Game 4: Up all night

coors_fieldDENVER — Who hates baseball this morning? No, we’re not talking about the game, because there’s no sense in hating the game, nor, in fact, the player. Plus, I hate racism and injustice and that makes baseball seem trite by comparison.

Bear with me people. It’s been a long week.

Anyway, the way Major League Baseball has scheduled these playoff games in the first round has been utterly ridiculous. Night games in Colorado in October on the weekends? Day games in Philadelphia during the work week?

What in the name of the wide world of sports is going on here?

Look, I understand the idea of TV contracts and how TBS and Fox want to have the games on exclusively in order to maximize the number of eyes on the set. But putting the Phillies on TV for a Sunday night game at 10 p.m. is just stupid. It’s especially stupid when there was a four-hour window where TBS showed “Road Trip” instead of baseball because they probably did not want to compete with the NFL games.

Look, I’m not hating on “Road Trip.” In fact, it’s a fine film and is easily some of Tom Green’s best work. That part when the snake chomped on his arm… brilliant!

But logic has to win out at some point. Instead, the MLB TV arm decided to penalize the ball fans in Philadelphia.

Look, baseball fans will watch whenever the games are scheduled. Plus, technology has advanced to a degree where a person can watch an NFL game on a second TV set or on a computer. People have insatiable appetites for sports and have the ability to multitask if need be. That’s what makes it so silly to schedule the games the way MLB and the TV networks have.

It’s not fan or player friendly… it’s just mean.

“When you’re in the playoffs, and you’re in a city where there’s a chance of snow at all, yeah, I think it should be a day game,” Scott Eyre said before Game 3. “But TBS paid a lot of money, so they can dictate when the games are played, and they don’t care about us. I used to not understand, but now that I’m older, I understand more about the business end of it.”

That doesn’t mean anyone likes it.

Game 4: Up all night

image from fingerfood.files.wordpress.com DENVER — Who hates baseball this morning? No, we’re not talking about the game, because there’s no sense in hating the game, nor, in fact, the player. Plus, I hate racism and injustice and that makes baseball seem trite by comparison.

Bear with me people. It’s been a long week.

Anyway, the way Major League Baseball has scheduled these playoff games in the first round has been utterly ridiculous. Night games in Colorado in October on the weekends? Day games in Philadelphia during the work week?

What in the name of the wide world of sports is going on here?

Look, I understand the idea of TV contracts and how TBS and Fox want to have the games on exclusively in order to maximize the number of eyes on the set. But putting the Phillies on TV for a Sunday night game at 10 p.m. is just stupid. It’s especially stupid when there was a four-hour window where TBS showed “Road Trip” instead of baseball because they probably did not want to compete with the NFL games.

Look, I’m not hating on “Road Trip.” In fact, it’s a fine film and is easily some of Tom Green’s best work. That part when the snake chomped on his arm… brilliant!

But logic has to win out at some point. Instead, the MLB TV arm decided to penalize the ball fans in Philadelphia.

Look, baseball fans will watch whenever the games are scheduled. Plus, technology has advanced to a degree where a person can watch an NFL game on a second TV set or on a computer. People have insatiable appetites for sports and have the ability to multitask if need be. That’s what makes it so silly to schedule the games the way MLB and the TV networks have.

It’s not fan or player friendly… it’s just mean.

“When you’re in the playoffs, and you’re in a city where there’s a chance of snow at all, yeah, I think it should be a day game,” Scott Eyre said before Game 3. “But TBS paid a lot of money, so they can dictate when the games are played, and they don’t care about us. I used to not understand, but now that I’m older, I understand more about the business end of it.”

That doesn’t mean anyone likes it.

Game 4: Phillies 6, Brewers 2

MILWAUKEE – Charlie Manuel went with Brad Lidge in the ninth with a four-run lead mostly because there won’t be another game until next Thursday. Because the closer struggled a bit in Game 1 on just three days of rest, the Phillies might need to make sure they stay sharp the rest of the week.

