PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the sxith inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game One of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Baseball, like other sports, or movies, or television shows, are nothing more than a collection of moments in a certain order that ultimately create the story of the events that took place. Some of these moments serve only to take up space and keep things going, while others serve to advance the narrative. Those are the moments that really count; the ones when the villain reveals himself, or when the protagonist gives some heroic speech.
Or in this case of Game 1 of the National League Division Series, it's when Ryan Howard hit a ball to the second deck.
It was the sixth inning of the inaugural game of the annual Second Season for the city of Philadelphia, and the Phillies found themselves behind the eight ball and up against a 0-1 series deficit, thanks to a first inning, three-run homer from Lance Berkman, and a fine pitching performance from Kyle Lohse.
Down 3-1, with two men on and one away, Ryan Howard stepped into the box. The slugger, coming off his worst season to date, stood in the box and gave gave the Phillies their first “big” moment of the postseason, when he deposited a belt high offering into the second deck of Citizens Bank Park, to put the Phils ahead, 4-3, in what would be the deciding moment of the game.
The crowd roared, Howard got his curtain call, and the Phillies were off to the races, buoyed by a three-run shot that ignited the offense that sent them well on their way to an 11-run output against the Cardinals.
It was one of those moments that, depending on which way it went, was going to be the deciding moment of the game. Had Howard struck out or harmlessly popped out to the third baseman, it may very well have been the Cardinals, and not the Phillies, who drew first blood.
But as big as Howard's homer was, perhaps there was a moment that didn't happen that proved to have a bigger impact on the game.
With the Phillies within striking distance and Howard coming to the plate, it was a very curious of Tony La Russa to not go to a left-handed pitcher, despite the fact that Kyle Lohse was holding the Phillies in check. But when you consider that he isn't going to overpower hitters, and that Howard has hit left-handers to the tune of a .224/.286/.347 line this season, it was a moment of non-management that shifted the course of the game.
But, that's the playoffs for you. Every move is magnified and second guessed by bloggers and beat writers and fans. But that's just good news for the Phillies, and because what did happen was Howard crushing a ball and Roy Halladay throwing eight strong innings to take a 1-0 series lead.