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Jimmy Rollins – MVP
It was the Mets again – sweeping the field, leading from start to . . . not quite.
At the end of the day on September 12 with 17 games left to play, the Mets led the Phillies by seven games. In the next 16 games, the Mets would go 5-11, and the Phillies 12-4, to find themselves in a flat-footed tie facing the final game of the season, the Mets at home against the Florida Marlins, and the Phillies at home against the Washington Nationals.
A fan’s eye view:
When we reached our seats at the three hundred level, just even with home plate, looking down the left field foul line, it was just before 1 p.m. , 35 minutes before first pitch. Citizens Bank Park was maybe half full, but buzzing with expectation above the background of some unrecognizable rythmic beat coming from the public address system. A scattering of rally towels were already being twirled as some of the fans warmed up along with the players down on the field who were stretching, sprinting, throwing, and spitting, trying to get loose. Jamie Moyer, who would carry the Phillies' hopes, was out there in rightfield beginning his pre-game routine by playing long-toss with Ramon Hernandez, the bullpen catcher who never went anywhere without his shin guards in place (Red Dooin smiled from his spot on that cloud hanging over the parking lot).
And then an odd thing happened; first, a scattering of cheers, then a full-throated roar – the out-of-town scoreboard showed a 4 opposite Florida. The New York game got under way at 1 p.m. 30 minutes earlier than here in Philadelphia. A couple of young guys standing behind us were working their cell phones and let everyone within hearing know that the Marlins were not finished with their first-inning mugging of the great Tom Glavine who was trying to bring home the bacon for the Mets. The scoreboard tally next to the FL went from 4 to 5, then 6, and settled on 7. Citizens Bank park was exploding – fans screamed and waved their rally towels – a miracle was unfolding before now close to 100,000 disbelieving eyes. Was it possible that the Florida Marlins, those Fish who had been so hard on the Phillies in recent years, were in the process of pinning the Mets to the mat before they even had a chance to hit in the first inning? It was possible. Glavine couldn’t get out of the first inning, now it was up to Florida’s D-Train to put the Mets away.
Oh, and we did have business to take care of here at the Bank.
Not to worry; Jamie and Jimmy took care of that in a hurry, sending a message near and far that today was our day, baseball gods be damned. Moyer put the Nats down easily in the first, pitching around a bloop double by Ronnie Belliard. When Rollins swaggered to the plate to lead off the first, fans were chanting MVP! MVP! Before Jason Bergmann, the beleaguered Washington hurler, could get off his first pitch. When the pitch arrived, J-Roll attacked it with years of pent-up fury and sent Bergmann to his knees ducking the lethal liner that sailed safe and sound on two hops to centerfielder Ryan Church. It was Sunday and J-Roll was going to Church. Citizens Bank Park was a blizzard of twirling white rally towels and fans screaming MVP! Hang on, fans, J-Roll was just getting started; he stole second; then he stole third, and scored on a medium-deep fly ball from Chase Utley.
It would be hard to imagine that the noise level in the Bank could exceed what followed Rollins’ slide across home plate with that first run, but when Jimmy lined a sixth inning triple into the right field corner, the explosion of sound was painful to hear. Rollins had just hit his 20th triple of the year, thus becoming only the second player in Major League Baseball history (George Brett was the other) to achieve in one season, at least 200 hits, 20 home runs, 20 triples, 20 doubles, and 20 stolen bases. J-Roll was unreal. And he was the Most Valuable Player.
The Phillies were 2007 National League East Division champions; they would face the Colorado Rockies in the five-game Division Championship Series. Except it didn’t go five games -- the Rockies swept the first three games to advance to the League Championship Series where they swept the Arizona Diamonbacks.
Beginning on September 14 , following a 12-4 loss to the Phillies at the Bank,
the Rockies won 21 of their next 24 games, including the seven straight post-season wins. In the World’s Series, they lost four straight to the Boston Red Sox, managed by Terry Francona and sparked by Curt Schilling. The baseball gods had the last laugh.