NLCS Headed Back to Philly
Looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, the Phillies staved off elimination for at least one more day with a 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the NLCS. The Phillies capitalized on some poor umpiring and some poor Giants defense, scoring three runs in the second. Roy Halladay, running on fumes, held the Giants to two runs through six innings of work while the Phillies’ bullpen was dominant.
Starting what appeared to be “one of those days”, the Giants jumped out to an early lead in the first inning thanks to some uncharacteristically poor control from Halladay and and yet another fielding error by Chase Utley. With runners on first and third and one out, Buster Posey hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play, but Utley was too anxious to complete the play and booted the ball, only recording the out at second. Already leaving much to be desired at the plate, Utley has not looked like the deserving Gold Glover that he is.
Tim Lincecum was dominant until he hit the third inning. Raul Ibanez blooped a hit to right-center, and Carlos Ruiz put runners on first and second after being hit in the right forearm by a Lincecum change-up. Halladay attempted to sacrifice bunt the runners to second and third, and successfully did so on a very controversial play. The ball hit home plate and bounced back towards the catcher, in foul territory. The umpires, however, ruled it fair. Posey threw to third but Ibanez slid in safely just ahead of the throw. Halladay did not run to first in the confusion of the event, and was easily retired for the first out.
The craziness did not stop there. Shane Victorino hit a sharp grounder to first base that ricocheted off of Aubrey Huff‘s knee, caroming into center field, allowing both Ibanez and Ruiz to score. Placido Polanco followed up with a crisp single to left field, scoring Victorino. Just like that, the Phillies were up 3-1.
Given the poor umpiring, the rabbits’ foot that seemed to be in sole possession of the Giants, and the general malaise of the Phillies, two runs seemed hardly enough of a cushion. Halladay was clearly gassed as his fastball topped 90 MPH only once after his 70th pitch. Aside from two doubles by Pat Burrell and Cody Ross that brought the Giants to within 3-2, Halladay pitched just well enough to escape relatively unharmed. As I noted on Twitter, he seemed to be struggling with his release point. Why? He was dealing with a pulled groin, as Matt Gelb reported on Twitter. That’ll do it.
After Halladay left, the quartet of Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge combined for four shut-out innings. Collectively, they struck out five — Madson struck out the side in the eighth — and allowed only one base runner on a hit off of Contreras. Before Lidge was put into the game, though, Jayson Werth tacked on an insurance run, smoking a home run down the right field line, over the 24-foot high wall. As FOX broadcasters Tim McCarver and Mitch Williams noted, the insurance run made Lidge feel a lot better coming into the inning. Of course, Lidge’s slider looked as sharp as ever in his quick dismissal of the Giants’ 7-8-9 hitters.
It wasn’t a pretty win by any means. The Phillies continue to look lackluster defensively, and they had just one hit with runners in scoring position again. But the Phillies — and their fans — have to feel much, much better about their chance to advance to the World Series with two more games to win with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels toeing the slab in Games Six and Seven respectively.