“I see great things in baseball. It's our game — the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”
Walt Whitman may have said that (more likely he didn't), but then he never saw tonight's game. Because that was one of the purest forms of excruciation I've ever spent nearly three hours enduring while thinking I was doing something I loved.
When did it all go wrong? When we took the field, more or less.
Maybe it was when Reyes got picked off for the first time, sending the bird that is hope smashing into the plate-glass window that is same old, same old. (Joshua, always optimistic, chirped that “now he has time to rest!”)
When we let ancient Jamie Moyer wriggle free.
When Jimmy Rollins continued to back up his big talk by lasering a home run off Oliver Perez.
When Pat the Bat nearly hit the upper deck. (I'll say one thing for the Phillies, who deserve to have many things said for them in this series, however grudgingly and through gritted teeth: They're not hitting cheap Citizens Bank home runs off us so far.)
When Oliver hit two lasers in a row and the second one turned into a double play.
When Nunez erased a Luis Castillo double for the first time.
When Wright got rung up and another umpire went on the Enemies List.
When Nunez did it to Castillo again.
When Oliver kept catching Lo Duca's throws with his bare hand. (Don't do that. I mean, Jesus!)
When Reyes got picked off again.
When Beltran got under a fat pitch from Tom Gordon.
When Alou hit into a double play.
When Ron Darling inexplicably volunteered that he'd been to the Ziegfield in college to see “The Rose” because it had a great sound system, leaving the booth speechless.
I mean, how many ways could we be tormented in this game? How many ways could we be injured and outraged before being dispatched?
Well, one more than even I expected. In the ninth, Delgado battled bravely, but I kept waiting for Myers to pull out that curveball, and he finally did. But then Lo Duca got on, Endy got ready, and Marlon Anderson smacked a ball up the gap that Shane Victorino (whom I respect and admire and never, ever want to see again) somehow cut off. I wasn't convinced. In fact, I told Emily Shawn Green would hit into a double play, which was an expression of grim certainty and not a clumsy attempt at a reverse jinx, though I would have taken it.
And Green did. But goodness knows not in the way any of us could have dreamed. An obstruction call? Really? On Anderson, a veteran added for his intangibles? When the obstruction WASN'T NECESSARY BECAUSE GREEN WAS GOING TO BE SAFE AND THE RUN WAS GOING TO SCORE?
No, I never dreamed of that one.
(Outraged sputtering aside, I can't fault the call. I know Anderson could reach second, contrary to what Joe West said later, but that was a Wrestlemania two-handed slap. I've seen hard slides and slides out of the baseline, but not too many of those. Once I calmed down from magma to boiling, I watched the replay and found myself thinking, You Can't Do That.)
And anyway, I'm bitter enough. A seven-game lead down to three, the Phillies looking nothing like the Phillies we've come to know and scorn, too much road trip still ahead, the offense missing, the bullpen in tatters and the magic number too large to not easily turn tragic. My plate is full.