Tonight, Pete Rose is right where he wants to be.
Two weeks ago, he predicted that he would break Stan Musial's all-time National League record for hits -- 3,630 -- on June 10 at Veterans Stadium against Nolan Ryan.
Wednesday at Veterans Stadium, Rose will face Nolan Ryan needing two hits to make his prediction come true. Tonight, Rose got two singles, the first igniting a five-run rally that started the Philadelphia Phillies to a 10-3 stomping of the Houston Astros.
That gave him 3,629 hits in his career, one shy of Musial's record. And, it left Rose feeling delighted about the way things have worked out.
"You couldn't write this any better in a Hollywood script," he said, standing inside his locker area as a large chunk of the nation's media pushed to get close enough to listen. "Tomorrow, you're going to have two Hall of Fame pitchers out there (Ryan and Steve Carlton) and me going for a record like this.
"I really didn't want to break it tonight. My mom's coming up from Florida for the game tomorrow and, you know, it would have been okay to do it tonight. This way, though, would be better."
Ryan was asked Monday if Rose had changed at all over the years. "The only thing about him that's changed," the pitcher said, "is that his hair's gotten longer and he's gotten uglier. He can still hit."
And Rose would like nothing better than to get his historic hit against Ryan.
He started the game tonight by grounding to second in the bottom of the first. Then in the fourth, with one out in a 1-1 game, he drilled a Joe Nekro slider up the middle for a base hit, starting the Phillies' splurge.
Niekro walked Rose on four pitches in the fourth, drawing heavy boos from many in the crowd of 33,978. In the sixth, reliever Billy Smith got him on a ground ball to third.
By the eighth, with the game a laugher and Rose the fifth man due up, many were heading for the exist. But Gary Maddox, Keith Moreland and even pitcher Ron Reed got hits to give Rose another at bat. "We really wanted to get him up again," Moreland said. "We all know he'd like to do it against Ryan."
Rose, who has hit in 13 straight games and is now batting .332 with a league-leading 72 hits, came up against Bobby Sprowl, a pitcher he had never seen before.
Sprowl got to 1-2, making Rose look bad as he swung at and missed a slider.
But he threw another slider and Rose lined it solidly past the dive of second baseman Joe Pittman and he was only two hits away.
Rose left for a pinch-runner to a standing ovation and came back to tip his cap. One of those not there to cheer him was Musial, who came to town Monday and held a press conference before tonight's game. But both nights Musial has left before the game, saying he would listen to the broadcast and come to the park if Rose suddenly came within striking range.
"I'm delighted to be in Philadelphia," said Musial, who talked with Rose before the game, "except for what Pete's doing. I'm not too happy about that."
Rose couldn't be happier. He will get up at 6:30 Wednesday to do The Today Show, then come to the stadium in midafternoon. He also planned to watch some harness racing before going to bed tonight.
"You going to play a 3-6-3-1 exacta?" someone asked Rose, referring to the four numbers in the record.
"I might," Rose said smiling. The way things are going, he would undoubtedly hit it.