At the same time, the Phillies will have a pitching staff rested and chomping at the bit when the Dodgers come to town next Thursday for Game 1 of the NLCS. Obviously L.A. will be sharp and rested, too, so it should be a pretty good series.

After all, pitching and defense are the keys to playoff baseball. During the regular season it’s often difficult to find rest for some pitchers, but here the Phillies and Dodgers will get some built into the schedule.

They can thank the prime-time TV schedule for that.

Anyway, down to the clubhouse for more color and flavor from a celebratory clubhouse. Do they pop the champagne for the NLDS? The Rockies did last year, but is it necessary?

Oh hell, why not? After all, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen every year with the Phillies.

Live it up!

Game 4: Phillies 6, Brewers 2

Phillies win series 3-1

Eighth inning: Burrell blasts and Utley’s swoon

MILWAUKEE – Take away that double off Mike Cameron’s glove in Game 1, and the single early in Game 3 is the only hit for Chase Utley during the NLDS. Certainly the middle-of-the-order struggles have been well chronicled by folks like me, but it seems as if at least one guy got it going just in the nick of time.

Pat Burrell greeted new pitcher Guillermo Mota with a home run that just cleared the left-field fence for his second blast of the game.

Yes, talk about perfect timing…

With the two bombs and three hits in Game 4, Burrell has four RBIs after going 0-for-8 in the first three games of the series. Needless to say, the Phillies will need a few more games like this one if they are going to be successful in the NLCS against the Dodgers. At the very least, Burrell could earn himself a nice new contract somewhere if he puts together a nice postseason.

Meanwhile, Utley’s performance during the playoffs (as well the second half of the season) has to be a concern for manager Charlie Manuel. Then again, it’s not like Utley’s playoff malaise is confined to just this season. So far, Utley is 4-for-26 (.154) in seven career playoff games.

However, Utley is going to get some more chances to get some hits in the playoffs this season. That means the Phillies are winning ballgames.

Who cares about the numbers when the team wins?

Right?

Ryan Madson gave up a run on two hits in the eighth, but at this point the Phillies are just playing for outs.

End of 8: Phillies 6, Brewers 2

Seventh inning: Big effort from big Joe

MILWAUKEE – Joe Blanton struck out for the third time to lead off the seventh. That’s a good thing because it means manager Charlie Manuel wants the right-hander to gobble up some innings.

However, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin got up in the ‘pen shortly before Prince Fielder pounded a long home run over the bullpen in right field. J.J. Hardy followed with a single to right a pitch later which brought Manuel to the mound to summon Madson with one on and no outs.

Then those damn thunder sticks started up again…

Between the wieners, the Fonz, arresting Charles Barkley, fried cheese, and those damn thundr sticks, these people are nuts.

Sinker baller that he is, Madson got two grounders and a pop up to right to end the threat.

The Phillies are six outs away from winning their first playoff series in 15 years.

Blanton’s line:

6+ IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR – 107 pitches, 72 strikes

Not bad… not bad at all.

End of 7: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Fourth & Fifth innings: Book those flights soon

MILWAUKEE – The Phillies are more than halfway through this one and the scribes are scrambling to make reservations to Los Angeles. My guess is that the rates are going to climb quickly by tomorrow when the run on them by folks from Philly.

Who knows, maybe we can all crash at Larry Bowa’s pad?

Meanwhile, after Jayson Werth’s homer, Game 1 starter Yovani Gallardo has retired six in a row. It looks as if the Brewers and the Phillies have gotten comfortable.

The same can be said for Joe Blanton, too. When J.J. Hardy singled to lead off the fifth, it was the first hit for the Brewers since Ryan Braun got a two-out single in the first. It was a run of 10 in a row for the big righty, who is on the way to turning in his best outing as a Phillie.

