Friday, September 25, 2009

Phillies Rebound From Disappointing Loss with 9-4 Win

Dodgers and Phillies meet for Game Five of NLCS in Los Angeles

Phillies players suffered a difficult loss to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday and to add insult to injury, had to immediately pack up and fly to Milwaukee to play a four game set. They arrived in the wee hours of the morning at a time when newspaper trucks are loading up for delivery while knowing the Marlins got to sleep in on an off day, still surrounded by the after glow of their late game heroics. The combination made for a serious hangover for the team in red.

Fortunately, they quickly brushed off the tough defeat and took the field to do battle again. They made Brewers starter Jeff Suppan work hard until they eventually broke things open with a barrage of runs. Nothing like a "9" on the scoreboard to take some pressure off your sagging bullpen. Jimmy Rollins provided the big blow with a 3-run shot off the facing of the upper deck in a 6-run 5th inning. Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard also each drove in a pair of runs.

Meanwhile, J.A. Happ was taking another pass at returning to the mound after being shut down early in his previous start. He looked like the Rookie-of-the-Year candidate again, mixing his sharp pitches to hold the high scoring Brewers in check and run his record to 11-4. He struck out five batters in a row at one point and 7 over 5 2/3 innings. Charlie Manuel pulled him in the 6th inning, sensing that he may be tiring after a long injury layoff.

Lost in all the discussion about the Phillies offensive prowess, defensive skill, starting pitching talent and bullpen struggles are a couple other key strengths of this ball club. No one is totally immune to the grind of a marathon 162 game season, but the Phillies players are a mentally tough bunch. And, very importantly, they have excellent team chemistry. Although it can be cliche, they truly win and lose as a team.

As the bullpen has struggled, lesser teams and lesser individuals could easily harbor ill feelings towards those not upholding their end of the bargain, and lose sight of what each of them needs to continue doing. This team was not built that way. They support each other and move on when adversity strikes. It is both endearing and clearly a reason why they are the defending champions.

Last night's victory, while the Marlins and Braves were idle, added 1/2 game to their NL East cushion and reduced their magic number to 4. It also moved them 1/2 game ahead of the Cardinals for playoff seeding and home field advantage. Every game is still meaningful, making the team's quick rebound especially important.

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