Never say die attitude. Right now, for the Philadelphia Phillies, that’s the only kind of attitude you can have. The Phillies went into Thursday night down 3-1 in the best of 4 series for the chance to advance to the World Series. After a crushing loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night where they led late in the game, but eventually coughed up the lead, the Phillies are now facing a do or die situation from here on out.
After Wednesday's tough loss the city of Philadelphia was pretty down. The Phillies seemingly pulled a magic trick and made all the Phillies shirts and hats disappear. Most Phillies fans had chalked up this series as a loss and with good reason. Only 72 teams before this year trailed 3 games to 1 in best-of-7 postseason series. Only 11 came back to win the series. After a 4-2 win on Thursday night the Phillies are looking to become the 12th team.
A rematch of game 1 of the NLCS was set and was booked as a pitcher’s duel but it became apparent very quickly that future National League Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay didn’t have his best stuff. He started the game off by walking the Giants leadoff hitter Andres Torres and continued to pitch himself into full counts. The Giants jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after a weak ground ball was hit to Chase Utley, and he failed to pick up the ball and initiate the inning ending double play.
It’s a funny thing in the playoffs. In the regular season a 1-0 deficit is nothing. But when you are facing a do or die deficit you start thinking it’s a mountain that will be tough to climb. In reality it’s an ant hill that can be squashed with one swing of the bat.
While Roy Halladay continued to look average, the Giants were countering with their ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young winner, looked sharp early on but ran into trouble early in the second after a Raul Ibanez leadoff single, and a Carlos Ruiz hit by pitch. With runners on first and second Roy Halladay stepped to the plate with no outs and proceeded to foul a ball off the plate that was called fair by the umpires. The ball should have been called foul but the Phillies caught a break from an umpire crew that has screwed up calls left and right for both teams.
With runners on second and third Shane Victorino came up with a hard hit ball to Giants first basemen Aubrey Huff who booted the ball into center field. Both Ibanez, and Ruiz came into score while Victorino moved up to second on the error to Huff. Placido Polanco came up next and smashed a singled to left center to bring Victorino home. That Polanco RBI single came with 2 strikes on the Phillies third basemen who led the major leagues with batting average against 2 strikes.
A 3-1 lead was all the Phillies would need as Roy Halladay struggled to a stat line of 6 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K in 108 pitches. While the Giants brought it within 1 run to make the score 3-2 Jayson Werth came up big in the eighth inning with a solo shot to right field. Brad Lidge came in to close the door on the Giants and bring the series back to Philadelphia for game 6. It now becomes a two game series for the Phillies who must win the next two games against the Giants if they want to become the first National League team since the 42-44 Cardinals to reach three straight World Series.
When I woke up on Thursday morning I had a clip in my mind that stuck in my mind all day. It was of former Red Sox first basemen Kevin Millar and the clip was from the ESPN documentary series 30 for 30 entitled “Four Days In October”. The documentary chronicled the 2004 Boston Red Sox who came back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to beat their rival New York Yankees and advance to the World Series. They became the first team in major league baseball history to come back from a 3 game deficit. The clip was from game 4 of the series and Millar went over to a reporter and said “I’ll tell you what….just don’t let us win this one. Cause if we win this one you got Petty going game 5, Schill going game 6 and in game 7 anything could happen”. He was so optimistic for a guy who was down 3-0 in the best of 4 series. But sure enough the team proved Millar right.
I kept thinking about that clip. That if we won tonight, we got Oswalt on Saturday and on Sunday we got Hamels. The negative thoughts came when I thought about who Oswalt and Hamels would be facing but that Kevin Millar clip kept replaying in my mind. The Phillies will now look to Roy Oswalt on Saturday who took the loss on Wednesday night pitching in relief. Oswalt, throwing on three hours rest thanks to a bullpen session, threw 18 pitches on Wednesday night. He’ll be facing off against Jonathan Sanchez on Saturday who has had the Phillies number throughout his career, but took the loss in game 2 against Oswalt and the Phillies.
