Monday, July 12, 2010

Every Day Should Be Halladay

For the first time in a long time, it's July and I actually haven't been to boatloads of Phillies games as of yet. I attribute this to many things — increased activity outside of work such as joining adult sports leagues, limited ticket availability due to so many sellouts (yeah right, like I can't just scalp some tickets), the Flyers' playoff run, etc. But mostly, I attribute it to being broke as shit despite making way more money than I ever have in my entire life.

Seeing as I had only been to a few Phillies games prior to last week, I had the unfortunate situation of never, ever having seen one Harry Leroy Halladay pitch in person, let alone as a member of the Phillies. Well, that all changed this past week, as I attended his start last Monday against Atlanta and again on Saturday against the Reds — both games in which the Phillies did everything in their power to try and lose despite Doc's brilliance. It was quite an honor to watch the Doc do his thing in person. My only regret is that it took me so damn long to finally witness it.

After spending the 4th of July weekend with the family, I was looking forward greatly to relaxing Sunday night while taking in some fireworks and resting for my first Roy Halladay experience on Monday, which I'd be taking in with my dad, cousin and aunt's boyfriend. With an off day thanks to celebrating our nation's independence, I had planned on heading down to the stadium area early with uncle jellyfish and tailgating my face off. But mother nature had other plans, raising the temperature to unbearable levels well above 100 degrees. Because she's a whore. So instead of baking on the blacktop and getting insanely dehydrated drinking too much brew, uncle jellyfish and his significant other wisely just came to my humble abode, where we downed several beers in the air conditioning prior to heading to the game.

When we walked out of the subway, it was still insanely hot, but not quite as brutal as it had been during the day, when I stupidly attempted to run in heat-warning conditions. I still sweated my ass off to no end as I walked to the stadium, but at least I didn't feel like I was going to die.

When the three of us reached the third-base gate, we parted ways and off I went toward my seats after nabbing an iced tea and trio of dollar dogs. Is it just me, or are the hot dogs at Citizens Bank not as good as they used to be at the Vet? I never noticed this before this season, but for some reason they just don't sit as well as they used to. But I digress.

I got to my seat in perfect time, just before the national anthem was set to begin. Talk about perfect timing given the heat. I hate being late, yet I really didn't want to get there even earlier than I had to and sweat all over myself. Somehow, it all worked out perfectly. And I was about to treated to an absolute gem by Roy. Though the game didn't exactly get off to the start I was hoping for.

Doc did start the game off by striking out Martin Prado and getting the worst all-star in a long time Omar Infante to line out to center. But you know how they say that striking out the first batter is bad luck? Well, yeah, on the first pitch Roy threw to historic Phillie killer Chipper Jones, Larry crushed said first-ball fastball deep to left center and out, 1-0 Braves. That didn't take long.

When even greater Phillie killer Brian McCann followed with a single, I thought that perhaps I was about to get the rare tough start by Roy. But Roy got familiar face Eric Hinske to pop out, and really, he was never in trouble again the rest of the night … except for being in trouble of not getting a win.

Roy breezed through the second, then the third, retiring eight straight batters until McCann doubled in the 4th. He followed that up by getting seven more Braves to go down in order before Chipper go this second hit, a double in the 6th. Basically, Roy was dealing, efficiently mowing down Brave after Brave. Only one problem … the Phils weren't doing a damn thing against another familiar face. Derek Lowe was at his Derek Lowe best, getting ground out after ground out after ground out. It didn't help that the Phils weren't being very patient, or that after Jayson Werth, the lineup looked like this: Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez, Dane Sardinha, Roy Halladay.

It was really frustrating. Here was Halladay, throwing another incredible game yet again, only to see the Phillies fail to score any runs for him yet again. The guy came into the game with a 9-7 record despite having an outstanding ERA under 2.50 and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the NL.

The Phils did have a chance to get to Lowe early and make Chipper's first-inning homer meaningless when Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs led off the 2nd with back-to-back singles. But Wilson Valdez followed that up with a ground out, though surprisingly not a double play and still successfully moving Werth to third and Dobbs to second. Problem was, Dane Sardinha was up, and he struck out with a horrible at-bat, and Roy followed by striking out himself. After that, the Phils didn't really threaten much, even with loading the bases in 5th thanks to an error. It was a Dane Sardinha two-out walk that loaded the bases, with Lowe knowing full well that Halladay was on deck. Really, not much of a threat.

I was really beginning to get pissed. The Phils were putting together awful at-bats. Jimmy and Shane still couldn't do a god damn thing at the top of the lineup and they were losing 1-0 with Halladay pitching a fucking gem. Then some asshole tried to start the mother fucking wave. In the 6th inning. With the Phillies losing 1-0, wasting another great outing by Roy. I wanted to kill him. Then I yelled at him to sit the fuck down and leave. Then I wished horrible death upon him. I can only hope he got what he deserved.

It's no secret that I'm 100 percent against the wave. But still, I can see the reason some people like it. Here's the thing, it's a celebratory action. Something you do when your team is up big and the fans are excited and happy and what's going on on the field is pretty irrelevant at that point in the game. Blowouts, things like that. It's definitely not meant for when your god damn team can't score a freaking run for a pitcher that is dominating and they're losing 1-0 in the god damn sixth inning. I really hate people.

