Phillies starter Joe Blanton did his job in Wednesday’s game 4 holding the San Francisco Giants’ to 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings as the Phils offense finally got to 22 year old Madison Bumgarner for 4 fifth inning runs. The Phils had been shut out for thirteen straight innings. Blanton left with a 4-3 lead as centerfielder Shane Victorino, 3rd baseman Placido Polanco drilled RBI hits with Polanco scoring on a wild pitch by reliever Santiago Casilla.
However, reliever Chad Durbin choked in the sixth inning giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks with the big blow being a none out 2 run double by 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval to give the Giants a 5-4 lead. The Phils tied the game in the eighth inning as 1st baseman Ryan Howard and rightfielder Jayson Werth slammed none out back doubles against Giant relievers Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo with Howard scoring the tying run.
But with the score knotted at 5-5, Phils manager Charlie Manuel may have made the flub of the series. Manuel inserted starter Roy Oswalt to pitch the ninth inning when he had Brad Lidge, Kyle Kendrick and J.C. Romero all waiting in bullpen.
Oswalt got the 1st out when 2nd baseman Freddie Sanchez lined out to rightfield on a 2-2 pitch. 1st baseman Aubrey Huff lined Oswalt’s next offering for a single to rightfield. Catcher Buster Posey, who went 4 for 5 for the game with 2 RBIs, followed by lining a 1-2 pitch (including 4 foul balls) for a single to rightfield with Huff taking 3rd base as Werth slid to stop the ball to prevent Huff from scoring on what could have been an extra-base hit. Massive 230 pound shortstop Juan Uribe followed by driving Oswalt’s 1-2 pitch to leftfield for a sacrifice fly RBI as the the Giants nipped the Phillies by a 6-5 score when Ben Francisco apparently had no chance to throw out the sliding Huff.
Manager Manuel may have flubbed the game in a few ways by inserting Oswalt to pitch the ninth inning. Firstly, one must wonder if Lidge or Kendrick could have been more effective in the situation. If, as several outlets, including the AP recap for Yahoo, have cited Manuel;
this was his club’s biggest game yet this year
why didn’t he go with his closer?? Secondly, by throwing Oswalt into a game which he lost in the ninth, did he retrospectively burn Oswalt as a starter in a possible game when he has ace Roy Halladay going in game 5 Did the move betray a lack of faith in the team?
The entire Phils starting lineup each got a hit with Polanco collecting a single and a double and both Howard and Werth both doubling. But the offense continues to perform abysmally, particularly Chase Utley who has gone 2 for 17 and is hitting .183 for the NLCS vs a career .278 average in the 2008 and 2009 NLCS.
On Tuesday, Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels and Giants’ starter Matt Cain dueled over six innings with Cain gaining the edge when the Phils offense failed to show up for game 3 of the NLCS as the series changed venue to San Francisco.
The 2 starters traded zeros across the board for two inings until catcher Carlos Ruiz’s 1 out single in the third. Cain followed by hitting centerfielder Shane Victorino putting runners on 1st and 2nd base but the Phils failed to score. The Phils had other scoring opportunites in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings but failed to push anything home. The put 2 runners on in the fourth and seventh innings and Victorino walked and stole 2nd base in the fifth. Meanwhile, San Francisco notched 2 runs in the fourth and another in the fifth as outfielder Cody Ross continued hitting and driving in runs against the Phils, this time with a fourth inning RBI single to break the 0-0 deadlock and sending leftfielder Pat Burrell, who had walked, to 3rd base. Another single drove in Burrell, and the 3rd Giants run scored on a 2 out fifth inning fielding error by 2nd baseman Chase Utley following a leadoff double by former Phils centerfielder Aaron Rowand. Cain gave up 2 hits while walking 3, hitting a batter and striking out 5 in seven innings as the Giants shut out the Phils by a 3-0 score to take a 2 games to 1 lead in the NLCS.
Hamels pitched well giving up 3 runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8 on 101 pitches through six innings before being lifted with 2 outs in the seventh inning for pinch hitter Ross Gload who walked with a runner on. But Victorino grounded out to end the inning.
The bottomline was that Hamels pitched well enough to win but got no support from the on-again, off-again Phillies lineup. 2 Giant relievers followed Cain to shut down the punchless Phils offense over the final two innings. The big bats in the Phils lineup: Utley, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and rightfielder Jayson Werth went a collective 1 for 11 — Howard’s fourth inning single, walking once and striking out 3 times. Leftfielder Raul Ibanez also struck out twice while taking an 0 for 4 collar.
To read more about the loss and the Phillies moribund offense in game 3, click here for the AP game recap for Yahoo.
And so, the Phils, who were once again way short on offense and falling by strikeout 11 times to Giant pitching for the game, fall to a 3 game to 1 deficit setting up what is THE GAME of the Phillies season in game 5 on Thursday with ace Roy Halladay rematched against Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum. Will the Phils offense come to life in the BIG GAME to force a game 6 and hopefully a game 7, or will I have to hang my head in shame before all of the local Yankee fan kids who have been saying that “the Phillies are goin’ down”?