Neither age nor Nats can stop Moyer
Phillies use lefty's outing, big fifth to reclaim first place
WASHINGTON -- After nearly every round of bringing his 45-year-old body from the dugout to the pitching mound for another display of fooling hitters half his age, Jamie Moyer is asked: "How do you still do it?"The query is often met with a knowing glint in Moyer's eye, not that he'll reveal his secret. Instead, he'll revel in the deception that has served him well for 22 seasons and counting. "Fourteen years ago I was told to retire," Moyer said. "But this is too much fun." No one suggests retirement to Moyer anymore, at least no one who has watched him befuddle and frustrate, as he did in Wednesday's 8-5 win over Washington at Nationals Park. He shook off a rough first inning and allowed two hits in his next five frames, then watched his teammates retake first place in the National League East, after a five-day hiatus in second. The Mets lost to the Marlins on Wednesday, separating the three teams by 1 1/2 games.
"We're hanging on," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We got to claim it and keep it. We got to run off a string, but we have to win tomorrow first."They won on Wednesday because they finally scored off Tim Redding, ruining his 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak against them this season. After retiring Jimmy Rollins to start the game, the Phillies recorded four straight hits to build a 2-0 lead. Washington took the lead in the bottom of the first, denting Moyer with a three-run outburst on the lefty's first 16 pitches. With a changed game plan, the Nationals appeared to have figured out the wily vet's arsenal of off-speed pitches. Willie Harris clubbed Moyer's first pitch of the game into the seats and catcher Jesus Flores followed on pitch No. 16 with a two-run shot. That was it. "It forced me to make a change early," Moyer said. "I think I made some good pitches in the first, but they hit them. It seemed like everything I threw over the plate they hit. I threw my breaking ball more. I worked inside more." Moyer recognized the need to adjust. "If I don't, I'm sitting back [in the clubhouse] in the second inning," Moyer said. "It's really not much of a choice." The Phillies erupted for five runs while batting around in the fifth. Redding didn't retire anyone that inning and left after surrendering Chase Utley's second homer in two days. Shane Victorino clubbed his seventh July home run -- and ninth overall -- leading off the seventh. Amid trade rumors, he's batting .327 this month, "Go in there and tell him not to get so nervous," Manuel said. Where does Victorino's power come from? "I don't know," Manuel said. "It might be coming from his lips. He's got a lot of wind to him." "That's funny," Victorino said. Pitching some of his best baseball, Moyer has allowed three or fewer runs in 10 straight starts, going 4-3 with just 31 runs of support in those outings.
Since Moyer appears further from retirement with each start, he'll focus more on earning a World Series ring. The streaking Phillies have won four in a row and 10 of their past 16.By scoring runs for him, Victorino and friends helped Moyer secure at least 10 wins for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. He also became the fourth pitcher in history to secure 10 wins after his 45th birthday, joining Phil Niekro, Jack Quinn and Satchel Paige. "Didn't play with any of them or against any them," Moyer said, with a laugh. "I've been healthy enough to win 10 games this year. It's cool, but I'm here to do my job. You've heard it from me before and you'll hear it from me again: You get caught up in things like that, you may lose focus in what you have to do.
"There'll be plenty of time for me to look back at the end of the season or at the end of my career, and go, 'That was kinda cool.' The opportunity to have the longevity that I've had is probably the most special thing for me. When you're around long enough, those things are going to start to happen. It's nice to be thrown in with those names."Manuel added: "He's a battler, man. When he puts pitches where he wants he gets outs. He defies gravity." And the laws of aging.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.