The first pitch for Game 1 of the Phillies-Brewers NLDS was thrown out by Mitch Williams. He put it in the stands (on purpose). I figured it could be an exorcism, though after watching the 9th inning, some of this city’s famously nitpicky fans might disagree.

Guy next to me was especially nervous. Lots of muttering and “oy vey.” After the first run scored, he said, “this is gonna be just like Saturday night.” I told him I’d be fine with that and he was forced to agree.

This was my first game  of the year, which is unusual (albeit, I tend to catch them most reliably away from CBP). Fun to be in Philly and hear all the Philly accent guys trash-talking Pat and Jimmy for swinging at first pitches. I think this also might have been my first-ever Phillies playoff game. I know for sure I did not attend in 1980, when I was busy practicing Haftorah (watched Game 4 of the NLCS at my record hop, in a closet-sized caretaker’s office). In 1993, I was watching on TV and writing Generation Ecch! (buy it for 1 cent and read all about the Orb concert I went to on the night of the 15-14 loss). If I went in ’83 it obviously wasn’t memorable (and definitely wasn’t a World Series game). Before ’80, all I can picture in my memory is watching Phillies-Dodgers on TV.

Cole Hamels – wow. We had started to hope for at least the possiblity of a no-hitter right around the time it went away. He was brilliant but I reckon the Brewers were also pretty terrible. I heard someone on the radio say they were just like the Phils last year. Impatient, pressing, etc. But also the same team we saw in Philly a few weeks ago (he said hopefully).

The Phillies offense was pretty terrible as well. It’s great to win a game like that. I’ve long felt they needed the pitching to win more games like that (especially this time of year). But obviously they’ll have to do better. They capitalized once, but it was literally, error, misplay, wild pitch that gave them all three runs. They got nothing out of two other high-potential RISP situations. Overall, they do have a disturbing tendency to play poorly from ahead, whether it’s a division lead or in-game lead.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree, but I didn’t have a huge problem with Hamels coming out. For one thing, I’m not so sure he isn’t gonna end up pitching Sunday. I mean, if they’re up 2-1, why pitch Blanton on the road and risk a Game 5 (and against Sabathia to boot?). And if they’re down 2-1 you know Hamels will have to pitch.

As for Lidge… certainly I’d rather that he didn’t pitch like that again all year, now that he’s done so two straight games. Plus the Catch-22 is, by having such a rough time with it today, he might not be available tomorrow.

But I truly was never nervous, and I didn’t think he was pitching badly or had control problems. He hit most of the spots he wanted to hit. Most of his balls were meant to be balls. Hits happen (catchy, right?). The run was unearned. And he did go after and strike out the Brewers best hitter (a lefthander, too. Lefties hit Lidge). Three Ks erase a lot of problems.

I would have walked Fielder myself, not only to avoid him but to set up the force plays. Certainly had no problem with Lidge walking Hardy… first base was still open, and Hart took the slider bait a whole lot quicker. To those who gripe that the Phillies would have lost the game had three pitches gone a different way, I say Lidge would have pitched a perfect inning had three pitches gone a different way. Both are purely theoretical constructs.

Of course, the guy who threw out the first pitch is a gigantic reason why people get so freaked out by Lidge’s highwire act. “We’re still scarred by Mitch,” a fellow phan e-mailed me (and many others).

I dunno – I think I’m just as scarred by Doug Jones, Heathcliff Slocumb, Wayne Gomes, Ricky Bottalico, Jose Mesa, Tom Gordon and Billy Wagner (best of the bunch, but he played a big role in keeping the Phillies out of the ’04 playoffs as surely as he did for New York last year). Last year the Phillies’ closers were Gordon, Myers and Antonio Alfonseca.

What Lidge did tonight was not much different from what Tug McGraw did in the biggest Phillies game of all, 28 years ago.

Now can someone explain to me how Steve Bedrosian won the 1987 Cy Young award? By which I mean, Lidge is having just as good a year, and (rightly) is not much of a candidate (he is for MVP, however).

Oh, and kudos to City Paper‘s Brian Howard for the following (from their best-of issue):

Head-scratchingest Outside Observation

In ESPN The Magazine, Rick Reilly, in choosing which team each city would keep above all others, said Philadelphia is now a baseball town. He figures the Phils’ playoff berth and aloof Boston guy/Eagles owner Jeff Lurie’s indifference have made Philly a town that bleeds … red? Inconceivable.

Indeed, it’s one thing for Reilly to be silly, sentimental or annoying. That was plain inaccurate. Heard as I walked out of the Stadium Holiday Inn men’s room at 5:45 today: “Well, that takes some of the sting out of losing to the Bears.”