What better moment to write a new feature - The Monday Morning Sports Blog Roundup - than a crisp Sunday afternoon when the Phillies have finally something to show in the winning column, and my right calf is elevated and hugged in heat-wrap from possibly the worst slide-into-third I've made since Little League. It is a good thing the Philly Sport & Social Club softball league isn't on cable. Blinq sailed along the base path like a garbage scow.
So Phils win! A newish Philadelphia blog, called I Made a Huge Tiny Mistake, modified a Gatorade logo for his post - it says Haterade now. And pours some kindness on Bobby Abreu, who launched a ninth-inning, opposite-field, walk-off, three-run tater to end the game and the team's 0 and 4 start.
Never mind they dropped the second game of the afternoon doubleheader against the Dodgers.
Mistake writes: Hopefully this gives Bobby some leeway with the haters who insist on saying that he isn't 'clutch', despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, such as his late and close numbers, his RISP numbers, and his runners on numbers. But hey, most people know that hitting counts whether it's in the 1st inning or the 9th, and they also know that haters will continue to claw at people who they wish they were. It's easy to bash someone making 14 million a year as 'lazy' or 'unclutch' because the conversation is entirely one-way. A player making that kind of money can't respond to his critics verbally because that just adds to the haters' fire. They just have to continue to show them up between the lines, which Bobby just did today.
Getting to the win wasn't easy. The Phillies fought Derek Lowe's sinker and the expectations of many, expressed by Phillies Foul Balls this way: The good feelings about the Phillies having tied the score in the 7th of todays first game is more than a bit tempered by the sight of Rheal Cormier and Ryan Franklin warming up in the bullpen. I gotta bad feeling about this
Hey, c'mon Skipper Manuel, himself, had just said the night before, "Basically, if you look at us after four games, we pretty much stink." Phillies Nation was busy re-writing the line-up. A Swing and a Miss was already thinking about the 1988 Baltimore Orioles (0-21).
So it was up to Abreu to end the slide. Let's pick it up with Beerleaguer:
It was a fitting end for Abreu, who had the right approach at the plate all game. Often criticized for failing to deliver the big hit, the all-star, gold-glove right-fielder gave the Phils their biggest hit of the young season. In watching Abreu's curtain call, one can't help but think that a monkey had been lifted from his back. Hopefully, certain fans will ease off, too.
His blast erased an otherwise forgettable game from the rest of his mates, including more poor defense and even more questionable decisions by Charlie Manuel, including another starting nod to David Bell against a right-handed pitcher. Bell went hitless and grounded into a rally-killing double play in the eighth inning. Bell entered the game 3-for17 lifetime against Derek Lowe and has yet to collect a hit off a righty. He's batting a lusty .071.
In addition, Manuel's decision to bunt in the ninth nearly cost them a valuable out.
Early blunders by Aaron Rowand and Jimmy Rollins spoiled a very good start by Ryan Madson, who pitched six innings and allowed only one earned run. Madson got stronger as the game went on and left in complete control. The Phils also received good innings from Arthur Rhodes, Ryan Franklin and Tom Gordon (1-1), who earned the win with a solid ninth inning.
Shane Victorino earns props for a good walk and good hustle in scoring the tying run. Abreu had two good walks before his three-run homer in the ninth. Rowand delivered the tying run with an RBI single. The Phillies entered the game last in hitting with runners in scoring position (.083).
The Phillies will look to keep the good feeling going in Game 2.
One of Beerleaguer's commenters couldn't quite see the skipper's strategy going with that fresh-legs line-up for the second game, the ones that went 3 for 17.
Anyway, we've had our phill here. There are other sports to write about. The Sixers? Took one from the Bulls after their own slide at a critical time. Still, the Illadelph obsesses over John Salmons, who "can't even dribble," he headlines.
We only saw bits of last nights game, including garbage time down the stretch, when the Sixers were up by more than 20.
However, in the roughly two quarters of play we did see, John Salmons had to lose control of the ball at least four times. A couple of times he was bailed out by the ref calling touch fouls. Others, he just dribbled the ball into a Chicago players arms.
Were convinced that he wouldnt get any PT in the ABA.
Anybody for the Flyers?
That would be the Broad Street Blogger. Forget a few bumps on the ice. He's feeling as if the Flyers have the right stuff in the net for the playoffs.
During the last playoff in 2004, we were impressed by Esche who along with a possessed Keith Primeau took us to the brink of the Stanley Cop Finals. Watching Esche against the Islanders on Sunday, reminded me of just how good he can be. The Flyers were outplayed, took stupid penalties and were outshot but won the game easily 4-1 because Robert Esche, repeatedly kept them in the game. During the playoffs in 2004, he had a .918 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against. Although that isn't the greatest, it seemed that the fear of the soft goals which have haunted the Flyers, year after year was gone. I would be happy to enter the playoffs with Esche in the net.
However, we have a goal tender that is really special. He is totally under-rated but has the make up and talent to be the difference-maker the way Brodeur is a difference maker with the NJ Devils. Nittymaki has repeatedly risen to the competition. In 2004's Calder Cup he had a 1.8 goals against, in 2005's Calder Cup he had a 1.74 goals against, 3 shutouts and a .943 save percentage. Further, he was the MVP of the Calder Cup Playoff and his team won. This year he got hoy when Esche went down and the Flyers had their best road trip ever, yes ever in the history of the team. Then he headed off to the Olympics in Turin and led Team Finland to the Silver medal. Nitty wasn't even selected for the team initially and the team was never supposed to even get to the semi-final much less almost take the Gold medal. Once again, Nittymaki was the MVP.
Nitty has never choked when it matters (Juniors, 2 Calder Cup playoff rounds and the Olympics) rather he has repeatedly been one of the best, if not the best player. I'm excited to see what he'll do in the Stanley Cup playoffs.