Then again, playoff wins are always big for the Phillies.

Following Hardy’s single, Blanton retired three straight, including two strikeouts in a row. His pitch count is a robust 75, which is the only thing likely keeping him from throwing a complete game.

End of 5: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Third inning: Feel the thunder

MILWAUKEE – Things seem to have settled in here at Miller Park. Sure, those annoying thunder sticks are still clamoring, but not with the same volume as during the beginning of the game.

If, however, the Brewers stage a rally or something, we might all need some ibuprofen or something.

Nevertheless, Shane Victorino got a hustling double on a little blooper just over third base with one out and then moved to third on a ground out by Chase Utley

Yes, once again the middle of the order failed with runners in scoring position.

That didn’t last, though. For the first time in a long time, the Phils delivered a HUGE hit with runners on when Pat Burrell smacked a bomb off Jeff Suppan following an intentional walk to Ryan Howard.

Needless to say, the thunder sticks got a little quieter.

For some reason the noise coming out of those thunder sticks sounded a lot like boos after Jayson Werth pasted a long homer to the concourse in center field. That one spelled the end for Jeff Suppan:

3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 HR – 65 pitches, 41 strikes.

Go ahead and book your flights to LA, folks. The Phillies will be hard-pressed to blow this one. That’s especially the case after they had an inning without a runner left on base.

End of 3: Phillies 5, Brewers 0

Second inning: Left on base, ibid


MILWAUKEE – The Phillies are back to putting runners on base, while Jayson Werth is back to striking out. Actually, it’s been feast or famine for the Phils’ right fielder who has a pair of two-hit games and six strikeouts in 14 at-bats.

However, Pat Burrell got his first hit of the series. Not so coincidentally, the hit came off Jeff Suppan, a pitcher Burrell has a career .429 batting average against with three homers.

Still, the Phillies got back to leaving runners in scoring position when Greg Dobbs, starting for the first time in the series, laced a single to right-center. He advanced to second on a wild pitch to give the Phillies a big opportunity to break it open a bit with just one out, but Suppan bore down and whiffed both Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton to end the threat and strikeout the side.

Meanwhile, Blanton looks pretty good on the mound through two frames. He got two pop ups during a perfect second and five of his six outs have come on soft flies.

Still, with 36 pitches through two innings, Blanton might be piling them up a little too quickly.

End of 2: Phillies 1, Brewers 0

Good day for Baseball in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Pretty cool day so far. After all, it’s not every day that a guy like me wakes up, goes to the ballpark, talks to a Hall-of-Famer near the cage during batting practice, heads up to the press box and is greeted by another Hall-of-Famer who hands out the day’s lineup card.

After chatting with Robin Yount and Harry Kalas, I had waffle fries and the best veggie dog I ever tasted for lunch. Usually those things taste like pencil erasers, but the people in Milwaukee know their wieners.

After that, the great writer from The Inquirer, Phil Sheridan, took my photo beneath the huge Rollie Fingers poster, which was pretty cool. Needless to say, I learned a lot about ol’ Rollie when I was a kid.

Besides, wieners, they also know how to make a lot of freaking noise in Milwaukee. As the fans walked in this morning, the ushers handed out those thunder stick things and now everyone is beating the hell out of them. With the lid closed on Miller Park, it was almost impossible to hear yourself think down on the field.

But Jimmy Rollins didn’t have to think – just swing. And on the sixth pitch of the game, the Phils’ leadoff hitter lined one into the seats in right field.

Suddenly it got eerily quiet.

They got noisy again soon, though. When Ryan Braun laced a two-out single to left against Joe Blanton it sounded like they were beating a tin trash can with a crowbar. Thankfully, when Prince Fielder ended the inning with a fly out, the fans all got up, put down the thunder sticks and went to the concourse to get a wiener or some fried cheese curds.

They eat a lot of weird things out here.

