Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Shea it's 'So,' Phillies fans

The Phillies were dead in the water.

They were looking up at the Mets, having gone for the most part meekly for eight innings against ace lefty Johan Santana.

They were about to kiss their long stay in first place in the National League East goodbye.

They were a team with no pulse, about to have the sheet pulled up over them, a stinging loss in the first of a crucial three-game series at Shea Stadium.

Then something magical happened. Mets Manager Jerry Manuel took out the paddles, placed them on the Phillies’ chests, and jolted them back to life.

In so doing, he may have altered the course of the season. Instead of holding a one-game lead over the Phils, his team suffered an unimaginable collapse, one that surely will hang over the team as they strive mightily to put last year’s epic el foldo as the Phils slipped past them on the last day of the season behind them.

The Mets came into the series with momentum on their side, and were looking to deliver a kill shot on the listless Phillies.

The New Yorkers went into the ninth inning with everything going for them, not the least of which was a 5-2 lead.

What they did not take into the ninth was Santana. He was lifted after dazzling the Phils for eight innings, limiting them to two runs on eight hits.

The Mets did not have closer Billy Wagner available. He was suffering back spasms. Still Jerry Manuel elected to go to his bullpen instead of letting Santana try to get those final three outs.

The Phillies promptly scored six runs. “So” unusual was the Phils’ rally that the forgotten man on the roster, So Taguchi, delivered the key hit, a double over the head of Mets’ right-fielder Endy Chavez.

It’s the kind of win that can define a season. And as the Mets know all too well, it’s the kind of loss that also can define a season.

The Mets thought they had put this Phillies hex business behind them. They thought wrong.

A month’s worth of work went up in smoke in a disastrous ninth inning.

If the Phils successfully defend their NL East title, last night will be a big reason why.

And in New York, they will likely grumble for days about the decision not to send their multi-million dollar ace Santana back out for the ninth.

Mets’ fans this morning are lamenting, “Shea it ain’t so.”

It’s “so” all right. It’s So Taguci. And a miracle win for the Phils.

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