The waiting is the hardest partEvery day you see one more card.You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.The waiting is the hardest part.
Tom Petty wasn't talking about postseason baseball when he wrote those words. (He had something more urgent in mind. Not that October baseball isn't urgent.) But he could have been.
The Phillies completed their three-game sweep of the Reds in the division series Sunday night, winning 2-0. It took five days to play those three games. You remember. It began way back, last Wednesday, Oct. 6, when Roy Halladay pitched a 4-0 no-hitter on eight days' rest. He'll pitch the first game of the NLCS on Saturday, against the winner of the Braves-Giants series. That's Oct. 16, if you don't have a calendar handy. That's nine days' rest, if you don't have an abacus handy. As the song says, the waiting is the hardest part.
The first wait was at the discretion of his manager, Charlie Manuel. The season's long and Halladay was looking a little beat up come the dog days of September. Judging by what he did in Game 1 -- it was one of the most dominating pitching performances ever -- the wait served him well. After all, this was a man who began his wait just to get a chance to pitch in a playoff game in 1998. Is he going to get all keyed up waiting for Saturday? The right-hander's father is a pilot. Roy Halladay is the Sully Sullenberger of pitchers. He doesn't freak. He'll wait it out. They'll all wait.
By Saturday, the Phillies will have played all of three games in 12 days. Manuel was asked about the irregular schedule. He was asked about the wait.
"If you advance to the next round, if you do good, nobody says nothing," the manager said. (You must stand in awe of the grammar. It will be a sad day in baseball when nobody speaks that way and that day is coming.) "But if you don't, people say, 'The rest hurt 'em.'"
Cole Hamels, who pitched a beauty in the clinching game -- complete-game five hitter -- certainly wasn't hurt by the wait. Hamels hadn't pitched since the last day of the regular season, Oct. 3 in Atlanta, and that outing was just a little two-inning tuneup. It was almost like spring training all over again. The game meant everything to the Braves, but nothing really to the Phillies. The main thing was don't get hurt.
If anything's gone cold right now for the Phillies, it's their bats. The "big" inning in the three games was the third in the first game, when they scored three runs on two walks and three singles. Their seven runs in Game 2 came courtesy of the Reds -- they hit three batters and made four errors -- and ChaseUtley's seventh-inning Actors Studio job that got him first base and, hilariously, DustyBaker's admiration. (He likes old-style down-and-dirty ball.)
Sunday night, the Phillies' initial run, in the first inning, was another gift of glove. It looked like Jayson Werth had grounded out to Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera, but his wild throw kept the inning alive and allowed Placido Polanco to score. The Phillies' fifth-inning run came on a 378-foot Utley fly ball that might have been caught by right fielder Jay Bruce had it not been for various fans raising their arms with his. It's in the books as a home run, and of course it is. In Atlanta or San Francisco or Yankee Stadium, depending on the breeze, it might not have been.
When a pitcher gets his work between starts, it's surely not the same thing as facing live batters, but it's still 60 feet, six inches and you can keep all your mechanics going. For a batter staying sharp during long layoffs, BP can never replace the sweaty-palmed reality of facing Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Tim who can throw in the 90s and take part of your face off.
The Tims are maybe too young to remember when Tom Petty started singing about waiting. They more likely know Metallica's take on it. Pretty simple, really, and pretty appropriate, right about now:
The waitThe waitThe waitThe wait
The waitThe waitThe waitThe wait.
One "wait" for every guy in the lineup. Save the pitcher.