For the definition of the word "buzz," simply walk around the city today. I took a cab from my apartment in Northern Liberties to meet the Inquirer's John Gonzalez in Rittenhouse for a ride to the stadium, and there was already an electricity in the air. Everyone was talking Phillies. The newspaper racks were completely sold out. We got to the park today and as I got out of Gonzo's Ford Escape I overheard a conversation between a 20-something Phillies fan and another Phillies fan.
"My kids are going to be dead before this happens again," the 20-something said.
Nothing like a little perspective five hours before the game.
In 1980, I was negative-two years old, so it is safe to say this is the biggest Philadelphia sports event I've ever covered. There have been some pretty disturbing reports today about some of the behavior toward Rays fans and family members. I can only hope everyone in this city keeps in mind that the eyes (and lenses, an notepads) of the country will be on them tonight. Win or lose, I'd encourage everyone to try to act with a modicum of class. Chanting "Eva, Eva" when Evan Longoria is at-bat is good. Pouring beer on his family's head is bad.
That said, the reaction to last night's win has been fascinating. I have yet to meet a single person in this city that thinks the Phillies are going to lose tonight, which is remarkable. This town isn't known for its optimism.
But there is a game to be played. And while it sets up perfectly for the Phillies -- in 1980, ace lefty Steve Carlton was on the mound; tonight, ace lefty Cole Hamels is on the mound -- Game 5 will not be a walk-over. There was little doubt in my mind prior to Game 4 that the Phillies would handle Andy Sonnanstine. But Scott Kazmir is not Andy Sonnanstine. When he is on, he is really on. Game 6 would feature James Shields. Game 7 would feature Matt Garza. So it isn't over, by any means.
There isn't a whole lot of X's and O's that needs to be covered right now. The Phillies need to give Hamels an early lead. If that happens, he will be very tough to beat. But strange things happen in October. The temperature is expected to be in the 40's tonight. I'm sitting in the press box right now and the wind is howling out to right field. From what I understand, the wind is supposed to die down. The Phillies have two of the best left-handed power hitters in the game. But the Rays have some good ones as well. Hamels has been known to give up a home run or two. I find it hard to believe Carlos Pena will continue to be a non-factor. But we'll see.
The red 1980 pennant in dead center has sat alone since Citizens Bank Park opened. Perhaps tonight will be the night it finally finds a mate.