Rip Van Winkle'd: Waking Up to the Phillies Sweep of the Nationals

Dramatic re-enactment of the author's 142 day nap (do not try at home). (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

With apologies to Hugh Everett and Schroedinger's Cat, on Friday morning I woke up from a 142 day slumber. After an intense past several years of grading eager law students and parenting young children, I fell asleep in the afternoon of April 4 hoping for a good nap. Little did I know that the exhaustion common to most parents and educators would result in me sleeping for so long. I used to sleep for 12 or 13 hours at a time in college, but to sleep for 142 days - never done that before.

No matter, I woke up feeling a little groggy, but eventually realized I was incredibly refreshed. My wife informed me that while I was asleep, our oldest kid finished kindergarten, our youngest kid developed a love of swimming he previously didn't have, our dog turned 9, and I received tenure. But other than that, I didn't miss much.

She's not much of a baseball fan when left to her own devices, so she didn't say anything about the 2012 season. After sleeping so long, I had better things to do than read the paper or the internet, as I went about my day re-familiarizing myself with the important people in my life and eating the biggest post-slumber breakfast know to humankind.

As my body wasn't accustomed to much activity, after eating and talking, I was tired once again so I parked myself in front of the television to watch the Phillies game that evening. While I had been sleeping, the stereo hookup to the TV went haywire, so there was no volume coming from the set, but I could still watch my beloved team in all their glory.

Indeed, watching that series this weekend after my long sleep was glorious. The Phillies picked up right where I knew they would based on 2011. They swept the Nationals, who based on a few graphics I saw on the television (the stereo repair guy is scheduled to get here tomorrow), are playing pretty good ball this year.

Just like last year, the Phillies' offense did just enough to get by. They scored only 4 runs in each game, but that can be excused because, as one of the graphics informed me, the Nationals have the best starting ERA in all of baseball. Jimmy Rollins is obviously having an amazing 2012, as he went 5 for 10 in the series, scored a run in each game, knocked in 4, and slugged a home run. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard struggled a bit, but contributed nonetheless, showing that their pre-season injuries are pretty much forgotten. I was also very excited to see that John Mayberry Jr. seems to have picked up where he left off at the end of 2011, as he showed off his awesome power at the plate.

But much like 2011, the Phillies offense was the undercard for the pitching main event. In the off-season, in the face of much negativity from other bloggers and the traditional print commentators, I was optimistic about the Phillies because they still had their three aces. Plus, although they signed him to an outrageous contract, Jonathan Papelbon would certainly be a great contributor. This weekend's sweep proved my off-season optimism 100% correct.

Actually, what it first proved was that my outlook on the season had worn off on Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick was great in the second half of 2011, and that clearly has carried over to 2012. Starting Friday night's game, he looked amazing through six innings before tiring in the seventh. Even still, the Phillies bullpen was dominant, striking out 5 of the 9 batters it faced and holding on to the lead for the rest of the evening. This was the Phillies pitching staff I remembered.

And it only got better over the next two days. On Saturday, Roy Halladay was vintage Roy Halladay and on Sunday Cliff Lee was vintage Cliff Lee. Halladay and Lee allowed 15 baserunners in 14 combined innings. They struck out 13 and allowed only 3 runs. As in 2011, they looked like they were barely working on the mound. Racking up wins is almost too easy for these guys.

Probably what impressed me most about the series, though, was the bullpen. The hitting was what I expected, and the starting pitching was as dominant as we all knew it would be. But, the bullpen was a big question mark going into the season. This weekend shows that we had nothing to worry about. Over 6.3 innings, Phillies relievers gave up no runs and only 4 baserunners. Collectively, the bullpen struck out 13 hitters, over 2 per inning.

It has been a slow adjustment to waking life for me. But, after watching the weekend Phillies games, I am confident of one thing: With a repeat of the good hitting and incredible starting pitching the Phillies had last year but with the addition of a shutdown bullpen, when I finally get around to checking out the standings, the team will be on pace for more than its record-setting 102 wins this year.

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