Some Thoughts After the Phillies Beat the Dodgers (and Now Have Home-Field Advantage)

With the game ending late last night and today's game starting early, the best I can muster is a notes column.  With the Phillies up 1-0, here are some thoughts to take you into this afternoon's action:

• The Phillies were not supposed to score any of their runs last night:
- They scored their first three runs on a three-run home run by Carlos Ruiz, their 8-hole hitting catcher.  This was Ruiz's second three-run home run of his career.  His other 22 home runs (including his World Series home run last year) have been either solo shots (14) or with one man on (8).
- They scored their next two when Ryan Howard hit a two-out double against a lefty.  How unlikely was this?  Howard had a .653 OPS this season against lefties, and Clayton Kershaw had a .489 opponents' OPS when facing lefties.
- They scored their final three when Raul Ibanez hit a three-run home run against George Sherrill.  Sherrill was even better this year against lefties than Kershaw.  Sherrill had a .342 opponents' OPS when facing lefties and gave up 0 home runs.
But this is why they play the games, right?

• The Dodgers lost even though they scored 6 runs.  With their pitching staff, that's incredibly rare.  In fact, this year, the Dodgers went 12-1 when scoring 6 runs, losing only to the Marlins in July.  They were 51-4 when scoring 6 or more runs.

• Say what you want about the Phillies' bullpen this year, but they certainly do make the games more entertaining.  Last year, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge seemed automatic, so games were pretty much shortened to six innings.  Once those three came in, you could relax and count on the win.  This year, the bullpen has been anything but automatic.  Even with Lidge's recent save streak, there's no forgetting his horrific regular season performance.  Thus, when he comes in to save a post-season game this year, I have no doubt that every Phillies fan is on the edge of his or her seat, heart thumping a bit more quickly.  When Lidge gets the final out, there's a huge sigh of relief.  The ride is bumpier, which makes the end result that much more entertaining and rewarding.

• dajafi pointed out in the comments section of my entry yesterday that yesterday's game would give a huge psychological edge to whoever won it.  If the Phillies won, they've continued their dominance from last post-season and the pressure today will be unbearable.  If the Dodgers won, they've proven they can put last year behind them.  But I think there's an added element here.  Yesterday, the Dodgers threw their best at the Phillies.  They pitched their three dominant lefties against our lefty-heavy lineup.  And the Phillies still scored 8 runs, all of them against left-handed pitchers who slaughter left-handed hitters.  When you fail with the deck stacked so heavily in your favor, the failure is that much more difficult to get over.

• Chan Ho Park looked awesome last night.  According to the radar gun, he was hitting the mid-90s reliably.  His pitches were perfectly located and had great movement.  Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Park will be limited to an inning while he gets his strength back, but if last night is an indication of how he's going to pitch this series, the Phillies should really consider using him for multiple innings.  A dominant arm like that in the bullpen will be key given the unpredictability of Madson and Lidge at this point.

• After one game:
Ryan Howard against lefties:  .500/.750/1.000 for a 1.750 OPS.  In four plate appearances, he has 1 long fly ball out, 1 double, and 2 walks.
Ryan Howard against righties:  .000/.000/.000 for a .000 OPS.  In one plate appearance, he struck out.

• I don't normally watch games with a pitch track graphic, as most of my baseball watching comes watching Phillies games and the local broadcasts don't feature it.  After watching the TBS pitch track for five games now, I'm left wondering how different the game of baseball would be if umpires called the actual strikezone (assuming the pitch track shows the real zone).  Umpires regularly call pitches that are inches off the plate strikes.  And, I guess I've been trained by watching those calls, since those calls look like strikes to me.  But, in the graphic, they aren't.  If the strike zone were really called as small as it really is, the game would be radically changed.

• Finally, those announcers were horrible.  Buck Martinez has a horrible voice.  Ron Darling sounds like Robert deNiro (seriously).  And, as someone pointed out somewhere, Chip Caray talks about fisting a whole lot.  Collectively, the three of them were Dodgers' groupies.  When the Dodgers were at bat, it was all about how much the Dodgers have grown this year and how the Dodgers' young hitters have learned how to hit and win without Manny Ramirez in the lineup.  When the Phillies were at bat, it was all about the Dodgers' pitching staff.  And hey, did you hear that the Dodgers' youngsters now know they can win without Manny Ramirez?  The announcers had at least half a dozen narratives they were following for the Dodgers.  I'm not even sure if they noticed the Phillies were playing last night, let alone that they were the defending World Series champs.  I understand TBS and Fox are "rooting" for a Dodgers/Yankees World Series, but last night was really hard to stomach.  But, maybe I should stop complaining.  I've heard the Dodgers' young hitters have more confidence this year, even if Manny isn't producing, and that should make me shut up and be happy, right?

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