Can ageless Moyer turn it around?

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

PHILADELPHIA – Far be it for me to be the anchor on the whole local-boy-makes-World-Series-with-local-nine story.

I mean, who's nicer than Jamie Moyer? Who's done more with less for longer than Jamie Moyer? Who deserves Saturday night's Game 3 start more than Jamie Moyer?

The man won 16 games and he's going to be 46 in three weeks. He's three months younger than Roger Clemens, who was supposed to be this physical marvel, and Clemens didn't win 16 games in a season after the year he turned 41. Clemens could chamois his Hummer with Moyer.

But, I worry about Jamie Moyer.

First, since the clock turned midnight – October, in this case – Moyer has pitched twice. He had zero command against the Milwaukee Brewers in the division series, threw 90 pitches and was gone in four innings. He was wonderfully aggressive against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, threw 32 pitches and was gone after four outs.

The Brewers hung back, made Moyer throw strikes. And that worked. The Dodgers attacked, swung at everything and anything close. And that worked. The day before that start, Moyer had actually entertained a question about whether he could pitch until he was 50. Then the game started, and it didn't look like he could pitch until 6 o'clock.

So, Moyer's postseason experience so far, in two of the Phillies' three playoff losses, is eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. Moyer threw 122 pitches total. The Brewers and Dodgers combined to swing and miss at eight of them. Of course, Moyer pitches to contact. But what he's angling for is the ends and the handles. What he's gotten so far, particularly against the Dodgers, is barrels.

Asked to, you know, maybe break that down, Moyer said Friday, "They're behind me. I have no idea. I'm moving forward."

Hey, 16 wins aren't a fluke and neither is a 3.71 ERA over nearly 200 innings. But think about the lineups for the Brewers and Dodgers. Kind of young, right? Pretty talented, right? Probably lean toward over-aggressiveness, if anything, right?

Sound like any other lineup you know? Funny haircuts?

Here are some other teams Moyer didn't exactly dominate this season: Atlanta, Colorado, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. There are exceptions. For one, he killed Florida, which perhaps fits the Tampa Bay demographic as well as any NL lineup.

But the Rays might be just goofy enough to be fooled and not know it. Veteran pitchers come back from minor-league rehab assignments with big, ugly ERAs all the time, complaining the young hitters couldn't be set up. In other words, they couldn't possibly know they should definitely not be looking for a slider in that situation. Yet, that's the ball that gets hit for the three-run home run.

The Rays are smarter and more polished than that. But so is Blake DeWitt, who last season was in Double-A and two weeks ago tripled with the bases loaded against Moyer, practically ending the game right there in the first inning.

Then again, maybe this is one of the (few) good times to be rolling up on 46. Moyer has been kicked around in consecutive starts plenty of times. It happens. And then he takes the ball again, sinks it, backs it up, runs it, cuts it and wins again.

"I'm not going to say that it – how can I say this? It affects me, but I've learned to be able to let it go," he said. "I've come to realize that, you know, this is a great game and this is a great opportunity and I love playing. I want to win with everybody else. But, you know what, I've had the experience in this game that I've had a lot of good outings and I've had a lot of poor outings. The sooner you can let that poor outing go and turn it into a positive, find a positive and pull something positive out of it and become a better person or better pitcher from it, I think it allows you to become a better pitcher in the long run. It's not fun to go out and pitch an inning or two innings, especially in a playoff format, but it is what it is.

"If I'm going to sit and dwell on it, the chances of having another bad outing are great. I really felt that after the Milwaukee game I didn't dwell on things. There was a lot of excitement. We won that series. You go back to work. After the Dodgers series, we won that series as well. Yeah, I feel there's a little emptiness because I didn't feel like I contributed to the best of my ability, but that's part of the game. And I think learning to deal – and I tell a lot of these younger guys – learning to deal with failure is big. And I think you start to learn to deal with it, not necessarily accept it, but deal with it."

It's a wonderful story, Moyer growing up outside Philly, spending 22 seasons in the big leagues, about to make his first World Series start, in Philly. He would skip school – "bump" school, he called it (a '70s word, apparently) – to attend the World Series parade in 1980. He loves this. He's always pulling at his uniform, telling people what an honor it is to wear it. And he means it. He's always casting gestures across the clubhouse, relating his admiration for the men who reside in it with him.

"And on top of it, to get the start for Game 3," he said, "is something that I've been dreaming about for my whole life."

He is earnest about his game and respectful of the game. There's a lot to like about that, especially these days. He dragged more out of 170 pounds over two decades than most could in a week.

It's a good story. He's a deserving guy. I just wish his home ERA wasn't almost two runs higher than it was on the road.

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