Decades from now, the digital pages of The Phillies Encyclopedia will remember this weekend as a turning point in the 2009 World Championship season. The declaration of independence from Jack Taschner's 5.61 FIP, followed by the imperial destruction of the rival New York Mets, 7-2 on Friday, and 4-1 on Saturday, returned the Phils to the path towards a sequel, and continued the Mets on the road to oblivion. Or, maybe, two games is a negligible sample size, and the injury-plagued Mets were well on their way towards oblivion already. Either way, the Phillies have had their share of positives, so far this weekend.
On Friday, newly-promoted starter Rodrigo Lopez held the Mets to only two runs over six and one-third innings. If Lopez can provide a satisfactory back-of-the-rotation arm, the Phils can stay in the race, without dealing prospects for a mediocre hurler. Chan Ho Park followed Lopez with one and two-thirds scoreless frames, and once-slumping Ryan Madson retired the side in order in the ninth. The Phils won with an eleven-hit attack, including a homer by Jayson Werth, a three-hit game from Shane Victorino, and two hits from Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins had a pair of doubles, as he tries to escape his slump/unlucky streak.
In Saturday's victory, Jamie Moyer won his third straight start, with six and one-third innings of one-run ball. Moyer's command was excellent, and BABIP was favorable, steering a number of hard-hit balls into Philadelphia gloves. The bullpen performed as it had in 2008, with Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero bridging the game to the Mighty Madson-Lidge Duo. Madson retired both batters he faced in the eighth. A newly-bearded Brad Lidge set the side down in order in the ninth, picking up a pair of strikeouts, and his fifteenth save. Jimmy Rollins had a double, and two walks, sparking the Phils from the top of the lineup. Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz each contributed three-hit games. If the Phils continue to perform in this manner, they could run away with the NL East.
As impressive as the Phillies have been this weekend, the biggest story in baseball, as well as the entire world, has been Manny Ramirez. The noted philanthropist, who has pledged the rest of his career earnings to various charitable organizations, returned the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. Ramirez had spent the first fifty games of the MLB season solving the issues in Iraq, and ending that pesky recession in the U.S. Ramirez only agreed to return to the Dodgers, when the club (and MLB) each agreed to match his donation of future salary. FOX Television celebrated Ramirez' heroic return, by broadcasting the Saturday game (the historic second game of his return) to 99.91% of the United States. The .09% of the country that did not have the privilege of watching the entire broadcast, was treated to Ramirez'at-bats, as well as his fielding exploits. FOX Television really dropped the ball here, as they, obviously, should have permitted 100% of the country to watch Ramirez. Ideally, they would have simply positioned a camera on Ramirez at all times, with all commentary solely Ramirez-in-nature. All of the events of that game, as well as every other game, were immaterial, in comparison to the momentous (second day of the) return of Ramirez.
The Phillies go for the sweep Sunday, with Joe the Lumber facing Mets' ace Johan Santana. Beating Santana really shouldn't be a problem for the Phils, winners of two-in-a-row, and two of their last five. But most eyes will be turned to San Diego on Sunday, where Manny Ramirez will play for the historic third time this season.