OBSERVATIONS, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .
Two bleeping runs
That's all, folks . . . Just two more runs.
And they didn't have to come in the 1-0, Game 5 loss that plunged Phillies fans into a baseball version of nuclear winter. People in the earth's northern climates - the Arctic Circle regions of Finnish and Swedish Lapland, sub-Arctic Russia and Alaska, Canada's far Northwest Territory and vast regions north of Baffin Bay - suffer from sunlight deprivation during their winters of short or no daylight. It is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Around here, SAD stands for Series Affective Disorder, as in No World Series.
Just two more bleeping runs and you'd have bundled up last night in Phillies World Series weather for Game 2 against Texas. The Phillies would have beaten the potent but somewhat dented Rangers Wednesday night, Roy Halladay's wickedly moving pitches cutting through the mist of the rocking Bank. Ryan Howard taking C.J. Wilson the other way early and Doc thumbing his nose at the postseason LaRussian Roulette with a complete game.
And, yeah, the Big Piece would have been out there if they only could have scored two more runs in Game 2 after Cliff Lee gave up his 4-0 lead like a choking victim being Heimliched into expelling a cud of Kobe beef. Howard would never have batted in the bottom of the Game 5 ninth and ruptured his left Achilles' tendon, an injury that wraps his and the Phillies' 2012 season in a question mark of doubt. The NLDS never would have returned to Philly if the Cardinals had gone back to Baseball Heaven down 0-2.
And if the Phillies had just managed to bloop, bleed or beg two runs off Chris Carpenter - the number he allowed Wednesday on Mike Napoli's bomb, there might not have been a Game 5 bottom of the ninth.
Yeah, well, and if Mrs. O'Leary's cow didn't kick over that lantern in her Chicago barn . . .
Game 2 was when Tony La Russa declared a bullpen jailbreak. While the Cardinals' manager went to Fernando Salas, his normal setup man, in the third inning, Charlie Manuel went into typical Mule Mode.
Chuck stuck with his 1B Ace in the seventh inning of a 4-4 game even though the Cardinals had righty batters Allen Craig, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and David Freese lined up. Craig triple to center. Pujols RBI single, 5-4.
It was game, set and, eventually, match as the NLDS played out because the Phillies had left those two runs they needed on base in the second inning, when a potential crooked number turned into a "Well, could have been worse."
Run home, runners on first and second with two out. And the Big Piece flied out to deep left . . . Last chance, it turned out. LaRussa drained his bullpen like a guy getting his pool ready for the winter. Six relievers for the final 18 outs. Two Phils hitters reached base.
You can hyperventilate about Game 5 all you want, but that was the kiss of death right there. By the way, for all you online Scrabble players, if (Marc) Rzepczynski were legal, it would score 333 points as a triple word.
Game 5? Shane Victorino doubles with one out in the second. Dies. Fourth, Shane singles a runner to third with two outs. They die.
Sixth. Utley singles with one out, does his gallant steal thing and is gunned down. Seventh. The Big Piece is ahead 3-0 and does his totally stupid green-light fly out.
The Phillies had the automatic-transmission offense going for them: clutchless.
Score those bleeping two runs any which way and they would have been squirting champagne. Instead, the manager has marching orders to insist on something he is loath to do: manufacture runs, start runners with guys hitting who strike out a lot, squeeze (God forbid), ask guys with battered legs to run more.
If you've been watching the Cardinals throughout, they define a confident, aggressive club. They aren't up there to work counts, which in the Phillies' case in recent seasons invariably put too many slumping hitters in 0-2 holes.
Teams successful working counts are generally feared. That was the case with the 1993 Phillies. Nobody wanted to throw those guys strikes. It was the case with the 2008 Phillies. They looked confident and hit with aggression. This team had the Fear to Fail syndrome etched deeply, perhaps because many of them were feeling their age and their injuries.
Ryan Howard was not right since his first ankle injury in 2010. He once let outside pitches get so deep, he could almost flick a long ball down the line out of the catcher's glove. Short- or no-stride hitters like him generate bat speed off the back leg. Howard spun off his - until his ankle began the beat down to a total rupture of the Achilles'.
Greene on hold
Top June draft pick Larry Greene went through the FIL without an at-bat. He tweaked a groin muscle early and was kept out of running situations. Which raises the yearly problem of late-signing draftees going through a summer without the organized conditioning work a kid needs to play at the pro level. They quickly find out this isn't Legion ball anymore . . . Charles O. Finley had a practical idea for keeping down free-agent salaries. The A's maverick owner suggested signing players for a year only, then making them all free agents. "The Yankees can only sign the best 25," he would say. "Then the rest of us can split the rest." With the epidemic of D-I football conference-jumping and reorganizing, how about just making all the D-I teams yearly independents? Everybody just schedule who they want each year. Sure beats putting the University of Hawaii in the Big East.
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