How Do They Do It?

The graph to the right says it all, folks.

Down and never out. Bend but never break.

The Phillies had an 18% chance to win the game after Greg Dobbs made the second out in the bottom of the ninth. But when have the Phillies ever submitted themselves to the laws of probability? What they have consistently done over the past two seasons — regular and post-seasons alike — is historically incredible.

Until the ninth inning, the Phillies had only three opportunities to drive in a runner in scoring position, and all three times they failed. Meanwhile, the opportunistic Dodgers drove in all four of their runs with two outs thanks to some mediocre pitching by Joe Blanton and poor defense on the part of Pedro Feliz. On the other side, Dodgers starter Randy Wolf retired twelve straight Phillies between the second and fifth innings.

Pack it in, it’s just one of those games, better luck next time, etc.

Most teams would have thought that way. Never the Phillies. Not even against the league’s best bullpen with the league’s most intimidating closer with the fastest fastball, and the plethora of lefty-specialists.

For eight innings, the Dodgers out-hit, out-fielded, and out-pitched the Phillies. Heck, for eight and one-third, the Dodgers outplayed the Phillies.

Matt Stairs came up in the ninth with one out to face Jonathan Broxton. The Phillies were down by one run, 4-3. TBS ran replays of Stairs’ Game 4 home run against Broxton from last year’s NLCS. Broxton didn’t forget — he pitched around Stairs like he had swine flu. An errant fastball hit Carlos Ruiz, and even then, one was thinking, “Is anyone really going to get around on this guy’s 99 MPH fastball?”

Oddly, the Phillies are probably more scared of that 55-MPH Eephus pitch Vicente Padilla threw in Game Two than they are of Broxton’s fastball.

Greg Dobbs made weak contact, weakly popped out to third baseman Casey Blake, and the dream started to fade again.

I can hear Jeff Brantley speaking of Edwin Encarnacion prior to a game-winning three-run home run for the Reds: “He is not a clutch player.” FanGraphs says Jimmy Rollins hasn’t been a clutch player since 2007, his MVP season.

Clutch this. With runners on first and second, Rollins turned on a Broxton fastball, drove it into the right-center field gap, scoring Eric Bruntlett easily. The only question was whether Carlos Ruiz could score from first. Of course — he’s a Phillie, right? Ruiz chooch-chooed his way towards home plate, went down for an epic slide, scoring the Phillies’ fifth and final run. He popped up only to be mobbed by a raucous Phillies team.

Just another epic Phillies comeback.

As a fan, it’s nice to have wins like last night’s every once in a while. These epic comebacks — tonight and Game 4 of the NLDS — are hell on one’s well-being, physically and mentally. But I’ll take ‘em every time.

Game graph above courtesy FanGraphs.

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2 comments

  1. Colbs

    October 20, 2009 01:00 AM

    While Broxton’s got a great fastball, it wasn’t very good tonight. It’s certainly fast, but in game 4 it was stick-straight. Toss in a total lack of command, and you’re headed for bad results. Rollins could sit on the fastball in one spot – if he didn’t see the heater, or it wasn’t in that place, he could just take it – it would likely be out of the zone. And, much to Rollins’ credit, he hit the pitch he was sitting on – not easy to do at 99mph, even when you’re looking for it.

    An amazing win, unless you have a pacemaker or are a Dodgers fan.

  2. eh

    October 20, 2009 03:18 PM

    The term overrated has been applied to the dodgers’ pen how many times today?

    people can’t grasp the definition of small sample size.

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