The Old Man and the Series

Phillies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the World Series tonight at Citizens Bank Park. ( Dave Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

“You are killing me, fish, the old man thought. But you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.”
   Ernest Hemingway
  The Old Man and the Sea

The ovation for Jamie Moyer began the moment manager Charlie Manuel’s head popped out of the dugout. There was one out in the seventh inning, the Rays’ second run of the game had just scored, and it was time.

The noise built as Manuel reached the mound. The infielders had gathered around. Moyer and catcher Carlos Ruiz were talking, maybe reliving the previous batter, maybe something else. Manuel let them finish for a second. Then Moyer looked at the manager, and then he handed him the ball, and then he made the slow walk to the dugout.

The crowd rose. They knew what they had just seen. It would take more than an hour for the final result to be tallied – Phils 5, Rays 4 – but they knew they were watching history a 45-year-old getting his first chance at pitching in the World Series and making the most of it. His pitching line ended up like this: 6 1/3 innings pitched, five hits, three runs, one walk, five strikeouts. The last run charged to him scored while he was in the dugout.

The man was, well, himself. The pre-game rain delay did not shake him. Nothing did. He was the same pitcher who won 16 games during the regular season. After struggling earlier in the playoffs against Milwaukee and especially against Los Angeles, Moyer came back as if the two starts had never happened. He is the king of compartmentalization, always has been. If anything, Moyer is the master of the here and now.

"The difference for me tonight was probably just creating a tempo," Moyer said. He said that tempo-creating began in the bullpen and continued on into the early innings, when he was able to throw strikes and limit the initial struggle.

And then, he said, there was the crowd, which he said he felt from the moment he left the dugout to being his warm-up session.

"It was very uplifting to walk across the field, even through the puddles, and hear the excitement of the fans," Moyer said. "...I really don't pay attention, but you can hear things."

He could not hide what this game meant to him. In the days leading up to Saturday, Moyer acknowledged that it was the biggest game of his life. On the one hand, you do not get the impression that he hung around this long simply for the chance to pitch in a World Series – he has always seemed to be more about battling himself, and battling to improve himself, and that ongoing struggle more than, necessarily, the spotlight.

But now that time and circumstance and good fortune had trained the spotlight on him, finally, there was no hiding the significance. It was the biggest moment, this was, the old man and the Series.

"I think it exceeded every expectation or every thought or every dream that I had," Moyer said.

And while he didn’t get the win, the old man and his team won.

“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”
  Hemingway, ibid.

What a bizarre night. The game was delayed by rain for 91 minutes at the start. It did not end until 1:47 am. In between, the Phillies hit three home runs (Carlos Ruiz in the second, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back-to-back in the sixth). The Phils also were victimized by another bad umpiring decision.

In the top of the seventh, Carl Crawford bunted to the right side. Moyer made a great diving scoop-and-shovel to first base, where Howard barehanded the ball. Crawford was out, except he was called safe. What followed was a double and then two infield groundouts that scored two runs. Had the correct call been made, and the same sequence followed it, no runs would have scored.

But he was called safe and the runs did score. And then BJ Upton ran the Rays into the tying run in the eighth with an infield single, a steal of second, a steal of third that ended with him scoring because Ruiz’ throw hit Upton and skittered away.

Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Phils won it with more bizarreness. Eric Bruntlett was hit by a pitch. With Shane Victorino squared around to bunt, pitcher Grant Balfour threw a wild pitch and then catcher Dioneer Navarro threw the ball into centerfield. Bruntlett ended up on third.

The Rays walked the bases loaded intentionally. They set up a five-man infield. Up was Ruiz, who hit a little dribbler up the third base line. Should Evan Longoria have let it roll and hope it went foul? He will second-guess himself, undoubtedly, because it was a close call.

But Longoria played it and tried to get Bruntlett at the plate. His throw was wild. The Phils won.