**You think he wanted to win? Roy Halladay said he pulled his groin in the second inning but continued to pitch through it because he didn’t want to come out. That’s one way to endear yourself to the Philly fans who still have Ricky Waters “for who….for what?!” comments still in their heads. Halladay didn’t look his best but was able to battle through it to pitch 6 innings and only surrender 2 earned runs. When asked if he would be available for a game 7 Halladay said “I’ll do whatever they ask me to do.” He said when he came here he wanted to win a championship and he’s proving it.
**Many people made a big deal about Halladay’s innings pitched about the game. It’s become a common theme for the Phillies beat writers to look at Halladay’s innings as a reason for him pitching badly (any other pitcher this would have been a decent start). Halladay has pitched 272.2 innings this season which is the most in the majors by a lot. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
When you compare how many innings Halladay has to another ace you would think Halladay’s arm should be about ready to fall off. Halladay as I said has thrown 272.2 innings this season while Phillies lefty Cole Hamels has pitched 223.2 innings. That’s a 49 innings difference which would lead you to believe that Roy Halladay has pitched 5 ½ more games this season then Hamels. But what happens when you look at the actual pitch count?
Halladay has thrown exactly 3902 pitches this season while Hamels has thrown 3592 pitches. That’s a 310 pitch difference this season. That’s changes things a lot when you look at it because it went from Halladay pitching 5 ½ more games than Cole Hamels to only pitching 3 more games ( with a 103 pitch count for those 3 games).
I had a friend text me and ask me why they call Roy Halladay “Doc” and I answered because the man is as efficient as a doctor performing surgery. People are making a big deal about the innings but innings don’t wear down your arm when you only throw 9 pitches in an inning. When you compare Halladay to the other pitchers in this league his pitch count, which is the real test of how much a guy has worked, is on par with the other ace pitchers in the majors.
**The Phillies big bats have to get going. Chase Ultey is coming off a bad year where he hit just .275 with 16 homeruns and only 65 runs batted in. I understand that he was injured for about a month but even if you plug in his averages to a month he’s still having a bad year. The one thing however you could always count on with Utley was his defense and in this post season it’s disappeared. Utley had 2 errors in game two of the NLDS and on Thursday he failed to ground a slow roller that would have gotten the Phillies out of the inning but instead let a run score. I love Utley but both him and Ryan Howard need to step it up if they want to continue on the World Series.
**Phillies fans seem to have a love hate relationship with Jimmy Rollins. “Don’t swing at the first pitch” Can be commonly heard down at Citizens Bank Park from fans who are mocking the Gold Glove short stop. Jimmy might not ever hit .300 ever again but Jimmy Rollins comes up in the clutch.
The entire 2007 season Jimmy put himself on the teams back. The 2008 NLCS he came up huge against Jonathan Broxton to put the Phillies ahead 3 games to 1 instead of allowing the Dodgers to tie the series up. In game two of the NLCS this season he hit a bases clearing triple that clinched the Phillies win. And in game 4 of the 2010 NLCS he got on base, stole second, and then stole third. He failed to score because of a Ross Gload double play but he was making things happen.
Even when Jimmy doesn’t hit he ALWAYS brings the glove. The guy is the catalyst of this Phillies team. He brings that swagger that Phillies fans love and is the leader of the locker room. Never shy to put himself out there when it comes to predictions he always comes through on those predictions. Before you start bashing Jimmy Rollins start thinking about who else you would rather have. Don’t just think about hitting but include fielding, baseball IQ, and the intangibles.
**Give it up Phillies fans. Calling up local sports radio stations and tweeting about it aren’t going to change things. Saturday could be Jayson Werth’s last game as a Phillie. The Phillies right fielder hired Scott Boras as his agent during the season and is looking for a big payday come the off season.
You can’t really blame Werth either. Guys like Halladay come to Philly and take a discount to win but he’s made his money. Werth however is a veteran who is yet to really get the big free agent money. The Phillies spent barely anything to get the hard hitting righty and it’s paid off great, but he’s not young and he knows this could be his only chance to really cash in. Jayson Werth won’t be on the Phillies come next season. This isn’t going to change and Phillies fans need to accept it.