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Bill Shaikin / ON BASEBALL

Moyer isn't a hero in this Philadelphia story

October 13, 2008|Bill Shaikin

Jamie Moyer's back was against the wall.

No, really.

Moyer stood in a cramped hallway outside the visiting clubhouse, surrounded in a half-circle by media inquisitors. He got four outs, and three hours to think about it.

He might have all winter to think about it. He is scheduled to start Game 7 for the Philadelphia Phillies if the National League Championship Series extends that far, but he did not answer "yes" to the question of whether he has been assured of making that start.

"The game just ended a half-hour ago," Moyer said. "Come on. I have no idea."

The Phillies can't possibly let Moyer start a Game 7, not with Joe Blanton an option on regular rest and the World Series on the line, not after the Dodgers bombed Moyer on Sunday and the Milwaukee Brewers rocked him in the first round.

If Blanton pitches well tonight and the series lasts seven games, he has to be the guy. Neither Charlie Manuel, the Phillies' manager, nor Rich Dubee, the pitching coach, would commit to Moyer after Sunday's game.

"We don't know yet," Dubee said. "It depends on the schedule. It depends how things line up. Blanton might be available, but I haven't even looked at that."

The Dodgers have, and they have no doubt: Derek Lowe. They'll start their ace on short rest tonight, in Game 4, so they can start him on regular rest in Game 7.

Manuel opted not to start his ace, Cole Hamels, on short rest tonight. That could leave Hamels making two starts and Lowe three in the series, and that could be the difference if the Dodgers advance to the World Series.

So could this: Moyer is starting in this series, and Greg Maddux is not.

They're similar at this point in their careers, distinguished statesmen who live with pinpoint control and without a major league fastball.

The Dodgers sent Maddux to the bullpen, four Cy Young Awards notwithstanding.

The Phillies tapped Moyer for Game 3, and he delivered his shortest start since July 4, 1998. He faced 11 batters, retiring four. He gave up six runs on a home run to Rafael Furcal, a triple, four singles and a hit batter.

The triple was the big hit. Blake DeWitt hit it, clearing the bases with two out in the first inning, turning 2-0 into 5-0 at a time Moyer needed one out to end the inning.

The pitch was a slider. The location, in Moyer's words: "Pretty much down the middle."

He can't escape his mistakes, not with stuff so slow that the scoreboard operators had no idea what he was throwing. The radar gun clocked Moyer at 82 mph, and the scoreboard read, "Fastball." Then the radar gun clocked him at 83 mph, and the scoreboard read, "Breaking ball."

He throws just about everything from 76 to 83 mph, with that relatively minimal difference in velocity between straight pitches and crooked ones enabling a hitter to guess wrong and still adjust and get a hit.

If that pitch is not in the perfect place the hit parade marches on.

And so it was Sunday. The Phillies won the last seven games Moyer started in the regular season, but the Brewers dismissed him after four innings in the first round. His earned-run average after two playoff starts: 13.50.

The Phillies are 5-2 in the playoffs, with both losses charged to Moyer.

In his previous start against the Dodgers, in July 2007, Moyer gave up 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings.

This does not diminish his season, in which he led the Phillies with 16 victories. This does not diminish his career, which started in a 1986 game in which the opposing pitcher was Steve Carlton and the opposing cleanup hitter was Mike Schmidt.

At 45, Moyer is the oldest pitcher to start a league championship series game. He said he would relish the chance to start a Game 7, to make amends.

"Of course I would," Moyer said. "I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't."

He swatted away the question of whether his confidence might be flagging.

"I've pitched too many innings," he said. "I've pitched too many years. One game doesn't make or break your career."

Your playoffs, that's another thing.


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