Phillies' surprise big bat in Myers' hands

PHILADELPHIA – Brett Myers had average stuff and inconsistent command. His pitch count was spiking like numbers at a gas pump. He looked around the Philadelphia Phillies dugout between innings, wondering if anybody on offense would come to his rescue.

All he needed was a mirror.

Unlikely championship runs demand unlikely championship performances, and the Phillies are developing several story lines that would warm a Pennsylvania winter's night upon their retelling.

In Friday's 8-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers alone, there was center fielder Shane Victorino making a leaping catch and spraying the ball all over Citizens Bank Park. There was Brad Lidge continuing his ninth-inning perfection. There was manager Charlie Manuel soldiering on despite learning shortly before the game that his mother had passed away. There was Victorino dedicating the game to his sick grandmother, then being told afterward that she, too, had died.

Yet nothing is as implausible as the damage Myers is doing with a bat. As a statistical probability, it's minuscule. As theater, it's uproarious. As an unexpected addition to the Phillies' offensive arsenal, it's lethal.

Myers is one of the worst hitters in baseball. Maybe the worst. He had a grand total of six hits in 127 at-bats the past three seasons. That's a batting average of .047.

He's paid to pitch, and he does it well enough that he's the No. 2 starter on a team two victories from the World Series, well enough that he lurched through six innings and got the win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series when his stuff and command had gone the way of the Dow.

Maybe that's why Myers, who has a well-earned reputation for being a motor-mouth and loose cannon, was rendered nearly speechless trying to explain how he went 3 for 3. And knocked in three runs. And scored two. All with two outs.

"I don't know," he said, shrugging. "I just get lucky occasionally."

There's more to it than Phillies' providence. How else to reconcile the outburst coming eight days after Myers all but ripped the heart out of CC Sabathia? First there was the nine-pitch at-bat against the Milwaukee Brewers' ace that ended in a walk and drove the Phillies' crowd to delirium. Then came the 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a flyout but wrung the last drop of energy out of Sabathia. Myers had another at-bat in that NL Division Series Game 2 victory, and he singled.

"I know I'm a terrible hitter, but I really can't explain it," he said after that game, shrugging. "It was like one of those freakish things."

So now he's 4 for 5 in the postseason.

After going 4 for 58 during the regular season.

No wonder it's tough for him to put it into words.

"Usually when guys are feeling good at the plate, I guess they really don't know what's going on," he said. "I'm actually baffled as to what's going on. I mean, I just can't explain it."

Phillies batting coach Milt Thompson doesn't even bother working with the pitchers on their hitting, leaving the chore to bench coach Jimy Williams. Myers said after battling Sabathia that all he does in batting practice is try to hit home runs. Maybe there's more to it than that.

"I've noticed an adjustment," Thompson said. "He's got his feet spread farther in his stance and he's in a crouch. It's helped his balance.

"He always steps in the bucket, but he can't really stride with his feet spread so far, so he can't step in the bucket anymore. He's just trying to make contact."

Like on the single to right-center in the second inning that scored Carlos Ruiz with the Phillies' second run. Like on the bouncer down the first-base line with the bases loaded in the third that scored Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs, chasing Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley. Like on the dribbler down the third-base line that forced Myers to dash pell-mell down the base line.

"I'd rather go out and pitch than go up there and get base hits," he said. "Because being on the bases three times and going from first to third, then going from first to home, I mean, you kind of get fatigued."

Myers turned his right ankle running from first to third in the second inning. But he didn't use it as an excuse for walking two in the third or for giving up a three-run home run to Manny Ramirez in the fourth.

"I didn't really feel it when I was pitching," he said. "There's a lot of adrenaline going."

Myers was a boxer as a kid. His father trained fighters, including Larry Holmes. He has long brought a boxing mentality to the mound. Now he's battling in the batter's box as well.

Yet he's oddly ambivalent about his success at the plate. He's already taken the ridiculous, made it sublime, then brought it all the way around to ridiculous again.

"I can see that a good at-bat from me can make a difference," he said. "But I'd much rather have gone 0 for 3 with three punchouts and pitched seven strong innings."

The Phillies head to Los Angeles with a two-game advantage, in large part because of Myers' stick. To a man, they'll take the hits.

"We want Brett to keep swinging it," Werth said. "It's been a welcome addition. We love it."

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