Fourth inning: Revisiting the fastball

So how do you like your little ballpark now, Phillies fans?

Additionally, it should be pointed out that today is Friday…

I’m not saying anything, I’m just pointing that out.

Anyway, a strikeout that could have ended the fourth inning turned out to be a harbinger. That’s because after Rafael Furcal reached on the strikeout-wild pitch and Russell Martin laced a two-out single, Brett Myers decided to remember what it was like to throw a fastball.

The problem with that wasn’t so much as the idea that Myers had gotten so far away from his heater and was relying on cutters and curves to get through the Dodgers’ lineup. That’s why it was a curious thing when Myers threw a straight-as-an-arrow fastball straight down the pipe with Manny Ramirez standing in the batters’ box.

Needless to say, the experiment failed when Manny hit one just over the patch of mums above the left-field fence.

Just like that and this game turned into a save situation.

Meanwhile, Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game. Yeah, that’s right – Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game.

Want me to write that one more time?

Myers beat out an infield single for his third hit of the game.

Here’s a fun fact from the TV folks at Fox:

During the playoffs Brett Myers is 4-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs and Ryan Howard is 2-for-17 with one RBI.

Yeah.

End of 4: Phillies 8, Dodgers 5

First inning: Here comes the heat

Harry Kalas threw the ceremonial first pitch and didn’t do too badly. Upon picking up the sign from Chris Coste, Harry laid one in there just off the corner.

It looked like a fastball from here.

Just like Harry, Brett Myers came out throwing his fastball, too. Actually, that’s just about all Myers threw in the beginning of the game. The first 11pitches Myers threw were all the ol’ No. 1. Perhaps even the four pitches he tossed up there to Price Fielder during an intentional walk could have been considered fastballs, too. If that’s the case, Myers’ first 15 pitches were fastballs and it took until the fifth hitter for him to throw a breaking pitch.

The inning started and ended well for Myers, too. It was just the middle that was the difficult part.

After striking out Mike Cameron on three straight pitches, Myers walked Ray Durham on four straight. Ryan Braun followed with a double off the wall to make it second and third and forced the walk to Fielder.

That’s when Myers turned to his curve. That’s also when the trouble began. Myers walked J.J. Hardy to force in a run and looked like he was on the verge of an early knockout when Corey Hart bounced one back to the mound for an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play…

The ol’ 1-2-3.

The Phillies’ plan seemed to be to force CC Sabathia to throw a lot of pitches. To a degree that worked as the big lefty chucked 17 in the first, including one that turned into a double down the for Shane Victorino. But after Victorino swiped third base with one out, Sabathia whiffed Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to end the threat.

And the inning.

End of 1: Brewers 1, Phillies 0

Searching for a way back home

Apparently, Brett Myers’ outing in Allentown last night was a big deal. In fact, there were more people at Coca-Cola Park to cover the exiled Phillie than were in the Coca-Cola city to chronicle the Major League Phillies. According to published reports, there were six writers and zero television people in Atlanta with the Phillies, but there were eight writers that regularly cover the Phillies in Allentown along with at least three local TV outlets.

Anyway, I wrote all about it from the cozy press box in the brand-new ballpark before finding my car and proceeding to get lost at least three different times in search of Route 222 back to The Lanc.

I guess I should have checked the directions before I left, but I figured it could be fun just to wing it.

Guess what? It wasn’t much fun, though had I remained on Route 22 it would have taken me to 100, which would have easily linked me up with 222 through Reading and points south.

Yeah, sure… I know all that now.

Nevertheless, last night’s drive home was a lot like Brett Myers’ fastball against the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Sure, we might have been heading in the right direction in the most general sense, but we sure were taking our time getting there.

In Brett’s regard that amounted to splitters in the dirt, two-seamers well off the plate and some rather pedestrian velocity. The last part is probably the biggest concern to the Phillies because it could signify that something is wrong, be it physical or mechanical. According to all concerned parties, they all believe it to be mechanical.

