Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Night at the Ballpark: Annoying Women, Dumb Kid, Red Man Goes Down and a Drunk Middle-Aged Lady Riles Up Some Teenagers

Last night, I attended the Phillies game to watch Cole Hamels put forth another masterful performance and extend the Phils' lead in the NL East to four game over the Atlanta Braves.

He went 8 innings, giving up just one run while striking out six, dropping his ERA to a very impressive 2.93 on the season. Cole did get batted around a little bit early on, surrendering his lone run in the 2nd inning, but he also got big strikeouts when he needed it, and some key double-play balls to erase any trouble. After last season, I had my doubts about Cole, but those are long gone. He really, truly is an ace, one of three on this staff, and he showed it again last night, silencing the 2nd-place Braves in the most important series of the season to date. I really can't say enough about the guy this season.

Just like I can't say enough about Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez either. It can be argued that had Carlos not gotten hurt and missed a decent amount of time, he'd be the Phillies' MVP. Hell, even with the time off, he may be the MVP of this team, given his ridiculous amounts of clutch hits, his .399 on-base percentage and the insanely awesome way he's handled what may be the best pitching staff in baseball, at least right now. Whatever the Phillies need from the guy, he delivers. Great defense, check. Calling a great game, check. Settling down his pitchers, check. Batting 8th, 7th, check and check. Big hit, check. And he did all of that again last night.

Ruiz and Hamels were on the same page all game long, making the job easier for both of them. And to help his pitcher out after his one hiccup in the 2nd, Curbball doubled in Ryan Howard to tie the game and allow Hamels to start things over. It's been fun watching Ruiz the past few seasons for his defense and the way he handles pitchers alone, but now that he's turned into a ridiculously tough out, he's that much more fun to watch.

Just like watching Wilson Valdez throw a baseball is fun to watch. Valdez didn't get a hit last night, didn't score a run or get an RBI in the 3-1 win. His .255 average and .296 on-base percentage won't impress anyone. But Valdez is another guy that has been absolutely vital for the Phillies. No, he's not the greatest hitter or the world. Yes, he grounds into a billion double plays. But Wilson Valdez gives you a truly valuable utility player, something this team has been lacking ever since Charlie Manuel came to town.

He's no Eric Bruntlett. Not even close. Valdez may not have the best numbers in the world, but he can hit a little. He's had some big hits, a couple huge homers and knows how to work a count. But more importantly is what he brings to the table defensively. Valdez isn't just a good fielder, he's a great fielder. Not better than Gold Glover Jimmy Rollins, but almost. And his arm, wow. To me, I've considered it an honor to watch Jimmy Rollins play shortstop, mainly because of his strong, accurate arm. Rarely do you ever seen Rollins make a throwing error, and the man can certainly bring it. But in all honesty, I think Wilson Valdez may have the best arm I've ever seen at short — at least on par with Rafael Furcal in his heyday. The man just throws rockets. And that arm was on display last night several times.

He and Chase Utley combined for some spectacular double plays, the most impressive coming in the 6th. Martin Prado smoked one to Utley's left. Chase made a tremendous play to get to it, turned, fired to second and before you could blink, Valdez threw a laser to Howard to turn the double play and end the inning. It was a thing of beauty. I could watch Wilson Valdez fire seeds all day long.

As you all know, the Phils won the game 3-1 mainly by small ball, scoring two runs on ground outs and then having Brad Lidge come in and clean up Cole's tremendous outing with a 1-2-3 ninth against Atlanta's 2, 3 and 4 hitters, highlighted by striking out Jason Heyward to start things off and punctuated by fanning Derek Lee to end it. There's nothing more encouraging than seeing Brad Lidge record a 1-2-3 save against the heart of a playoff-caliber team's order. He's not making us pull out our hair anymore.

As great as the game was, I wasn't sure I'd be able to refrain from stabbing someone when I first arrived. Leaving right from work, I was set to meet uncle jellyfish, my roommate and a friend of ours at the game. I got there early and met up with a friend at a tailgate, then went in about 20 minutes before the first pitch. After I grabbed a couple dollar dogs, I got to my seats, sat down … and a kid behind me spilled his entire soda. He was a couple seats down, so the liquid sugar didn't get on my clothes or anything, but it spread throughout the row making it unbearably sticky. I wanted to punch him in the face, but I'm pretty sure hitting a 12-year-old is frowned upon. Also, he probably could have kicked my ass. I'm weak as hell.

To add to that, there was a group of three women sitting directly behind me. Three loud, middle-aged women. Three loud, middle-aged women who didn't shut the hell up for 9 god damn innings. Sure, they talked about baseball … 1 percent of the time. The rest was chitchat about stupid shit women chitchat about, and loud, horrifyingly annoying, deafening laughs that made my eardrums hurt and my blood boil. They were the type of stereotypical women at a baseball game that make me understand why some people commit murder.

Of course, the anger I was gathering from these annoying ladies subsided when this happened.

I don't condone fans running onto the field and interfering with play, but I have to admit, this was funny to watch. This guy made some tremendous moves to dodge security, cutting back like Barry Sanders on a few occasions, until Matt Diaz tripped him up. He certainly looked a whole hell of lot more difficult to tackle than Mike Bell.

Thankfully, this knucklehead put on this show when the Phillies were at-bat, because the last thing we needed was for him to mess with Cole's rhythm.

Where I was sitting, in section 308, "red man" wasn't the only show either. A few sections over, in the rightfield upper deck, there was a middle-aged woman, clearly drunk, two rows in front of a giant crowd of teenagers. This woman was plastered out of her mind. She was wearing white pants, and dancing, shaking her butt, slapping her ass, getting the teens to go crazy. They were cheering her, leering at her, and she was eating it up. She reached up and grab a kid and kissed him, driving them even more wild. It was a hell of a sight, a drunk, older woman giving a bunch of horny teens a show. I thought something inappropriate was sure to happen, but things settled down a little when security started hanging around. It's a shame, I'm sure one of those teenaged boys was going to get laid.

All in all, it was a good night at the ballpark. The Phillies won. Cole and Lidge were tremendous. And red man and drunk lady spiced up the atmosphere. Though this red man was nowhere near as entertaining as the real Redman.

mtv cribs red man
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Four games up with 11 to go. Magic number: 8.

BallHype: hype it up!

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