This never happens in Philly ... but it is
Originally Published: September 28, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- In Philadelphia, life is not supposed to work like this.In Philadelphia, it's the home team that's supposed to make its own seven-game lead disappear. In Philadelphia, it's the home team that's supposed to forget how to win at all the wrong times.
|ESPN.com top NL pennant race stories from Friday night:|
|• Wojciechowski: Cubs believe|
• Stark: Something good in Philly
• Arangure: Wright challenges Mets
• Knisley: D-backs' delayed reaction
• Nelson: Brewers stunned
|For more on the pennant races, see Hunt for October.|
"You know what?" Myers said Friday, all these months later. "I understand. We started 4-11. We deserved to get booed. I've said it all year. It's a love-hate relationship with these people. They hate it when you do bad, but they love it when you do well. And I think this year, in this clubhouse, we understood it more. It wasn't that they were booing us because we were a bad team. They were booing us because they weren't happy with what the results were." Those results could have buried this team, you know. That's the way it usually works. And not just in Philadelphia. That's the way it usually works everywhere. In the 104 years since the invention of the World Series, only four teams have started a nonstrike season 4-11 or worse and recovered to finish in first place -- the 1914 "Miracle" Braves, the 1951 Bobby Thomson Giants, the 1974 Pirates and the 2000 Giants. But none of those teams had to do what this team had to do -- not just recover from 4-11, but recover from those all-but-impossible seven-out-with-17-to-play mathematics. No team in history has ever been seven out with 17 to play and lived to tell about it in October. But one more Phillies win, one more Mets loss or two more of either finishes off that tale -- of the Mets' historic collapse, of the Phillies' historic reincarnation. Shockingly, it could be over by the time the sun sets Saturday. Asked if his team smells that finish line now, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replied: "Yeah. Of course we smell it. And we want it. Matter of fact, we might want it bad enough where we've got to take it easy, just relax and just play." Hey, great plan. But how the heck does a team relax at a time like this? The town is a giant thunderclap. The rally towels are lighting up the night. The throats are hoarse. The eyes are glazed. Something crazy is happening here -- something that has always happened to someone else. Not to this team. Not in this town. Just 16 days earlier, this same Phillies team had gotten steamrolled by the Rockies, 12-0, in its home park. Up the turnpike, the Mets had just won for the ninth time in 11 games. The lead was seven. The future didn't exactly seem ripe for fairy tales. Asked if he could have envisioned this same group being this close to October, barely more than two weeks later, shortstop Jimmy Rollins couldn't resist a laugh. "Yeah," he said. "For the wild card." Now, though, the wild card barely seems relevant anymore. Now all those insane tiebreaker scenarios barely seem relevant anymore. If the Phillies win the East, all that stuff is somebody else's problem. Undoubtedly, much of America is going to view what's happened here as an epic suffocation by the Mets, not a miraculous resuscitation by the Phillies. But these are parallel story lines, each of them monumental on its own merits, each one dependent on the other. Yeah, the Mets have lost 11 of 15. But the Phillies had to win 12 of 15 to make that matter. Yeah, the Mets' pitching, defense and psyches have self-destructed. But the bigger story may be the way the Phillies' pieces have somehow magically morphed together -- even pieces that never seemed to fit all year. All of a sudden, at almost exactly the same time that the Mets' bullpen was unraveling, a Phillies bullpen that lit bonfires for five months finally found a formula that worked -- J.C. Romero to Flash Gordon to Myers. Half a season ago, Romero was in limbo after getting dumped by the Red Sox. And Gordon and Myers were hurting members of the all-MIA team. So who could have foreseen them turning into the Phillies' version of Stanton-Nelson-Rivera at a time like this? But here those three are, pitching just about every darned day in September. And of the 13 games this month where all three of them have stomped out of that bullpen, the Phillies have won 11 of them.
H. Rumph, Jr/AP PhotoCole Hamels was absolutely dominant, striking out 13 batters in eight innings.
I know the past couple of years, we've come close. But -- and I mean no disrespect to the guys who used to play here -- it's just that now, as a unit, we're a better team. Our mentality, the way we go out there and attack the game, is: Just have fun. ... Hey, I know there's pressure, man. But we just take it as, let's just go out there and have fun, and see what we can make of this.
--Phillies reliever Brett Myers
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