Moments will now decide who wins the National League East -- moments, individual efforts, plays born more out of desire than ability. Shane Victorino had one last night, among others.
August 10th passed this year, as usual, without comment. But it remains the anniversary of one of the great days in Phillies history. On that day in 1980, between games of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, Phils manager Dallas Green unleashed the tirade that launched a World Series. It was loud enough that the writers were able to hear all of it through a closed clubhouse door (although whether it was Green's intention to allow them to hear remains an unsettled question). The key quote, which crystallized Green's season-long battle with a talented, veteran team that was bobbing around a bit above .500, went like this:
"You've got to stop being so bleeping cool. Get that through your bleeping heads."
It is amazing, the things you think about when watching Shane Victorino take an extra base on Dodgers leftfielder Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the 11th inning of a game that never seems as if it is going to end.
It is an extra base that became moot when Pedro Feliz, who tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out single, hit a three-run homer to win it at the end, 5-2. It became moot, except as a symbol.
Now, this is not then and this team is not that team. This Phillies team is not so much cool as it is confident. It is not so much cool as it is insistent on insulating itself from the panicky football mentality that rules so much of this city. It really is a long season in baseball, and one-game snapshots tend to be so terribly out of focus.
But we are now into the urgency portion of the schedule. The games do start to matter now like football games. Moments will now decide who wins the National League East -- moments, individual efforts, plays born more out of desire than ability. And so, there was Victorino, busting it out of the box, probably sensing that Ramirez would have a hard time anyway if he used his speed and then receiving the gift of a less-than-insistent throw to second base. Runner on second, nobody out.
Now, he wasn't the only one. Earlier in the game, I saw Ryan Howard make the best defensive play I've ever seen him make, diving and catching a foul ball on the dead run, a long way into rightfield. He covered a ton of ground and then totally laid out for the ball -- just a great play. In the innings thereafter, it is hard to recall what was more disappointing: when Howard got picked off first base in the bottom of the 10th inning, or when he changed the shirt that he had made so wonderfully filthy. Doesn't he realize the value in this town of a shirt like that? Short of breaking your face on the outfield fence, an honestly-earned dirty shirt is honored around here.
Anyway, with 32 games to go, the Phils are now even in the loss column with the Mets. What seemed fated from the beginning, a gut-struggle for the division, is set up just that way. But these are the pictures you are starting to see: Howard's shirt, Brett Myers going crazy in the dugout after Feliz tied the game in the ninth, Victorino standing on second and clapping an insistent, let's-go clap. It's time.