But then, Charlie's decision to start Greg Dobbs in favor or Juan Castro or Cody Ransom proved to be a great one. Lowe is a low-ball pitcher, throwing sinkers and getting ground balls. Dobbs is a low-ball hitter, and since his recall from Lehigh Valley has actually been swinging a good bat. In the 6th, following a Ryan Howard ground out and Jayson Werth single, Dobbs tattooed a two-run home run to give the Phils a 2-1 lead. That was all Roy would need.

My first time seeing him in person was no disappointment. That first-inning home run was the only hiccup to an otherwise incredible performance. He went the distance, surrendering just 5 hits while striking out seven and walking just one. His control was uncanny, the pinpoint precision something to marvel. He kept his anemic offense in it until they finally could strike, and the offense thanked him by adding an insurance run in the 8th, a run Halladay didn't even need. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed with my first Halladay.

With the heat still on the next two days, we all saw the Phils lose the next two to the Braves, then the walkoff by Brian Schneider as I was losing money in Atlantic City and the homer brigade that included that other walkoff by Ryan Howard as I was getting drunk with guys from my baseball team.

Fun stuff, and it was all culminating with my second time seeing Roy Halladay pitch in six days courtesy of Arkansas Fred.

For the second straight time, Roy was all sorts of awesome. And for the second straight time, the offense was all sorts of awful. Halladay was even better on Saturday than he was last Monday, tossing 9 shutout innings, striking out 9 while surrendering just five hits and one walk. Yet he got screwed out of a win by his offense. Why? Because Travis freaking Wood threw 8 perfect innings before Curbball, in his first game back after suffering a concussion, doubled to lead off the 9th. That's right, Travis Wood took a perfect game into the 9th against the Phillies. While Roy Halladay was tossing a shutout. What the hell does Roy have to do to get some wins? Jesus fucking Christ.

Aside from watching Roy's brilliance, that game was awful. The Phils were being embarrassed by a rookie who had pitched just twice in the Majors in his entire life. And the guy's name wasn't Strasburg.

It was becoming unbearable to watch. And unbearable to breathe up in section 420, because some disgusting human being was letting loose the worst-smelling farts in the universe all game long. I wanted to die. Roy was dominating again, not even surrendering a single run, handling every Cincinnati Red he faced. Yet the Phils were being perfect-gamed against a nobody. Unreal.

And even when they finally broke through on Wood, they fucked it up. Ruiz led off that 9th with a double. That's when Charlie decided to pinch-hit for Juan Castro, who started at second, with Wilson Valdez. That seemed odd, because that was a spot where you have to bunt and get Ruiz to third with just one out, so wasting a pinch-hitter to bunt seems dumb. Especially since Castro absolutely should know how to bunt. Making the move even more baffling, Valdez didn't square around on the first pitch, which was a strike. What? But he did square next, and bunted the ball straight in the air for out No. 1, Ruiz still stuck on second. It was fucking awful.

Raul, who had the day off in favor of Ben Francisco against the left-handed Wood, flew out, and Jimmy followed with a pop out in foul territory. Ridiculous.

When Brad Lidge took the mound in the 10th, I was certain the game was over. Jay Bruce was leading off, and I had no doubt in my mind he was going yard. Instead, he thankfully only doubled, but still, there was a leadoff double, Miguel Cairo, the ex-Phil, followed by perfectly executing a sacrifice bunt to get Bruce to third, and now all Cincy needed was a fly ball to take the lead against an offense that has been nothing short of awful outside of Ryan Howard.

Lidge followed by walking Drew Stubbs, who promptly stole second because Brad Lidge can't hold anyone on ever. But Lidge did get Ryan Hanigan on strikes for out No. 2. I couldn't believe it … then I couldn't believe what I saw next. Lance Nix came up to pinch-hit, a lefty. Conventional wisdom is to walk the guy and go after the righty, which was Brandon Phillips on deck. However, Brandon Phillips is Brandon Phillips, all-star and excellent hitter. Lance Nix is a bench guy. I would have gone against the grain and had Lidge pitch against Nix, not loading the bases for Phillips, especially with the control issues Lidge has had this year. However, Charlie stuck to the book, walked Nix and had Lidge go after Phillips. Lidge proved Charlie was wise in his decision, getting Phillips to fly out to center and somehow miraculously end the threat with no damage.

After an uneventful bottom of the 10th and top of the 11th, Ruiz doubled again, this time with one out in the 11th. Wilson Valdez was intentionally walked. Yes, you read that correctly. And Ross Gload came in to hit for the pitcher's spot, flying out. Two outs, with Jimmy up. It looked like the Phils were going to waste another Ruiz double, and that this game was going to go on forever. Then this happened:

Three straight games. Three straight walkoff hits for the Phils. Three straight wins against the Reds. As cool as that was, it was still annoying as all hell. The Phils managed just one run and four hits in 11 innings. They didn't get a single base runner to reach until the 9th inning. And they robbed Roy Halladay of yet another win. The guy should have 15 wins, not 10. If he has a wins clause in his contract, the Phils better pay it to the man no matter what. He's earned more victories than he's actually received.

Of course, the Phils wrapped up the homestand with their fourth-straight win yesterday, sweeping the four-game set with the Reds. Which is nice. But again, it took another super-human pitching performance, this time by Cole Hamels. Because again, the Phils only scored one run, and again, they only had four hits. I understand the offense took a major hit with the losses of Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, but shit, they gotta find a way to score more runs than this. It's getting ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous. Thank god we have Roy Halladay to keep these sorry excuse for hitters in it.

Not that the other pitchers haven't been good, because for the most part they have (except for you, Joe Blanton; you suck), but the Phils almost need every day to be Halladay at this point.

BallHype: hype it up!

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