LOS ANGELES - Before the game yesterday, Charlie Manuel was in the sunken concrete bunker that doubles as an interview room here at Dodger Stadium. Someone noted that the Phils have had real success when taking control of a postseason series early on, and so Manuel was asked how imperative it was for the Fightin's to win the first game of the NLCS.
"It's important for us to go out and get the lead," Manuel agreed before the Phils went and beat the Dodgers, 8-6.
It was classic Charlie - blunt and simple and devoid of any self-aggrandizing filler. It was also a gross understatement. Saying the Phils need to win the first game of any playoff series is like saying the smoke jumpers out here in California need copious amounts of water to extinguish the wildfires that frequently flare up. A failure to deliver on either front is likely to end in disaster.
Before you dismiss that as mere hyperbole, dig deep into your memory and ask yourself when the Phils last won a postseason series after dropping the first game. Think hard. I'll wait.
The answer, sadly, is never. Not once. Since 1915, the Phillies have played 17 playoff series (not counting this NLCS), and each time they dropped the first game they ended up sitting at home and wondering what went wrong shortly thereafter.
When Carlos Ruiz sent that three-run homer screaming into the left-field stands - depositing it in the part of the park the Dodgers regrettably call Mannywood - he didn't dash the Dodgers' hopes or end their season. When Ryan Howard smacked a two-run double shortly thereafter he didn't secure the Phils' second-straight National League championship. When Raul Ibanez crushed a three-run dinger of his own in the eighth inning, he didn't guarantee the Fightin's another champagne-soaked celebration. And when Cole Hamels had his best outing of this postseason (short list), and Brad Lidge later closed out the game, they didn't deliver the club to another World Series. What they did, though, is unhook the Fightin's from the heavy weight of a terrible trend that has dragged them under for 94 long years.
It was one game, and for now it means nothing more than a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. But given the undeniable, unfortunate history, it sure beats the alternative.
Put another way: Whew.
Taking their time
Lots of fans dressed as empty seats last night. The notoriously late Dodgers crowd didn't fill the joint until the third inning. Shameful.
Myers & Manuel
I got several e-mails from readers asking whether Brett Myers freaked out on Charlie Manuel when he learned he'd been left off the NLCS roster. Charlie said rumors to that effect weren't true. "He just kind of looked at me, [shrugged], and got up and left," Manuel said.
Tommy & T.J.
If you're familiar with L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers, then you know he serves as the paper's principal antagonist and chief chop-buster. (He's Page 2's kind of guy.) In the buffet line before the game, he saw Tommy Lasorda and decided to have some fun.
T.J: "Lasorda, you're holding up the line. People are going to think all you do is eat."
Lasorda: (Turns around. Stares at T.J. Doesn't say anything.)
T.J.: "You're eating again, Lasorda?"
Lasorda: (Clearly aggravated.) "This is my first time."
T.J.: "Since when - 3 o'clock?" (It was about 3:05 p.m.)
Well, they do say he's cold-blooded
Despite the fact that it was about 80 degrees and sunny in L.A. yesterday, super-agent Scott Boras was wearing a turtleneck and a creamsicle-orange sweater.
Wait. . .what?
Brad Lidge said that Chan Ho Park looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball out of the pen last night. "Maybe he took some good Korean ancient herb or something," Lidge said. Pause. "Hopefully that didn't come out too bad."
Aside from Alyssa Milano, the celeb sightings have been pretty lame so far: Miley Cyrus, George Lopez, John Daly and Holly Robinson Peete were at the game. Achy-Breaky Billy Ray Cyrus sang the national anthem. Jon Lovitz was sitting behind the backstop. And Archbishop Prendergast's Monica Horan was loitering at the LAX baggage claim when we arrived. Bob Ford was completely unmoved by her. He's not an Everybody Loves Raymond fan. . . . SoCal has a cheesesteak franchise called Philly's Best that the locals rave about. They import Amoroso rolls and the whole bit. It's not bad - for a knockoff - but it's still not home.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or email@example.com