I sat at my desk yesterday thinking, recovering. It would take a small miracle to beat Pedro Martinez and stop the trainwreck that began the night before.
The only strategy I could muster was a barrage of verbal abuse from the boys in the Phils dugout – Tomas, Tank, J-Mike – anything to throw Pedro off his game. Read any baseball memoir and mud-slinging will occupy entire chapters.
With the score knotted 2-2 after Chase Utley’s first of two atomic bombs – maybe the two most important hits of his career – you could sense the Phils’ fraternity smelled blood.
With their arms draped from the dugout railing, the team’s good-time gang could have had smokes rolled up in their sleeves, arms tatooed with pin-up girls, calling each other names like "Eyeball" or "Ace," firing spitballs at the gawky outsider on the mound.
Home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson opened the door, exposing Pedro’s vulnerabilities by not conceding the plate on pitches even a hair off the black. Without his spots, Pedro’s just a kid wearing orthodontic headgear at the mercy of the varsity jocks. And just when it couldn’t get any worse for poor Poindexter, it rained.
The Phils indeed washed away the sins from the day before, pummeling a soaking-wet Pedro with four home runs. You have to go back to 1998 for the last time that’s happened against the Mets’ ace.
I hesitate in promising Utley my first born, because those pitchers were right in his sweet spot, but Utley isn’t afraid of any man and is the one player I'd call on in a clutch situation. For just one second, allow yourself the pleasure of imagining Utley in the postseason.
Pedro will be lucky to go seven innings the rest of the season. The broadcast crew was right - this is a different, older Pedro, relying on his location and offspeed pitches to outsmart hitters. Utley’s blasts were tape-measure shots, Ryan Howard got the Phillies on the board with the benefit of the wind, and Mike Lieberthal crushed his grapefruit. All things considered, Lieby is having a good month at the plate, and why is this writer from Macon, Ga. the only one considering Howard for Rookie of the Year?
Baseball is a game of inches. The game probably would have turned out differently if Pedro got his calls.
But more than inches, last night was about resilience. Over seven innings, starting pitcher Brett Myers evolved from a thrower to a pitcher. The bats pecked away at Pedro after making it easy in the early innings, including a stretch when he retired five-straight batters on five-straight pitches. As usual, once the offense finally got it started, they couldn’t stop, pounding the Mets bullpen for good measure.
The Phils hope to stay on the attack this afternoon against Tom Glavine. Jon Lieber takes the mound for hometown nine.