Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Stick a fork in 'em

The series in Pittsburgh a week and a half ago was bad.

The series versus Cincinnati this weekend was devastating.

But if someone asks you, years from now, what ended the Phillies' 2003 season, you can point to this swing:

The dagger...

...straight through the heart.

And as the ball traveled off of Jeff Conine's bat, and landed just over the left field scoreboard, so ended the Phillies' playoff chances.

Yes, I know that Conine's home run only tied the score. And yes, I know that there are still five games remaining. But the Phillies now have to make up two games in those five games, and that shot completely turned the momentum 180 degrees.

The Phillies held a three-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Their ace was pitching well. They had the momentum. And a victory would tie up the Wild Card race with five games to go. But then Kevin Millwood walked Derrek Lee on five pitches. And then he walked Miguel Cabrera on seven. He got Juan Encarnacion on a fly out, but the wheels were about to fall off.

A 1-0 pitch that he will have nightmares about. A 1-0 pitch that may be enough to let Phillies fans say goodbye to the one-year rental of a pitcher without so much as a second thought. A 1-0 pitch that got out of the playing field so quickly you would think it was in a hurry. In fact, it may have been in a hurry: it may have been trying to get to the playoffs.

Mike Williams replaced Millwood; Dan Plesac replaced Williams; and Carlos Silva replaced Plesac. Three pitchers, two hits, two walks, one sac fly, and two more runs scored. 5-3. Good night. Good season. But not good enough.

But the efforts of Williams, Plesac, and Silva didn't matter. All that mattered was that one pitch; the one pitch that tied the game, swung the momentum, and realistically ended the Phillies' season.

Goodbye Playoffs

So if someone asks you what happened to the Phillies in 2003, show them this moment. They'll understand.