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Here's the take from Philly


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I was reading The (Philadelphia) Inquirer this morning and I though my buds here would enjoy this piece.




Posted on Thu, Sep. 18, 2003


Bill Lyon | A night of wonder, except for score

By Bill Lyon

Inquirer Columnist


Perfect night to be at the yard.


You can feel summer dying and autumn coming, tart as apple cider.


Even the Vet, whose days now dwindle down to a precious few, manages to look captivating on such an evening. When the light is kind and just right, when the makeup is strategically applied, she stirs in you memories of the good times.


It is because tonight the place is alive with possibility. The Phillies do this only every 10 years, after all, contend and get themselves into the World Series. Nature has the seven-year locust, while baseball has the Phillies.


So on this night the Vet turnstiles are clicking like mating crickets. Three hours before the first pitch, the line at the ticket window is 11 deep.


For the Phillies, this is a harmonious convergence of time and circumstance. The town is ready to be retaken. The Eagles, awful and now off for two weeks, have conceded center stage.


Baseball, as Admin Bowa observed, was mackerel-dead in this town.


"It had dirt on top of it," the manager said. "It's good to be back."


So the faithful and the doubters come out, wanting to see for themselves, wondering if it's safe to commit. The skeptics insist that eventually the lack of a bullpen, the soft underbelly of the franchise, will be the difference. The hopeful insist that they will win the wild card, somehow, some way.


Either way, a resolution is near. The Phillies and the Marlins are locked in a prelude to the playoffs, and this is how the latest one unfurls:


First pitch at 7:07. Juan Pierre, the Marlins jackrabbit leadoff man, reaches out and pokes a Brett Myers offering into left. Single. The peskiest, most irritating kind of hit. It promptly becomes a double when Pierre, a jet plume in his wake, steals second, his 61st swipe of the season. The crowd bellows its outrage at the safe call. Pierre, indeed, looks to be out. But the replay shows that shortstop Jimmy Rollins never tags him.


7:15. Pierre floats home on a double by Derrek Lee, the ball bouncing high off the rug and over the leaping Placido Polanco, who is playing his first game since Aug. 31. Even if Polanco had been Manute Bol, he could not have reached it. Moments later, Polanco stretches as if he were Manute Bol and snares a smash that has double written all over it. He saves two runs. But it will be only a temporary reprieve.


7:18.Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, continuing to pile up the frequent-flier miles, visits the mound. It is not exactly a family reunion. He and Myers profaned each other a little while back. Myers' third pitch after Kerrigan's visit is laced into the right-field corner by Jeff Conine. The Marlins are up 3-0 even as the ticket windows outside the Vet are under siege by patrons still clamoring to get in.


7:21.The Phillies have runners at the corners and Jim Thome is up. The crowd makes that animal noise of anticipation, the sound of a lion closing in on a zebra with a bad limp. Thome is that Philadelphia rarity, an import who has delivered. Others have come here and shriveled. But he has thrived and won everyone over; indeed, he is one of us. His numbers are huge. Now, the count goes to 3-2 and Thome unleashes a 500-foot swing. And misses.


8:06. Thome up again. Runner on second. Two out, again. The count reaches full, again. Thome unleashes that lumberjack swing, again. The ball climbs on a majestic arc, like a rainbow, finally clattering down beyond the visitors' bullpen. He has done what they have paid him so much to do. He has gotten his team even, at 3, and has gotten the crowd in it. The crowd, incidentally, has been swelling by the minute. It will eventually top out at a healthy and encouraging 33,761.


8:13.The Phillies' lead evaporates with one swing by Conine. He catches a fat one between the screws and the ball is gone like the last boardinghouse pork chop.


8:23. The pesky Pierre reaches out and bloops a pitch to left. Pat Burrell trundles in, tries to surround it, and decides to slide when he would have been better served just blocking it. He sprawls while the ball rolls and two Marlins come home. The Phillies are down 3 again. Myers leaves, dented for half a dozen runs in only four undistinguished innings. Now, shudder, it is up to the pen to hold 'em.


8:35.The Phillies begin to peck again. It might be their best trait, persisting. Marlon Byrd, who has blossomed in the leadoff slot, singles in a run. You see in him immense potential and possibility.


