September 23, 2021

The Philly Phan’s Guide to the Playoffs

October 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

October baseball is now a rite of passage in Philadelphia. No longer are Phillies fans left to wonder about “next year” or suppose “what if” or try to convince themselves that they had better appreciate fall baseball because they may not see it again for awhile. No, not for the foreseeable future in this town. Since 2007 the Philadelphia Phillies have crashed the MLB playoffs and are showing no signs of taking an early vacation after 162 games anytime soon.

The pitching staff has two definite No.1’s in Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and a No. 3 in Cole Hamels that can match another team’s top hurler frame for frame on any given night. A starting lineup that features: Ryan Howard, who you can mark down for 30 HRs and 100 RBIs every April, a human hitting machine in Placido Polanco, Mr. Everything Chase Utley, who nearly won the World Series MVP last year despite playing on the losing team, and Carlos Ruiz, the invaluable yet unheralded catcher, who is referred to simply as “Senor Octubre” this time of year.

Add this talent to a rabid fan base that has sold out over 120 straight home games and you become a serious obstacle in October. Look at the Tampa Bay Rays, who can boast one of the most talent rich rosters in all of baseball; does any team dread playing there any time of year? They had under 13,000 fans at the game when they clinched a playoff berth, gave away 20,000 tickets to one home game just to get people to come and had a frustrated Evan Longoria basically calling out the fans who refuse to show. Two loaded rosters yet two starkly different fan bases. Philadelphia fans, for all the warts that the media plays up, know what they have in their Phillies.

Below is a cheat sheet for the Phillies fan who may not follow every twist and turn of the Major League season, for the fan who follows their team and no one else. You are going to want to know the road the Phillies must travel to get to their third straight Fall Classic, what to look out for and story lines you will hear. It also makes for solid water cooler topics at the office and you can impress your friends and family with your new found hardball knowledge. Whether you start to follow the team each year starting on October 1st or start to study every Spring Training game beginning in March, this will have something for everyone.

Who on Cincinnati will have you seeing Red(s)?

Add some gasoline to the phire please and then phan them phuriously. Scott Rolen is back in town and the fans hate him, and that is an understatement. Never forgiven for forcing his way out of town in 2002 Rolen finds himself back in the Citizens Bank Park’s hot seat. Will the booing do anything to a vet like Rolen? Probably not, but should he make an error or strike out in a big spot while in Philly, look out, the entire place is going to explode.

What Red should worry about the Phans?

Try game 1 starter Edinson Volquez. He fits the profile of an implosion waiting to happen. Entering 2010, his third big league season, Volquez did not pitch after June 1 in 2009 due to Tommy John Surgery and this season he began the year by serving a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs which he claimed was to treat a fertility condition. Young? Check. Not seasoned? Check. First playoff appearance? Check. PED suspension which the fans will remind him of? Check. Starting in a hostile environment with relentless fans? Yikes.

Do not think this series is going to be easy, though. Rolen, Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs have all hit at least 20 homers and driven in at least 70 runs. Leadoff man Brandon Phillips has scored 100 runs and homered 18 times, and it is his job to set the table for Joey Votto. Votto should be showing off an MVP trophy before year end, which a year batting .324 with 37 HRs, 113 RBIs and 106 runs scored will earn you. He was in contention for the Triple Crown for much of the year and ranks among the top 3 in BA, HRs and RBIs out of all the players remaining in the playoffs.

The Phillies must avoid putting themselves in a position of having to pitch to him with men on base or big situations otherwise he will make them pay. Votto is one of those select players who has the potential, and the ability, to single handedly win a series all by himself.

Be sure also to watch Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman pitch if you can follow the ball, that is. Chapman consistently dials it up over 100 mph and has touched 105 this season. If Ryan Howard guesses right on a Chapman fastball there is no telling where, or if, it will land.

Now should the Phillies get by the Reds they will face either the Braves or Giants. I e-mailed my friend the other day and said that if you are a Phillies fan you root for the Braves, but if you are a baseball fan then you root for the Giants.

If the Braves beat the Giants….

Get down to your local Sports Authority or Modell’s sporting goods retailer right away so you can be the first in line for your “Phillies 2010 National League Champions” shirt. There’s no way the Braves will beat the Phillies. In the final two weeks of the season the Braves played the Phillies six times. The Phillies swept the Braves at CBP to put away the division and then visited Atlanta in the final series of the season after clinching the division. Keep in mind at this point the Braves still needed a win to secure the Wild Card and the Phillies were kind enough to run out their Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

The Braves proceeded to lose the first two games of the series to a Philadelphia team led by Greg Dobbs, Ben Francisco, John Mayberry, Ross Gload and Brian Bocock. The Braves needed to win the final game of the year and get some help to clinch the Wild Card and then nearly blew an 8-2 lead before hanging on to win 8-7, and that coupled with a Padres loss later that afternoon, helped them slide in. So now you want to tell me that the Braves are going to waltz in and beat the Phillies when it truly counts? Let me tell you this, if you see Gload, Dobbs or Bocock during the playoffs it will be an action shot of them running in a reliever’s jacket from the bullpen. Start clearing your schedule for the World Series.

If the Giants beat the Braves…..
Ahhhhh. Now we are talking October pressure baseball. A possible matchup of Doc versus The Freak for games 1, 4 and 7? Yes please. Knock the Giants offense all you want but when you run out Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, if you can scratch out two or three runs, that is often more than enough. At one point in September the Giants went 17 straight games giving up three runs or fewer. Their staff had the lowest ERA in the National League and also led the league in strikeouts which often times is the Achilles’ heel of the Phil’s offense.

Ponder this, over the final 30 days of the regular season the Giants team ERA was 1.70, more than a run better than any other team. Beware of the Giants bullpen also. The starting rotation gets much of the attention but their closer is the tattooed and Mohawk sportin’ Brian Wilson who converted 48 of 53 saves, punched out 93 in 74.2 IP and has a 1.81 ERA. Brad Lidge on the other hand has blown the same amount of saves in 20 LESS chances. What Brad Lidge will show up? The “Lights Out” 2008 version, the “Lights On” everyone please take a base 2009 version or the 2010 mixture of the two? The bullpens are going to play a prominent role in this series.

Scared yet? Will this series go all seven games? I actually do not think so but I can picture a number of gut wrenching 2-1, 3-2 games where you pray your team scores first and then gnaw your fingers and cannot go to bed until it is over. I envision the Philly pubs serving a variation on the Irish Car Bomb to its worried Phillies patrons. Simply take a shot of Pepto and drop it into some Sam Adams Oktoberfest and consume quickly during the 8th and 9th innings. NLCS Bullpen Bomb anyone?

See you at the parade.

Matt Aber is a baseball enthusiast who fears an intervention from family and friends for all the baseball he watches. Just not in October please. He is an advocate of the national organization called The Miracle League which allows special needs children to play baseball. He encourages you to support this worthy cause and learn more at www.miracleleague.com.

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