Concrete predictions are foolish. And the Phillies will win today. Okay, I don’t know that the Phillies will win today. Maybe the ring ceremony will distract them as Sunday’s flag-raising extravaganza seemed to. Maybe the hitters, seeing a slump coming, will press.
But to my new-to-the-beat eyes, they look ready to take a game. The theme last night from Charlie Manuel and Jamie Moyer was we're almost there (if you’re reading this in the morning, check out my game story, which explores this subject). In my short time asking him questions every day, I’ve come to trust that if Manuel is unhappy with his hitters, he’ll say so. And after tonight’s game, he pointed to hard-hit balls and increased baserunners, and said that the Phillies were close. “If we stay with it, we’ll be okay,” he said.
Also, I’ve always had mixed feelings about how to view the left-on-base statistic. Sure, you want to knock the guys in, but does the lack of a two-out hit negate achievements of the other baserunners? After a four-hit performance Sunday, the Phillies stranded 11 runners last night. But the runners were there in the first place, which is better than meekly going 1-2-3 in nearly every inning. When a team starts piling up the LOB numbers, they’re sometimes getting ready to break out.
Moyer, like Brett Myers before him, was somewhat better than his line. He allowed two home runs, but also surrendered several hits on seeing-eye grounders. It wasn’t like his final Grapefruit League start, when he kindly threw batting practice to the mighty Nationals. Father Time allowed four runs in five innings, throwing 78 pitches. If Manuel hadn’t pinch hit for him, and he’d gone six or seven, we’d be complimenting him for hanging in there. Of course, we can’t assume that he would have pitched effectively had he continued—but the point is, he executed last night more than he didn’t.
I think the issues are still there—too many lefties on the dance floor (Flight of the Conchords, anyone?), questions at the top of the rotation. But I also think that last night’s game, though outwardly similar to Sunday’s, contained hints of progress buried under that dull exterior.