This World Series in June was a lot like Christmas in July.
Much warmer than the actual World Series and no real significant gifts when it was over.
The Phillies, the team expected to represent the National League in the actual World Series, took two out of three games from the Boston Red Sox, the team with the shortest Las Vegas odds to represent the American League in the Fall Classic.
Boston managed one run in 20 innings off the Phillies' starting pitchers, but found a way around that sticky issue in the series finale Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The Red Sox slugged three home runs, including two by aging captain and catcher Jason Varitek, but the biggest hit in their 5-2 victory was an out off Adrian Gonzalez's bat in the top of the fourth inning.
Gonzalez's line drive caught a chunk of lefthander Cole Hamels' right hand, causing some cursing and considerable pain before the Phillies pitcher picked up the baseball and threw out arguably the best hitter in the game for the second out of the inning.
Hamels, despite being in obvious pain, remained in the game and retired the final batter of the inning. Shortly after he reached the dugout, however, David Herndon started warming in the bullpen, a clear indication that Hamels' afternoon was over.
X-rays of Hamels' hand and the results of what happened to the Phillies pitchers who followed him were negative.
"It was big," Gonzalez said. "He's a great pitcher, and to be able to get him out of the game changed the outlook of the game in a sense."
What transpired after Hamels took the hot shot to his hand provided another example of why it's silly to get too excited about anything that happens during a three-game series in June, even if two of baseball's best teams from opposite leagues are matched on the schedule.
First of all, Hamels would not have been so quick to come out of the game if this were October rather than June. Second, the Houston Astros have nearly the same chance of making a World Series appearance as Herndon and Drew Carpenter, the two relievers the Red Sox victimized for their three home runs and five runs.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was happy his team salvaged a win during its visit to Philadelphia, but he did not even want to touch the World Series talk.
"October is different," Francona said. "This is a June 30 game. We know they're good and their pitching is great, but that has no bearing on later in the year. I just hope we get there."
Francona faced a dilemma by having to sit designated hitter David Ortiz in two of the three games here and he wasn't willing to share how he'd approach that matter if it comes up again in October. With leftfielder Carl Crawford expected back from a hamstring injury long before then, Francona's lineup burden would not be as significant. The fact that at least two games of the World Series would also be played in Fenway Park under American League rules also is a landscape-changer.
We did learn from this regular-season series that what those really smart baseball people have been saying for all these years is true: Pitching wins.
Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, Hamels, and the back end of the Phillies bullpen were great, and the Red Sox should expect to see more of those guys if these teams meet again in October. Boston will also see Roy Halladay, a familiar face from all his years in the American League East with Toronto.
The Phillies, meanwhile, should anticipate more matchups with Jon Lester, the lefty who held them to two hits over seven scoreless innings in the series finale. In three career starts against the Phillies, Lester has allowed 10 hits and one run in 21 innings for a 0.43 ERA.
Gonzalez played against the Phillies quite a bit with San Diego before being traded to Boston in the offseason. He said he did not learn anything from his three-game visit to Citizens Bank Park that he did not already know.
"They're the same team," Gonzalez said. "They're going to be in the playoffs and they're going to be a force in the playoffs and it's going to take a really good team like the Giants last year to knock them out."