At 77-72, and within striking distance of a Wild Card birth, the Phillies have guaranteed another full season of meaningful baseball.
This season might have all the luster of a pre-owned van with the occasional hiccup, but after an August tune-up, the Phillies may arrive at their final destination in one piece after all.
Excess cargo was jettisoned on K-61 exactly halfway through the country, and luxury items were soon pawned for a couple gallons of lower octane fuel. As it turns out, it was just fine for the thin Houston air. Now, they begin their final plunge along the last leg of the journey. All gauges clear; no signs of overheating. Will the old girl hold, or will her occupants succumb to hunger first? All that remains are bags of sunflower seeds scattered on the backseat floor.
The Phillies odyessy is ending, and oh what an emotional rush it’s been! From the ugly scene along a Boston street on June 23, to the heavy beauty of an orbiting baseball cascading back to earth for the 57th time this season.
The traffic jam known as the National League Wild Card race is starting to clear, and the Phillies have pulled closer toward the lead. It appears they’ve picked the correct lane, too, avoiding one of the league’s mightiest roadblocks in Carlos Zambrano. Hopefully, they don't catch a flat.
It’s time for the passengers to round up their pennies and go in for a cup of java for the driver. Charlie Manuel fell asleep at the wheel back on I-95 between Atlanta and Miami. It was the second near miss in a week. Shotgun passenger Rich Dubee had the map turned upside-down in D.C.
With all the twists and turns, they averted a disastrous breakdown in Fargo, North Dakota, where they picked up a useful piston in Chris Coste. Rick White was hitchhiking just outside Cincinnati when they offered him a lift. His bindle appeared stuffed with snacks, so Randy Wolf told him to get in, in that California laze of his. Then it was off to Seattle to save Jamie Moyer from certain post-season doom. Then, back across-country to offer Jeff Conine the same sanctuary. Nobody knows where Randall Simon came from. He just appeared.
Some of the kids are getting antsy for the ride to end. Chase Utley’s MP3 player ran out of juice all the way back in New York. No surprise; he's been blasting Led Zeppelin non-stop since March during the World Baseball Classic. Mike Lieberthal is complaining that his legs are falling asleep, and Pat Burrell is hearing noises in his head. Rick White keeps pestering Ryan Howard, and no one can understand why. Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary have tired arms from holding the starting rotation's baggage for many months. And everyone can’t wait for Jimmy Rollins to stop talking.
Soon, the road will fork into separate paths, the exit home, or the expressway to Wally World. This second destination wasn’t originally listed on the itinerary, but the passengers are gathering their second wind in anticipation. One look at Shane Victorino says it all; he's already strapping on his snorkel and fins.