Monday, June 30, 2003

Oops, I Did it Again

Yep, the scorching Phillies won again tonight, and, yep, I watched but a couple of innings. Coupled with a Braves loss to Florida (Maddux was manhandled, yielding seven runs in just four innings), the Fightin's' 4-3 come-from-behind downing of the Cubs put them a mere 5.5 games behind Atlanta, two games before hitting the season's halfway point.

Obviously, my inverse strategy of not watching the Phils is paying huge dividends. Just as carrying an umbrella negates any chance of rain, and vice versa, my viewing of the Phillies puts the kibosh on any hope of victory, and vice versa. (I should be so smart with my fantasy league team.) Which means that I'll try to keep my eyes close when Dad and I settle into our seats Tuesday night at the Vet to catch Randy Wolf and Mark Prior.

Anyway, what's up with these guys? It seems to me that the outstanding pitching, especially from the starting rotation, has given the hitting sufficient time to learn and come together. Jim Thome bashed his 21st dinger tonight – a Phillie with 21 homers before the All-Star break? – and the entire offense is starting to play the right way. They're moving runners, scoring on sacrifice flies, and getting extraordinarily timely hits. Writing in the morning's Inquirer, columnist Phil Sheridan quotes both Placido Polanco and Joe Torre on the benefits of patience when dealing with a newly assembled team.

And you can see the Phillies' confidence now. Winning begets winning, and the Phils are just plain winners now. This could be one hell of a summer.

But don't take my word for it. The man is a rambling writer, but Peter Gammons has watched an awful lot of baseball in his career. In his current column, he notes, "The Phillies, D-Backs, and White Sox are all teams with preseason expectations and pressures that did not implode when they struggled. Which makes them all the more dangerous the rest of the way."

In other words: It could be one hell of a summer. I know, I know -- I said that already. But for way too many years, July 4 has been not a halfway point in a thrilling pennant chase, but a checkpoint in the march toward Eagles training camp. So pardon me if I'm repeating myself -- it's just a little hard to believe sometimes.


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