How quickly those issues get ironed out are another matter all together. The Phillies seem to be banking on the mental rehab trip to Triple-A as well as some insight from Pigs’ pitching coach Rod Nichols to be just what the doctor ordered.

Interestingly, Nichols just might be the one pitching coach Myers hasn’t butted heads with. In the case with Joe Kerrigan, the head butting was almost literal. Then again, Myers isn’t the only pitcher who threatened to take a poke at the ex-pitching coach.

Anyway, while Myers tried to find the plate with his fastball his lot seemed much better off than some guy trying to find his way home but instead ended up on the side of the road halfway toward Tamaqua.

***
If you have missed the U.S. Olympic Track Trials, you ought to be kicking yourself now. In fact, Monday night’s event card was worth the price of a full-event pass by itself. Actually, just the men’s 800-meters final was worth it.

Photo Finish

In what was widely being hailed as the greatest 800-meter race on U.S. soil, viewers got to see just about every element of middle-distance running and sports drama rolled into one.

Here, take a look.

Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club won the race with a blistering kick over the final 300 meters. University of Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating finished second to earn a spot on the team bound for Beijing next month. The interesting thing about the lean and lanky Wheating is that he has been a runner for just two years. He’s only 20 and he’s already going to the Olympics.

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Khadevis Robinson finished fourth and missed a spot on the Olympic team by centimeters when he was edged on a dive for the finish line by Christian Smith.

Yeah, that’s right… the two runners dived for the line for the last spot on the Olympic team.

Lopez Lomong came in fifth place but missed the last spot for Beijing by .11. Yeah, point-11.

After the race, Smith was sprawled out on the track with blood dripping off his arm from the huge brush burn on his shoulder from the dive. All the while, Symmonds said afterwards that the noise from the crowd at Hayward Field in Eugene was so loud that he couldn’t hear himself breathe.

It was just an awesome, awesome race. Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden was trying to think of a more thrilling track race and (rightly) came up with the epic duel between Haile Gebreselasie and Paul Tergat in the 10,000-meters in the Sydney Olympics of 2000.

My most memorable (not in order):

  • Geb edging Tergat in 10,000 meters in 2000
  • Zola Budd vs. Mary Decker in 1984 Olympics
  • Michael Johnson setting the 200m World Record in 1996 Olympics
  • Ben Johnson’s dirty 100 meters in Seoul in 1988
  • Prefontaine finishing fourth in the 1972 Olympics 5,000 meters (I only saw the tape)
  • Prefontaine winning an indoor mile in the 1974 LA Times meet
  • Ryan Hall obliterating the field in the 2007 Olympic Trials Marathon
  • Bob Kempainen winning the 1996 Olympic Trials Marathon despite some pretty evident stomach distress

Meanwhile, Bernard Lagat ran away with the 5,000-meter title in the Trials to make his first ever U.S. Olympic team. He’ll bounce back on Sunday night in the 1,500-meters, too.

Locally, Villanova’s Bobby Curtis finished sixth in the 5,000 meters to cap off a brilliant senior season in which he won the NCAA Championship in the event.

Villanova undergrad  Frances Koons runs in the women’s 1,500 preliminaries tonight along with ‘Nova alum Carrie Tollefson. On the men’s side, Penn grad Sam Burley runs in the 1,500 meters after a disappointing finish in the 800.

The women’s 5,000-meter finals on Friday night will feature ‘Nova grad Jen Rhines who went to the 2004 Olympics as a marathoner. Rhines is one of the favorites to make the team in the shorter event, but will face a deep field that features Maureen McCandless from Nazareth Academy.

Interestingly, Philadelphia Will Do’s Dan McQuade boasted that he smoked McCandless in high school cross country meets and caught her on the final straightaway in a local road 5k.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say DMac has no shot these days.

Also tonight, Jeremy Wariner takes on LaShawn Merritt in the 400. Friday night is the men’s 10,000-meter finals where current U.S. half-marathon champ and Millersville University alum, James Carney, should be a contender.