Friday, June 08, 2012

The Morning After Sweeping Through Philly

It's only four games, I know. A four-game sweep on the road, even in Philadelphia, was something that the Dodgers had done before.

But a day later, I can't believe it.

After watching the Dodgers get crushed by Philly in 2009 and 2008, I shuddered whenever I saw that neon-outlined bell in the outfield. This was the place where Jonathan Broxton crumbled like a blueberry muffin under the pressure (and was never the same again).

And we were coming in with our best bat out of the lineup, and having lost six of our last seven.

But a band of Davids took down the Goliath--well, maybe the Goliath of yore--in Philly. I mean, who are these guys? Dee Gordon and Elian Herrera providing the one-two punch in the ninth inning off Philly closer Jonathan Papelbon? Okay, but that won't happen again.

Except it did happen again the next night, off the bat of Herrera to win the game in the eighth.

So now we're in line for the series split. And Chris Capuano gives up three homers in Game 3, so that's destined to be a loss, right? But the Dodgers score six runs, all of which come from unlikely sources: second-string fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., slumpster Gordon, powerless James Loney, new Dodger Jerry Hairston Jr., and Capuano himself (on an error). So we're set up for the win....

...that is, if Kenley Jansen, who hadn't registered a save in over a week, can close the door for a third straight evening. But with the (large) ghosts of Broxton casting shadows over the field (if ghosts can cast shadows, that is), a thoroughly gassed Jansen brings the Dodgers another one-run victory.

If this were Vegas, you'd pick up your chips, throw a couple to the dealer, smile to your tablemates, and walk away (or as Kenny Rogers would tell you, "run"). But the Dodgers stay for one more hand, in a game where Accuscore had us at around a 25% chance of victory, against a pitcher who went 3-0 against us in the two aforementioned NLCSs.

And we win again. This was also a one-run game until the ninth, when Herrera (again!), Andre Ethier, and Hairston blow the game open with four runs. Sweep, complete. We get on the plane to Seattle before the sun goes down. Philly doesn't know what hit it.

Thursday encapsulated a rough stretch. The Phillies played sloppily in the field, scored in just one inning and watched once again as the bullpen could not keep the game close.

Asked about his level of frustration, [Phillies manager Charlie] Manuel said, "I never put it up to a level. I feel how hot my face gets."

How hot is it?

"Pretty hot."

Three to five years ago, the Phillies beat teams into submission with a powerful offense. The last couple seasons, they ran Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley at teams, giving opponents a defeated feeling even before they stepped into the batter's box.

And they always caught the ball and played good defense.

But the air of invincibility is gone. Losing does that.


The second-place Giants started the week three games behind us, playing the creampuff Cubs and the pathetic Padres over the same span. The Giants ended up going 3-1. And they still lost ground. And now they face Texas, the best team in the AL, while we get the Mariners, the AL's third-worst team.

But back to Philly. Philadelphia fans are going to squawk that this year the team isn't the same. Doc Halladay is injured. Ryan Howard isn't playing. Neither is Chase Utley.

But you know who is playing for the Phillies? Juan Pierre. That's right, the Phils have chosen Pierre for their backup player (possibly because we're still paying a portion of his salary). It was strangely great to see Slappy McPopup again, since in a opponent's uniform, it was perfectly fine to see him go 1-for-13 with 7 LOB, as well as blow a fully catchable ball in left (off Herrera, remember?) which cost Cliff Lee the win and the Phillies the game. And, McPopup's highly-vaunted speed wasn't enough to catch up to a bloopy Matt Treanor RBI single in the sixth yesterday; the Dodgers broke the 3-3 tie with that play. And these plays don't even take into account the noodle arm! I'm glad I don't have to watch Juan Pierre for us in left anymore. He's all yours, Philly!

Over a third of the way into this season, the Dodgers have been absolutely surprising. We've had to bring in a phalanx of reinforcements, most notably for the big bat of Matt Kemp. And yet, as the LAT's Steve Dilbeck points out, "Somehow, they are now 15-7 without Matt Kemp, and 22-14 with him healthy."

These super-subs and AAA players have delivered in their short (and in some cases, hopefully much longer) stints in the Show. Mediocre starters have over-performed. Comeback and one-run victories have revealed more grit than we've shown in the last two years combined.

This could all fall apart after this. But it's been a hell of a great ride so far.

And that sweep in Philly will be one to remember for a long time.

photo via Deadspin


Franklin Stubbs said...

If any ghost can cast a shadow, it's Broxton's.

Fred's Brim said...

I am still enjoying this too. Hopefully we can expunge the ghosts of interleague play as well, or at least make friends with them

Dusty Baker said...

Thanks for summing it all up this way, Sax.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy said...

Sorry dudes but Broxton was never the same after he was overused in the Yankee series and still was the best Dodger relief pitcher ever, those teams were just not better than the Phillies.