There are two moments in this game that caught my attention and are usefully analogical to the rapidly evolving 2013 Phillies season.
First was in the bottom of the eighth inning, when, against erstwhile fantasy band-aid Joe Thatcher, Chase Utley flew out and Domonic Brown singled. I was watching closely enough when Heath Bell relieved Thatcher, but I must have tuned out for the next bit of action. I remember two singles in a row, and I remember thinking that, with the bases loaded and one out, the Phillies should be able to break the 3-3 tie. Then I squinted and saw men on first and second with two outs. Huh? Go backwards; check the box score and...Ruf single, Ruiz single. Oh, Dom got caught stealing. Huh. That would have been the go ahead run. And...John Mayberry has just struck out. Well isn't that just so Phillies.
Second, though, was in the bottom of the ninth. I tuned out for a bit to watch something with my wife, and came back expecting a sluggish ride through extras. Instead, I get a bases loaded situation, one out, and Utley up to bat. Well okay! I'm watching the at-bat, and I start thinking to myself as I watch Chase's methodical approach to batting against Eury De La Rosa, "Boy, you know, I can't decide whether I want them to win or lose." And I tell myself that, of course, I want the Phillies to win, which is true. I can't not want them to win.
But I realize then that the problem is that I can't decide intellectually whether it'd be better in a vacuum for the team to lose and gain draft position, or win and gain potentially important and unquantifiable pride. And as I'm just sitting there pondering this, I see that the count's gone full, and I think, "Well, moot point anyway -- they're totally going to win, now." And then the pay off pitch is just this beauty that tails in on the plate, even vaguely similar to the pitch that shall not be named (trigger warning: sadness), and suddenly I'm sure Chase has struck out. Until, wait, the pitch is...a little off the plate? And we've won on a walk-off-walk?? Hahaha, classic late season 2013 Phillies.
I'm not sure what there is to say about this team at this point. Are they fun to watch? Oh, absolutely, provided that it is the ninth inning. The Ryne Sandberg era, almost certainly due to coincidence and not causation, has been marked by the walkoff win, and those are really exciting, no matter how far back you might be in the standings. And we get to see the team enjoy themselves again, and that's fun too. And Darin Ruf is hitting HR -- 8 in August, tied for first in baseball over that span! -- and Dom is hitting, and Cody Asche scored the winning run, so yeah, there's plenty to like!
But are they also miserable to watch? Yeah, absolutely. See the Brown CS above. And also see Cole Hamels' line tonight, which did go seven innings, but with fairly pedestrian strikeout numbers (four) and earned run numbers (three). He did well, but it was hardly a blistering performance, and it was against a team that ranks 21st of 30 MLB teams in wRC+ at 92 (for reference's sake, the blistering Phillies offense ranks 24th with 89). It was a sluggish affair, and it didn't really feel exciting until the ninth, when it ramped way, way up way, way quickly.
And in a lost season, that's a tough velocity shift to handle. Let me be clear, I love that the Phillies won, and I love the way they did it. There are few things in this world as satisfying to me as a walk-off-walk, and to have Chase "MF" Utley earn the shrimp is an added plus. But if you want my thoughts on what to make of this team? Man, don't ask me. There's hardly a miracle big enough to get them into contention (19 back in the division, 14.5 back in the wild card). But there's also -- to risk a cliche -- no quit at all in this team, so I don't think we can get on the tank train anytime soon. Maybe it's a dead-cat bounce from the managerial change, but the losing continued after the switch long enough to make me wonder. Hell maybe it's Roger Bernadina.
Either way, it's equal parts awful and wonderful to watch this team right now, and after the last month or so, I'll take that. As long as all the wins are this wonderful, I'll be a happy camper. Deus or Chause (sorry) willing.
Fangraph of Divine Intervention below:
<iframe src="http://www.fangraphs.com/graphframe.aspx?config=0&static=632973&type=livewins&num=0&h=450&w=450&date=2013-08-23&team=Phillies&dh=0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="450" width = "450" style="border:1px solid black;"></iframe><br /><span style="font-size:9pt;">Source: <a href="http://www.fangraphs.com/livewins.aspx?date=2013-08-23&team=Phillies&dh=0&season=2013">FanGraphs</a></span>