Ratto: Buckle Up, it's Philly Time

October 13, 2010, 9:56 pm
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Oct. 13, 2010RATTO ARCHIVE
Ray Ratto

Heres the first thing that leaps out at you inthe National League Championship Series.

Well, OK, not the first thing that leaps out at you,necessarily, but us . . . yeah.

The PhiladelphiaPhillies arent what you think they are. Theyre actually better thanthat.

You think they score runs in huge globs, crushing teamswith their extraordinary 1-through-8 batting order. Well, not so. Well, not somuch, anyway.

They finished seventh in runs scored, ninth in homers,10th in steals, 11th in OPS and extra base hits, 12thin hits and batting average. Even after you factor in the injuries to JimmyRollins and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco that may havelowered some of those numbers, theyre still a good offense as opposed toa great one.

But what they do as well as any team, and maybe betterthan any, is that they choke you out. They make you work so hard to get each oftheir players out that you get worn just trying to wear them out, and that isthe one thing the Giants cannot afford in this series to have theirbest pitchers getting worn out.

For starters, they dont strike out much. AgainstCincinnati,they struck out only 14 times (the Giants piled up 43 in four games against theBraves). Theyre supposed to be free-swinging devil-may-care raconteursat the plate, and yet theyre no such thing. They hit only four morehomers than the Giants did during the regular season even though they scored 75more runs, and they walked 75 more times. Theyre supposed to be bombers,but they steal bases (they were 8th to San Franciscos 30th) andthey are efficient at it (they were third in failed steals with 21, and theirpercentage of 83.7 was the best in the game).

In short, the Phillies dont kill you withmallets, they bleed you to death with paper cutters. They are, and let thisblasphemy ruing far and wide as the series begins, way better at grinding thanthe Giants are. And the road to a San Francisco World Series lies not on their own uniqueand mutant charms, but on their ability to not let the Phillies show theirs.

The Giants are more fun, because they are working withthe casinos money here. The story lines abound because the Giants arenew at this stage, and because they do just enough odd and only semi-contrivedthings to make themselves precocious to an under-appreciative audience.

Tim Lincecums televised battle cry, ----Yeah Shut Up, is a T-shirt if ever there was one. You will be able tobuy Aubrey Huff-issue thongs in the Giants team store unless we have sadly misjudgedtheir marketing skills. And Brian Wilsons inadvertent but spot-on impersonationof 70s wrestler Mad Dog Vachon is going to win him friends in an olderand slightly more deranged demographic.

Plus, a victory over the Phillies would work againstthe national grain and endear the Giants to an audience beyond the 415, 650,408, 707 and yes, even the 510. Chicks dig the long ball, but in the absence ofsuch brute strength, theyll go for a quirky yet charming weirdo.

But like we said, the Giants fancy themselves grinderswhen in fact the Phillies grind better than the Giants do. What the Giants are,if truth be told, are stunt men. They try to see how close they can get tofailing with actually doing so. They played 52 one-run games, which is not anabsurd number, but 29 of those were 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2, and since you justfinished watching the Braves series, you have a healthy sense of what that doesto the average nervous system.

It causes it to crave alcohol in the handy fishermans-bootsized container.

So maybe what we need to say here is that the Philliesgrind on other teams while the Giants grind on themselves. They avoid easewhenever possible, and actively eschew the path of least resistance. Thatscharacter trait that works great until you face a team that makes everythingdifficult on an at-bat-by-at-bat basis.

Is this a prediction? No. Its too early forcavalier buzzkilling. Hold your hope with a tight fist, because youveearned it.

This is a word of warning, though. If you thought theBraves wore you down, you aint seen nothin yet. And if thePhillies wear the Giants down the way they can, the nothin youllbe seeing will come sooner than you think.

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