End of 1: Phillies 1, Brewers 0

Game 4: The Kid and The Hammer


MILWAUKEE – If the folks in Philadelphia are torn about making the choice between the Eagles against the Redskins or the Phillies in Game 4 of the NLDS, sports fans in Wisconsin are close to a meltdown. After all, just about the same time as the first pitch is thrown here at Miller Park at noon central time, the Packers will be teeing it up at Lambeau Field against the Falcons.

They love the Packers here in Milwaukee and all over the dairy state. In fact, when talking to folks around town this morning about “The Game,” we were quick to learn that it didn’t mean playoff baseball.

Still, they have a very significant baseball history here in Milwaukee. A scan of the retired numbers hanging from the roof of Miller Park proves as much. Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers were as good as any designated hitter and closer in the history of the game. Molitor collected more than 3,300 hits during his career, was MVP of the 1993 World Series and guided the Brewers to the playoffs twice during his Hall-of-Fame career.

Fingers was one of the first closer specialists in the game and helped redefine the role. But more than just a one-inning trick pony, Fingers worked two or three innings in order to pick up a save. In 1981 Fingers won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP for the Brewers by posting a 1.04 ERA during the strike-shortened season.

But when one talks baseball in Milwaukee, the two names are Hank Aaron and Robin Yount. Aaron, of course, was one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He also played in Milwaukee for 14 of his 23 big-league season for both the Braves and Brewers. Better yet, Aaron led Milwaukee to its one and only World Series victory by clubbing three homers and batting .393 in 1957 against the Yankees. Aaron’s Braves got there again in ’58 but lost to the Yankees in seven games even though Hammerin’ Hank hit .333.

In 1975, the season after he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time, home-run record, Aaron returned to Milwaukee to play his final two seasons for the Brewers. But by then Aaron was in his 40s, winding down and hardly the same player he was when he came up more than two decades before.

However, one of his teammates was a young 19-year-old shortstop already in his second fulltime, big-league season. Eventually, Yount went on to play 20 seasons for the Brewers, won the AL MVP twice and took Milwaukee to its last World Series in 1982. He retired with over 3,100 hits and was an easy selection for the Hall of Fame in 1999.

But in 1975 the Brewers had the youngest player in the league with the teenaged Yount and the oldest with the 40-plus Aaron. Needless to say it was a curious dichotomy, but one that Yount, even at such a young age, understood completely.

“He was significant,” Yount said about Aaron as the Brewers took batting practice before Game 4 of the NLDS on Sunday morning. “Even though I was just 19 I could see how important he was and not just in baseball, either. He had already broken the record. I knew how big he was, but he didn’t come off that way in person. I mean he didn’t let it get to him. We knew all he had accomplished in this game, but like I said before, he acted just like anyone else.”

The humanness of the all-time home run king is what stood out the most more than 33 years after the kid and the vet joined the same team.

“He was great to me and being around him was a great experience for me. What I learned was what a normal guy the greatest home-run hitter of all time at that time can be,” Yount said. “You know that made a huge impression on me. Here I was a young kid, in his second year in the Major Leagues, trying to learn this business and found out that everyone is pretty much the same. You know… he treated me just like he would anyone else. He was great to me.”

Both were even better to the game and to Milwaukee.

***
The Phillies are mixing things up a bit with their languid offense.

Phillies:
11 – Rollins, ss
8 – Victorino, cf
26 – Utley, 2b
6 – Howard, 1b
5 – Burrell, lf
28 – Werth, rf
19 – Dobbs, 3b
51 – Ruiz, c
56 – Blanton, p

The Brewers lost Rickie Weeks for the rest of the playoffs with a sprained left knee suffered in Game 3.

Brewers
25 – Cameron, cf
5 – Durham, 2b
8 – Braun, lf
28 – Fielder, 1b
7 – Hardy, ss
1 – Hart, rf
30 – Counsell, 3b
18 – Kendall, c
37 – Suppan, p