9:01. There's that sound again - Thome is up, and so are the people. Runner on first. Thome uncoils and the ball is a tracer lighting up the night sky. In deepest left, Conine throws up his glove. The ball decides to stick there. He bounces off the wall and alertly fires in a most improbable 7-6-3 double play. When Conine reaches the dugout, he is pounded by his joyful teammates. What appeared to be a certain tie game remains, instead, a 2-run Marlins lead. It is the kind of play that decides who makes the postseason and who doesn't.


9:13. The Phillies change pitchers, for the third time. In an inning and a third. The crowd does the wave. You feel trapped in a time warp.


9:57. Thome up again, leading off the eighth. He is why many have stayed in a game the home team is now losing by 7-4. He cranks a 2-2 pitch on a line you could hang your wash on. But it is right at the rightfielder. People begin filing out.


10:07.Bowa, unable to hold back the froth that has been churning within all night, gets himself ejected in the top of the ninth. The Marlins feast on the Phillies' pathetic pen for four more runs.


10:31. The loss becomes official, and emphatic. Now the Phillies are back to a game and a half behind the Marlins.


The night feels cold. But then, it always seems to in defeat.



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And another piece from Philly




Posted on Thu, Sep. 18, 2003


Conine a main contributor to Marlins' conquest


[email protected]


Jeff Conine wasn't being asked to do too much.


"They lost their best run-producer and third baseman," the veteran said nonchalantly. "They brought me in to fill that gap as best I could."


Conine's best was more than enough to help the Marlins in a pivotal 11-4 win over the Phillies last night at the Vet. Two big hits and a pair of outstanding defensive plays helped bump Florida's lead in the wild-card race back to 1 ? games, assuring that the Fish still will be ahead of the Phillies when they leave after this afternoon's game.


That, along with the fact that the Juan Pierre-Luis Castillo combo at the top of the order combined for seven hits, made the difference.


"It means we'll be ahead by at least a half game and, hopefully, we can go out with an even bigger lead," said manager Jack McKeon. "But we'll take our chances. It wasn't that long ago that we were four or five games out.


"This is the first time we've had sole possession of the [wild-card] lead for a few days. And we'd like to keep it."


This was an important turn-the-tide sort of game for Florida after coughing up a lead in the ninth inning against Atlanta on Sunday and then being hammered, 14-0, by the Phillies on Tuesday.


"I didn't think for a minute we weren't going to come back and settle the score," McKeon said. "I'm not saying I was guaranteeing a win, but I knew we'd battle back."


On a team with precious little stretch-drive experience, Conine stepped forward last night.


After Mike Lowell, Florida's leader, was lost with a broken hand on Aug. 30, the front office made a quick recovery by acquiring Conine from Baltimore. Not only is he a professional hitter - he was batting .290 with 15 homers and 80 RBI in 124 games for the O's - but it was a homecoming.


A member of the original expansion team in 1993, he had earned the nickname Mr. Marlin by the time the Fish won the World Series in 1997. Part of the salary purge that followed that season, he still ranked among the franchise leaders in several offensive categories when he returned.


He was batting just .184 in 14 games since rejoining Florida going into play last night. In this game, though, he killed the Phils both offensively (2 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs scored, 3 RBI) and defensively.


"If you were going to script it, you couldn't do it much better than this," Conine said.


? Top of the first: His two-run double helped Florida get the jump on Phillies starter Brett Myers.


? Top of the fourth: After the Phillies tied the score with three runs in the bottom of the third, his homer with one out and nobody on gave the Marlins a lead they would never relinquish.


? Bottom of the fifth: With the Phillies down by two, Mike Lieberthal led off with a walk against Florida starter Mark Redman. Jim Thome launched a shot deep to left-center. Conine made a terrific running catch on the warning track and easily doubled off Lieberthal, who had been so certain the ball would not be caught that he was around second and halfway to third.


"I was going to try to make that catch if I had to run right through the wall," Conine said. "That's how important that play was."


? Bottom of the sixth: Jimmy Rollins led off with a double and Tomas Perez bunted for a hit, bringing the crowd of 33,761 back to a full roar. Pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee lifted a fly ball, not deep, to leftfield. Third-base coach John Vukovich decided to challenge Conine's arm, a percentage play. This time, however, the throw was true and strong enough to easily nail Rollins at the plate.


"These games mean everything," Conine said. "And this win means we'll go out of here with the lead. Now we want to keep it for the rest of the year and go on to fun things in the postseason."

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