All day today I've been asked the same question by seemingly every person I've come across, "What happened to your Phillies?" I give most a straight answer. "Well, they seemed to have forgotten how to hit, and their pitching just isn't what it was last year." To some I just lie and say, "They're just setting us up for a miraculous comeback."
The falsity of my statement doesn't lie in the fact that it would take a miracle for them to sweep the final three games and come out on top in this best of seven series. That is all too true. It is a lie because no sane person, not even the hardest of the die-hard Phils fan, can expect a team that has played like the Phillies have in this series to overcome all of the obstacles that stand between them and a second consecutive championship.
Now, I know there's some guy who'll read this and say, "Youz guys see this? What a load of of crap!" You know the guy I'm talking about. The one in his living room in South Philly sitting in a plastic seat from the 700 level of Veteran's Stadium, playing an original vinyl copy of Phillies Phever on an old, barely-functioning record player, which sits on a shelf surrounded by decades worth of Phillies game give aways--most notably a fine collection of Mike Schmidt bobble heads and small autographed wooden bats. This is the fan who never gives up hope and even now, when the end seems inevitable, will confidently tell you that the Phillies have the talent and the heart to pull this one out.
I want to join this man in his blind optimism; I really do. But, then I see the pages of statistics that say it's impossible for the Phils to pull this one out and I have to believe them. Maybe I'm too much of a realist to believe the fall magic can happen for this team. Or, maybe it's just too much of a risk to hold out hope because the more I allow my self to believe it's possible and the more I convince myself that against all odds it can be done, the more it will sting when the dream dies.
A Game 5 win tonight is quite possible for the simple reason that Cliff Lee is pitching. If Lee pitches the lights out type of ball he did in Game 1 of this series, then even a few runs produced by the Phils sputtering offense may be enough to take this one and send the series back to the Big Apple. That is, however, where the road gets very hard even for the Fightin' Phils whose reputation for getting it going when the going gets tough precedes them.
If the series does shift back to New York, then projected pitchers Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels would have to pitch two solid games to give them a fighting chance. More importantly, a team known for its offensive power and big innings needs to find its swing and its swagger and claw its way out of a horribly-timed slump.
Do I see all of these things coming together in time for the Phils to turn it around and make a three-game run to win the series? Well, the realist sitting here writing this post says no. Yet, there's a part of me--that kid who didn't know what statistics were, who only knew that anything was possible and that nothing was over until the last pitch was thrown--that refuses to give up hope. So, while my brain is telling me to listen to the statisticians and let this one go, my heart is parked right next to that guy in South Philly, sitting in that hard, yellow plastic seat, eating a greasy cheesesteak off of transparent butcher paper and believing beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is still some glory yet to be had in the cold Northeastern night.