I'll say it very clearly - despite the hated Braves winning last night, despite Chipper I-feed-the-hungry-play-chess-donate-my-paycheck-and-impregnate-Hooters-waitresses-while-sticking-by-my-wife-beating-manager Jones hitting the walk-off home run, despite Roy Halladay melting down (literally?), despite Chooch's career night going to waste, and despite Cholly's by-the-book bullpen management once again looking foolish, last night's game was wildly entertaining and almost everything you want from a baseball game on May 2.
Of course, the "almost" in that sentence is because the Phillies didn't win. But, other than that (and I'm not using that in the Mrs. Lincoln sense), last night's was a wonderful baseball game.
Why? Well, Talking Chop runs down some of the numerical absurdities from the game, of course focusing more on the positives for the Braves. But even those should be appreciated by a Phillies fan today. There were lead changes, there were big home runs, there was small ball, there were heroes performing while others choked, there were completely used up lineup cards, and there was even a moment when I was wishing the team still had Wilson Valdez. All in all, watching last night's game was three hours (I missed the first few innings) of my life well spent.
Baseball is usually a pretty orderly game. Most final scores are within a pretty predictable range, and most games follow a pretty predictable pattern. Sure, we don't know what will happen in any given moment, but the arc of a game is usually something we can associate with hundreds of other games we've watched in the past. After all, there's a reason Fangraphs can do what it does with win probability given a score, inning, and number of outs.
But then occasionally it's different. Occasionally it's a wild ride filled with the completely unpredictable. Occasionally you get Mitch Williams driving in a run at 4 in the morning. Or the aforementioned Wilson Valdez shutting down the side to be the winning pitcher in the 19th inning. Or Bobby Dernier hitting an extra innings walk-off inside-the-park three-run home run in a meaningless game in a meaningless season. These are the games that you remember. Sure, it helps when the Phillies win, but in the end, I'm not sure that matters when you get to enjoy something like last night.
Two things are key to enjoying last night's game. First, the date. Not all wild games in which the Phillies score in the teens yet lose are this entertaining. A game like this on May 3 is utterly enjoyable. A game like this on October 20 is horrifically heart-breaking, even if some uncommitted baseball observer might react saying, "that was fun to watch." (Damn you Mitch Williams and Larry Andersen!) And yes, a loss in May counts just as much in the standings as a loss in September, but I just can't care as much about an individual loss now. It's a blip that can be overcome at this point. A loss in September might not be.
Second, the way the Phillies have played so far this year. I've been one of the most optimistic bloggers on this site about the season so far, but I have no qualms admitting that the team has been boring to watch for much of the year. The pitchers have often been dominant and enjoyable to watch, but the offensive slumber has been, well, slumber-inducing. Take Sunday's game - a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball with the park filled for the Phanatic's birthday, but it was a horrendously boring game that no one seemed to enjoy. Last night's game was different. The team hit, the team scored, the team rallied from behind, the team overcame crushing comebacks by the other team. If you were watching the game alone in your living room, I know that you, like me, let out several audible exclamations throughout the game. This was, unlike most of the baseball the Phillies have played this year, exciting, fun, and entertaining.
So yes, I'll admit that when Chipper hit that home run last night, I was upset. But that passed very quickly when I realized just how damn entertaining and special the game was last night. Baseball, the wonderful sport that it is, gives you that sometimes.