Last year on this date, the Phillies lost to the Mets 10-9, capping off a missed opportunity to bury the Mets by sweeping a 4-game series. Instead, they lost the last three games, and enabled the Mets to draw within 2 1/2 games.
Of course, the 2008 season turned out just fine for the Philadelphia phaithful, and now that we look at 2009, the nemesis is the Florida Marlins, who currently sit 2 games out, after scoring a win in the last of three games against the resurgent Giants. Thank you, San Francisco, for taking two of three. We'll pay you back next call...
After some shaky baseball that included three humbling losses to the Braves, one loss in three games to Toronto and two more losses to Tampa Bay - a 3-6 stretch, things weren't looking so good for the Phils. Like their jaded fans, I'd wager that Charlie Manuel's team was probably all too glad to be done with the American League.
But we'll take our chances against the AL in November, won't we, boys? :-)
Of course, as mentioned earlier, the return to NL competition didn't start off all that well, as Atlanta kicked the snot out of the Phils' bullpen, savaged ace Cole Hamels and survived a gutsy 7-inning gem by J.A. Happ. In the midst of Sherman's march through Philadelphia, something good did come.
Continuing a surreal batting slump that inspired a wretched reworking of a classic song and included an 0-8 log in the first two games, Jimmy Rollins made like Lazarus and went 2-for-4 in the third game. It's true that a .209 average was nothing to write home about, but the performance was a welcome respite as they headed into the maelstrom of a three-game weekend series against the hated rival Mets.
This time, it would be different. No more would the Phillies lose in spectacularly bad fashion to their rivals. Nay, an unknown Rodrigo Lopez pitched a terrific 6 1/3 innings and enjoyed a scoreless performance by the bullpen to take game one by a 7-2 count. And... Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-5 and raised his average to .212.
Yes, it's true that the Mets have been decimated by injuries. But that aside, the Phillies need to start winning games that they should win. They've lost too many winnable games already, and now they had the Mets by the throat. Could they send them packing again on Saturday?
The elder and wise statesman Jamie Moyer came, saw and conquered the Mets, scattering five hits and surrendering one earned run in 6 1/3 innings. Moyer also enjoyed a scoreless relief effort from the uneven bullpen, including a 13-pitch, 8 strike pitching outing from the once invincible, now merely very good, Brad Lidge.
Now the stage was set for that most delicious of things: a three-game sweep of a hated rival. What could possibly be more demoralizing than that? And what could possibly take the wind out of the Phillies sails more than the Mets salvaging a win?
But it was not to be, as Joe Blanton came storming out and silenced the Met bats, limiting them to four hits over 7 1/3 innings, and protecting a slim 2-0 margin - fueled by solo homers courtesy of Rollins and All-World Chase Utley. What made this one all the more impressive was that the Phillies felled arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana.
So the sweep was complete. And now Phillies fans had something to cheer. Will it last? Considering they are in a very similar position as they were last year at this time, it certainly seems possible. I'd like to believe in the Phillies... and a series like the one they had against the Mets goes a long way toward restoring one's faith.