IT WAS about 5:30 yesterday afternoon when Jamie Moyer stopped answering questions long enough to notice the Phillies' clubhouse had emptied.
"Where is everyone?'' he asked.
"Out on the field, pouring beer on each other,'' he was told. "Pouring beer on the fans, too.''
"Heh,'' he said. "Kid's stuff.''
He smiled like a proud father would, which of course he is. The immediate Moyer family - all six kids, mom, daughter's friend - had taken a red-eye flight from Seattle after 16-year-old Dillon's high school football game Friday night to be here for Dad's big Sunday. Their turn to make the sacrifice, arriving as he slept Saturday morning.
They were all there, with his parents, with his sister, watching Jamie push back the clock one more time, or perhaps more appropriately, trick it with a late-breaking offspeed pitch. And they were all there afterward, soaking in the clubhouse atmosphere as he soaked up errant spray from his extended family, the ones wearing soppy uniforms.
"For them to be here, to be a part of this,'' Moyer said as he pulled 4-year-old son McCabe into his arms, "I mean, it's awesome. This is something we'll talk about forever.''
Well, maybe not McCabe. Then again, Dillon was 6 when his father helped the Mariners make the playoffs in 1997.
"I can still picture it,'' Moyer's eldest said amid the clubhouse craziness. "It was just like this, but I understand it a lot more now. How hard they work just to get to this place.''
It's a message Moyer tried repeatedly to convey yesterday as media swarms came at him after his 5 1/3 innings of near-shutout pitching helped the Phillies to their first division title since 1993. It's a message he has tried to convey to his teammates as well, ever since he joined them in a 2006 trade-deadline deal that has to go down as one of Pat Gillick's best ever.
Not just because of yesterday. Not just because of the injury-free season Moyer completed with such a flourish, holding the Washington Nationals to five hits and one unearned run as his teammates squeezed out a single run in the first and two more in the third.
But because of what he has been to this team when he isn't pitching, cajoling calm out of young arms like Kyle Kendrick, painting the picture to his kid's-stuff teammates of what this town looked like when he was a teenager and the Phillies won the whole enchilada in 1980.
"One thing I learned,'' Kendrick was saying, "is that when he talks to you, definitely listen. He's not talking to you just to talk to you. He's trying to help you.''
Kendrick's jump from Double A to dependable starter has Moyer's fingerprints all over it. So does that game-at-a-time approach that the manager and players have preached during this entire, improbable, second-half run.
An example: Yesterday, as he walked to and from the bullpen, Moyer refused to look at the score of the Mets' game on the rightfield wall. The early-arriving crowd that swelled to 44,865 by game time cheered wildly each time the Marlins added runs, but Moyer kept his eyes off the carrot.
He didn't look during the game, either, being informed only once he was relieved by Tom Gordon in the sixth inning that the Marlins had registered a knockout of 41-year-old Tom Glavine with seven first-inning runs.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't hear them,'' he said. "I knew something was going on. But I didn't want to get caught up in any kind of an emotion. I needed to focus.''
He was asked whether that was harder than he made it sound.
"Well, you know what?'' he said. "When you've started over 500 times, you have a fair amount of practice.''
With 33 starts in each of his last two seasons, Moyer is up to 551. He won for the 230th time yesterday, but as Gillick pointed out afterward, the real amazing thing about a career that began in 1986 is that the majority of victories have come over the last 10 years of his career.
Growing up in suburban Seattle, Kendrick was 13 when that run began.
"I felt like I was a kid back home watching him pitch for the Mariners today,'' said Kendrick. "I mean, he didn't just keep us in the game, he pitched great. He was amazing.''
"He's a freak,'' Gillick said. "He's been unbelievable.''
Moyer threw 97 pitches when manager Charlie Manuel came for the ball with two men on in the sixth inning. The stats are clear: Until the 75th pitch, opponents are hitting .270 against him. After that, it jumps to .341.
Freakish? Great? Amazing? Moyer scoffed with the same paternal smile he wore in the empty clubhouse when words like these were tossed his way afterward.
"To me, when given opportunities you want to take advantage of those opportunities,'' he said. "I look back on my career and there were probably times when I was younger I didn't take advantage of some opportunities I was given. Not that I didn't care or didn't want to. But because I didn't know how, or I was inexperienced.
"Well, I've gotten second and third chances in this game. To me, being given those opportunities and realizing what I missed out on as a younger player makes this feel even more enjoyable.'' *
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