It was a busy week in sports---lots of stuff going on. Moments after this this Louisiana-Lafayette/Middle Tennessee St. thriller was finally bumped off the front pages, we were talking about this emphatic Indian victory in cricket, and then our attention immediately turned to the WNBA draft lottery. You know how it is: nobody's gonna break our stride, no one's gonna slow us down---oh no, we've got to keep on moving.
Through it all, the Adjusted NLCS waited for its moment to shine. That moment is now. Let us behold.
Adjusted NLCS: New York Mets (NL Adjusted Wild Card; 88.5-73.5 third-order W/L) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Adjusted NL East; 90-72 third-order W/L), Best-of-Seven
Game One: Philadelphia 8, New York 5
The Phillies slaughtered Mets' starter Kris Benson in this series opener, touching him for six runs in the first inning. Game announcer Thom ("Mr. Big Voice") Brenneman commented following a Pat Burrell double rang off the left field wall, "Benson . . . CLEARLY doesn't [deeper voice] have it, tonight." Broadcast partner Steve Lyons was quick to interject with a different direct object, "her," as it became common knowledge that wife Anna Benson prematurely defected to the Cardinals' clubhouse following Adjusted NLDS Game Two. "You. Are. Right., Pard'ner," Brenneman added. "In this CRITICAL best-of-sevvvven series, Benson's ATTITUDE AND VIGOR bears [deeper voice] clooooose scrutiny."
Game Two: Philadelphia 5, New York 0
For whatever reason, Vicente Padilla utterly confounded the Mets' bats, and Pedro Martinez spontaneously combusted after firing Pitch No. 100. Literally. (He's listed as day-to-day.) Chase Utley, the most manly-man ever named "Chase," smacked a two-run homer to put the game out of reach. Philly fans, knowing their team was now two wins away from an Adjusted Pennant, loaded up on hate and ammo, in preparation for the inevitable disappointment.
Game Three: New York 7, Philadelphia 6
The scene shifted to Shea Stadium, but it appeared that the Mets' bad luck had also boarded the team bus. Philly jumped on opposition starter Tom Glavine early. (Veteran reliever Rheal Cormier proposed a "Remember the '92 All-Star Game!!!" rallying cry. He was met with blank stares. Nevertheless, the Phillies similarly routed Glavine for four first-inning runs.) Just when New York seemed beyond hope, though, reliever Aaron Heilman went big-daddy-Kaine on the Phillies, executing the Philadelphia offense for five shutout innings. Jose Reyes hit a completely unexpected three-run homer, and the Mets held on in the ninth, despite the presence of closer Braden Looper, whose in-house nickname is "For Entertainment Purposes Only."
Game Four: New York 2, Philadelphia 0
Fourth starter Steve Trachsel pulled off the second-most-random one-hitter in Mets' playoff history, completely stifling the Phillies' attack. Working with uncharacteristic swiftness, Trachsel finished the blanking in a minute under four hours.
Game Five: Philadelphia 9, New York 3
Faced with a confidence-depleted Kris Benson, a still-combusted Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine on one-days'-rest, or Victor Zambrano, Willie Randolph chose the first option. Benson responded with an outing that would make David West proud, retiring nobody but letting in some runs all the same. With the game never in doubt and the pitching staff in disrepair, Willie Randolph let Mike Piazza request one wish in what was likely the great catcher's last game at Shea Stadium. Piazza pondered the question and remarked that he always wanted to play shortstop. Sure enough, Piazza fielded the position in the top of the ninth and snared a one-hop shot off the bat of Jimmy Rollins that nearly eluded his reach to his left. "To tell you the truth," Randolph, a former Yankees' coach, confessed to reporters following the game, "I don't think Jeter would have gotten to that one, dive and all."
Game Six: New York 4, Philadelphia 1
"What is it, Willie?"
"Out of starters."
"Yeah. It's bad."
"There's no one left?"
"Well, there's Zambrano . . . "
"Yeah, I see what you mean."
"Have you tried the Kitchen Sink?"
"Oh, it's fun. Bodes introduced me to it. You get rid of all your starters, and you just use the bullpen the whole game."
"That's fun, Frank?"
"I'm an old man, you must understand."
"Right, right. So what do I do?"
"Find yourself the most random starter imaginable and let him give it his all for four or five or six innings. Or else just toss a piece-of-crap out there for two outs. Your choice. I prefer the first option."
"Yeah, that sounds good. Who do you recommend?"
"Well, Carrasco worked like a charm for me. All part of my plan, really. What about Roberto Hernandez?"
"I sort of need him in the later innings. Looper, you know."
"Oh yeah! That guy's great."
"Yeah, great. . . . You know what? There is another guy! This kid we stuffed away at Norfolk all season for no good reason."
"Minor leaguer? He can't be good!"
"This one's okay. Name is Jae Sao."
"I think I got him traded earlier this year . . . "
"Uh, no. That wasn't him."
"Might as well give him a shot . . . "
[Sao pitched seven shutout innings, saving New York's season for another day.]
Game Seven: New York 3, Philadelphia 2
In what will forever be known as the Jim Duquette Vindication Game, Victor Zambrano relieved Tom Glavine (who pulled a hamstring in the third) and no-hit the Phillies the remainder of the game, working around seven walks. The Mets, cobbling together just enough offense, walked away with an improbable Adjusted Pennant.
Next: Adjusted World Series preview . . . and Games One ane Two!