Thursday, June 19, 2003

Phillies 3, Braves 2

The reason they say timing is everything is that timing is everything. After watching the Phillies get no-hit by Mike Hampton through seven innings this afternoon, and with the Braves threatening in the eighth, a few of us in our group of eight headed out.

So of course we hear from the very competent Scott Graham on the ride home that Turk Wendell pitches the Phils out of a jam; they finally crack Hampton with a couple of hits in the eighth; Placido Polanco somehow dumps the unhittable John Smoltz into shallow right to tie the score; Pat Burrell doubles off the wall to start the ninth; and Jimmy Rollins brings a pinch runner home with a base hit for the win.

Today's game was the first the Braves have lost all season when leading after seven. More importantly, the Phillies won the series, picking up a game in the standings and providing some small spark of hope. More challenges await: The Red Sox are in for the weekend, with Pedro taking the hill Saturday night, and then the Fightin's are on the road for three in Atlanta. Now would be a good time for some momentum, boys.

The Sounds of Silence

The late-game heroics of the Braves series notwithstanding, the Phillies have spent far too many games sleepwalking. I know this is now a veteran team and that the season is a marathon, not a sprint, but it would be nice to see a pulse once in a while -- something to indicate that this inexplicably weak-hitting bunch is as pissed about it as the rest of us.

The Phils' laid-back approach was supposed to be gone once guys like Travis Lee and Scott Rolen skipped town. Instead, all of the excitement generated by the off-season signings and trades has dissipated; watching a game at the Vet these days is like drinking flat soda. Sure, it used to have a kick to it, but now it goes down easy -- too easy.

The malaise has extended to the parking lot. On our way to the car today, we strolled past an unofficial vendor hawking his wares from a shopping cart with the most unenthusiastic sales pitch I've ever heard. "Fresh pretzels, cotton candy," he said (not yelled -- said). "Cheaper out here." And just as tasty, I'm sure.

Citizens Bank Park will generate a lot of off-season buzz after this year, but unless the Phillies remember that fans like wins a hell of a lot more than cool sight lines and retro dimensions, they risk becoming the Tigers or Pirates, who play in spectacular new stadiums in front of sparse crowds.


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