to right field. The most maddening part was it was very similar to the pitch Loney hit out against Hamels in game 1. What I'm trying to say is, Cole is stupid and sucks. He went out and got himself a hat trick, giving up a third solo home run to Orlando Hudson in the fifth. And guess what, it was on a fastball up in the zone. All season long, Hamels has been getting burned on fastballs up in the zone, yet he continues to pump his straight, 90-93 mph fastball up and over the plate. Major League batters feast on those pitches, and that's why Cole Hamels has sucked this year. It's why he's sucked in these playoffs. But hey, both games he started, the Phils won. Still, I don't want him anywhere near that Yankees lineup in the World Series (assuming they get there). He better not be the game 2 starter. I think Pedro Martinez has earned that right, while Hamels has squandered it away.
Luckily for Hamels and all of Philadelphia, the offense wouldn't let it bother them. Right after Hamels gave up a run in the 1st inning, the Phils answered. Chase Utley worked a two-out walk to tie Boog Powell's record of reaching base safely in 25 straight postseason games. Then, finally tired of seeing Ryan Howard terrorize LA pitching, Vicente Padilla pitched around Howard, walking him on four pitches to get to Jayson Werth. Not a bad idea, considering Howard has been killing it while Werth, Ibanez and Feliz have struggled. But clearly, Werth was offended. Intentionally walk someone to get to me? Intentionally walk this.
What a great at-bat, and when he hit it, I was trying to will it out. Out it went, and off I went on Padilla, screaming, "YOU FRAUD! I KNEW YOU WERE A FRAUD! FUCK YEAH!" among other things. Boom. Game over. Sure, the Dodgers answered with Loney's home run, but this game was over right then and there. When these Phillies smell blood, they pounce. Sure, Loney answered. So fucking what? Pedro Feliz, who looked more lost at the plate than balloon boy in this postseason, smoked a liner the opposite way and into the right field seats to get that 2-run lead right back. Welcome to the playoffs, Pedro. Nice to have you. After an uneventful third, the Phillies pounced again. Jayson Werth, who simply is the man, led off with a single, and Raul followed with a double to drive him in, putting the Phils up 5-2 and chasing Padilla back to his rightful spot among shitty starting pitchers. You can fool people for a while there, Vicente, but we all knew you couldn't possibly be this good. And you're not. At least not in Philadelphia, in that ballpark.
Before it was all said and done, Shane Victorino was getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and before they even knew what hit them, the Dodgers found themselves in a 6-2 hole. After Cole surrendered the home run to Hudson and finally left the game after giving up a double to Rafael Furcal, cutting the lead to 3, the TBS announcers were at it again. A three-run lead is nothing in this ballpark. The Dodgers had gotten to the Phillies bullpen. Now they had a chance. Seriously, have these assholes watched this series? That supposedly weak Phillies bullpen has been pretty damn good. And last night they were awesome.
After Happ walked a guy and got one out, Chad Durbin finished off the 5th. Then the 6th, breezing through all four batters he faced — getting Manny to ground out, Kemp to strike out, and Loney and Martin to ground out. He did a phenomenal, phenomenal job. And how did this great, incredible, unhittable Dodgers bullpen react? The same way this overrated, overhyped set of arms has all series. They wilted under the pressure, showed their fear and gave up runs.
In came the untouchable Clayton Kershaw with his great stuff. Buck Martinez said his stuff was so good, his fastball so good, that Kershaw didn't even have to make great pitches. He just needed to throw it over the plate. The Phillies hitters would have a hard time catching up. Really? Have you watched this team once all season? Hell, have you watched them at all this series? If I recall, some guy named Jimmy Rollins smoked a pretty damn fast fastball the game before:
Really, you think pumping fastballs to a team that absolutely annihilates fastballs is a good idea, Buck? Well, how'd that work out for ya?
Chan Ho Park then came in and pitched a brilliant 7th, and skating around bases loaded trouble caused by Park and his own doing, Ryan Madson regained his dominant form, getting three straight batters with the bases loaded and no out to limit the damage to 1 run. The Phillies relievers, who had to pitch four and two-thirds, gave up one run combined. Meanwhile, the remarkable, outstanding, cannot-be-scored-upon Dodgers bullpen pitchers surrendered four runs by three different pitchers. Yeah, the pen is mightier. The Phillies pen.
Jayson Werth added another home run to his already insanely awesome night, and the Phils tacked on another for good measure in the 8th to go up 10-4. Then Brad LIdge came on for the 9th and showed once again, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is back, striking out Mark Loretta, popping up the eternally overrated Rafael Furcal and getting Ronnie Belliard to fly out to end the game and the series, sending the Phils back to the World Series:
Back-to-back National League Champions. Back-to-back World Series. These guys are good. Really good. I went out and celebrated with silver fox, downing a few beers and closing out the bar while taking it all in. The Phillies are in the World Series. Again. Four more wins from another title.
And Ryan Howard, for the first time all postseason, failed to drive in a run. He won the MVP anyway. Dude is a monster.
The coolest thing for me was watching the interview on Comcast with Ruben Amaro by Michael Barkann and Ricky Bottalico. They asked how Ruben was so calm, so reserved, at least considering. Ruben's response was priceless. He said he was proud of the great accomplishment, reaching the World Series again, but he said, just like the players, he truly believes and they truly believe there's still one more step. That they still need four more wins. Something tells me they'll get them. Four more wins. Four more.
Oh yeah, and did anyone else happen to flip to Fox's coverage after the game for the gathering on Cottman? Well, there was a girl who flashed her tits, and it was right on the live broadcast. And it was awesome. Nice boobs, lady. Nice boobs.
LET'S GO PHILS!!!!!!!!!!!!