Rule No. 1: never root for your fantasy team over your real team.
Particularly when your real team has a magic carpet under it.
I have never finished better than eighth out of 14 teams in my mixed keeper fantasy baseball league. I am running third this season with three weeks left. The guy right behind me (who won the league last year) sent Cliff Lee to the hill against my Josh Johnson today.
Johnson cruised through five innings today without giving up a hit. Lee gave up an unearned run in the sixth inning aided by an error from Jimmy Rollins and one of Lee's own. Johnson was nicked for a run when the suddenly-resurgent John Mayberry Jr. drove Rollins in with a solid two-out single.
From a fantasy perspective? Fine. One run in six innings on two hits is pretty good for Johnson.
The Marlins went down quietly in the top of the seventh, and Johnson went back out for the bottom of the frame. He would face Erik Kratz, Michael Martinez and a pinch-hitter for Lee. 7-8-9. It sure looked manageable, particularly after Kratz struck out and Martinez grounded weakly to Jose Reyes.
And then it happened. The magic that the Phillies suddenly have, that they have lacked all season long, showed up again.
Pete Orr came up to hit for Lee. From a fantasy perspective (and of course in reality too,) this meant that Lee could not win the game unless Orr kept the inning going.
Let me be clear about this: Pete Orr is not a good major-league baseball player. If Freddy Galvis had not broken his back, Orr might not have seen time today.
Orr quickly went down 1-2 in the count, and then Johnson went to put him away with a 95-miles-per-hour fastball, a pitch that ordinarily would be more than good enough to retire a pop-gun hitter like Orr.
Except Orr shanked a ten-hopper past the second baseman, bringing Jimmy Rollins to the plate with one on and two out.
Maybe a minute later, Rollins golfed a low fastball into the right field bleachers. The score was 3-1, Phillies, which became final after Jonathan Papelbon pumped another fastball past another hapless Marlin to close it out in the ninth.
Again, for fantasy purposes, this was sort of an apocalypse for me. Johnson was one pitch away from a final line of 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 H. A great outing, at worst a no-decision.
Three pitches later he was on the hook for the loss he eventually was tagged with.
Here is the thing though: ultimately, I don't care about Josh Johnson or my admittedly silly fantasy team.
My son (pretty adroitly for a 6-year-old) told me in the eighth inning that I needed the Marlins to tie the game so Johnson would not take the loss.
"No," I said, "I am not telling you how to live your life, but I never root for my fantasy team over my real team. I want the Phillies to win." And they did.
That makes it seven in a row for the Phillies, now over .500 for the first time since June 3. Dead and buried as recently as two weeks ago, they are 3.5 games out of the final wild card spot.
The fantasy may be dying, but the reality is that this Phillies team is suddenly magic.