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Phillies Turn to Jobu, Take Series from Bombers

Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum. Is very bad. -Pedro Cerrano
Fightin' Phils follow Cerrano's lead: Most baseball movie fans will recall the memorable turn by Dennis Haysbert as the curveball-challenged voodooist Pedro Cerrano in Major League (1989). Cerrano maintains an altar to a personal god, Jobu, in his fictional Indians locker. Eventually, he hits a key home run more or less on his own to help the Indians win an AL pennant that never was.

Fast forward to reality and the Phillies' current, month-long offensive swoon. As documented by Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer (June 17th), before their game against the Yankees in New York on Wednesday night, heretofore rational Phils second baseman Chase Utley decided to go all Pedro-C on his team's anemic run-production. In an empty locker he arranged "a triangle formed by bats [that surrounded] a Red Bull, a banana, an apple, an orange, and a tin of chewing tobacco. Two batting gloves and vitamins dotted...other bats laid across the floor."

The display was not immediately embraced by J.C. Romero, the Phils relief pitcher of Puerto Rican descent (and as such, a person who may have encountered a few more real voodooists than Utley did at UCLA). Romero immediately kicked the bats, declaring, "I don't like that voodoo [stuff]."

In Wednesday's game, Shane Victorino pounded out a three-run triple, and Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth hit back-to-back homers, fueling a Phils 6-3 victory. (Utley was 1 for 4 with an infield single and a hard, line-drive out to right.)

After the win the questions in the visitors' locker room had to be: Well, do we keep laying out Utley's arrangement? And is it important for a pitcher named Juan Carlos to kick it, or did Romero's "disrespect" hold down the total number of runs Philadelphia might have scored? Decisions, decisions.... Coming the next day was the series rubber match against the World Champs.

Hey, why not improve on the magic? During Thursday's game, Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy noted that Brotherly Love batting coach Milt Thompson went shopping to improve the Altar to Better Hitting, and in the empty locker next to Utley's, erected a new display explicitly reminiscent of Jobu's shrine in Major League (although he replaced Jobu with a Buddha - definitely an iffy move since any Buddha would not seem to be Jobu, and Jobu replicas are available on the internet). More interesting in that creepy-voodoo-music way was that McCarthy mentioned this in the top of the fourth inning as the Phils batted against the Yanks' veteran lefty Andy Pettitte. Bing! Beginning with a single by Shane Victorino and ending with an RBI single by Ryan Howard, the Fightin's assembled a string of baserunners and took the lead, 1-0. In the bottom of the fourth, right fielder Jayson Werth made a diving catch for the Yankees' third out.

OK, maybe Jobu is a Buddha. There have been, after all, many Buddhas....

And this one continued to help not only Philadelphia's hitting, but also their fielding, which had also begun to deteriorate during their slump. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Phils third baseman Placido Polanco made a terrific catch of a foul ball while diving over the rolled-up tarp along the third base grandstand rail. In the eighth, set-up man Jose Contreras made a fine play. And in the fifth inning, Victorino, who seemed to most immediately benefit from McCarthy's voodoo discussion in the fourth, banged a two-run homer to left. Final: PHI 7, NYY 1.

Thus, in order to take two of three from the best, most expensive team in baseball, simply do this - send out the best pitcher in the game and expect him to lose, as Roy Halladay did Tuesday. Then, in the next two games, send out a 47-year-old hurler (Jamie Moyer) and a scuffler (Kyle Kendrick), put a hex on all those fearsome Yankee hitters, and (even though Robinson Cano raises his batting average to .954 or some such) you'll take the series.

The old man won his 265th big league game; the battler threw 70 of his 110 pitches for strikes.

Somebody cue "The Twilight Zone" music.

Sources not clearly indicated above:

"Cleveland Indians Major League Joboo/Jobu Statue." worthpoint.com. 18 June 2010.

Gelb, Matt. "They're Baaaack." The Philadelphia Inquirer 18 June 2010: D1.

"Philadelphia at New York." Major League Baseball. PHL17, Philadelphia. 16 June 2010.

"Philadelphia at New York." Major League Baseball. PHL17, Philadelphia. 17 June 2010.