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.

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  1. e

    October 21, 2010 11:32 PM

    The power decline of the punchless piece continues.

  2. Mark P

    October 21, 2010 11:37 PM

    Pitching anchored this game. Madson really shined tonight. I honestly thought the wheels would fall off after the Gload DP, but maybe there is a little luck on our side. Back to Philly!

  3. KR

    October 22, 2010 12:37 AM

    That run the Giants scored didn’t go down as an error on Utley, just a fielder’s choice.
    That said, while it would’ve been a tough play it’s one that Utley makes most days. He’s struggled a lot with the glove in this series, though him getting to that liner from Huff in the seventh was nice.

    Otherwise, though, decent game. Bullpen looked great all around.

  4. dejesus54

    October 22, 2010 07:30 AM

    …or Foster Brooks.

    Excellent work by the bullpen. I wasn’t expecting a third straight appearance by Contreras, though. Where was Durbin? (Wasn’t it unManuelesque not to offer him redemption for Game 4?)

  5. Jon

    October 22, 2010 08:49 AM

    This is the second year in a row Utley’s gotten the defensive yips in the playoffs. He had trouble throwing to first even on plays where he got outs last year.

  6. KH

    October 22, 2010 09:12 AM

    E why do you focus on a guy like Ryan Howard when Chase Utley has been even worse. Thats what I love about Phillies fans they settle on a couple whipping boys and won’t let go like a Pit Bull on a steak. Utley has flat out been killing this team and if he was was playing slightly less dreadful a strong argument could be made we would be heading home up 3-2 instead of down 3-2. Atrocius at the plate and in the field.

  7. Dukes

    October 22, 2010 09:23 AM

    KH – Utley and Howard have both been pretty dreadful, Howard slightly less so because he’s gotten a few hits. But Howard’s defense last night could have easily cost the Phillies the game in the same way Utley’s could have. They are both in the doghouse as far as I’m concerned and need to turn it on in game 6 (and then 7).

  8. Andrew B

    October 22, 2010 09:32 AM

    I think Howard does deserve some focus. Something that no one seems to have commented on was that he came up in the third, with Victorino on 3rd and 1 out, against a right-handed pitcher he does well against. All he needed was to get a ball into the outfield to plate another run and get his first RBI of the series, but struck out. It would have been a big, huge extra run. That is his job there, and he didn’t get it done.

    Luckily, it didn’t hurt us. I really didn’t think we were gonna get out of there last night with a win, given the way Halladay seemed to struggle. But they managed to do it, with the help of a couple of breaks. Big props to Madson, Lidge and the bullpen, but especially Madson. Coming in up by only one, no room for error and striking out the heart of the order? Wow. Totally clutch. Gutty win. Feel a lot better about their chances now.

  9. SP

    October 22, 2010 09:36 AM

    Halladay wasn’t “gassed”, he was injured (as I’m sure you’ve heard about by now). Just an awe inspiring, gutsy performance by Halladay who threw more changeups than ever due to not being able to throw the 2 seamer.

    One thing to note: In 2010: Hamels and Oswalt both post 8-9% better WHIPs at home vs road. This is a huge advantage for Philly, considering that Cain’s ERA and WHIP are 14% worse on the road and you know Cain isn’t going to be getting all those pitches 4 inches off the plate like he did in Game 3. Also, Sanchez’s ERA is a whopping 18% (lifetime) worse on the road and WHIP 7% (lifetime) worse.

    Combine that with the 2010 Phils batting 8 points better at home (.264 vs .256) and almost 40 points higher OPS (.763 vs .727) and the Giants have to be kicking themselves for not winning last night. It’s going to be pure Pandamonium that will make the thrill of the Chase very Werth it! (ok, bad puns I know).

  10. Andrew B

    October 22, 2010 09:48 AM

    I know Halladay wasn’t gassed, and its being reported now that he has a groin injury. But when did that happen? Was it in game 1? He was pretty sneaky about it, either way. It totally escaped the notice of Buck and McCarver. I did notice that his pitch location was not like his usual self, but didn’t notice how many change-ups he was throwing, or that his velocity was down.

  11. nik

    October 22, 2010 10:03 AM

    Doc was hurt in the 2nd inning when pitching to Posey according to Charlie.

  12. Andrew B

    October 22, 2010 10:30 AM

    Ahh, okay. I see that now. Well, doesn’t matter for the last two games, but I hope its not serious.

    Keep thinking of other things to say now too:

    Anyone else notice that Ibanez looked as shocked as we did that he made contact to start the rally in the third? He has looked lost up there the whole postseason, and everytime he gets fooled it reminds me that his 12 million salary is probably going to keep them from being able to resign Werth.

    I love Chooch. While his stats might not look like the postseason we’ve almost come to expect from him, he is still finding a way to get on base. Got his fourth HBP last night. This one again looked like he could have gotten out of the way, but instead he just took it for the team. Buttermaker would be proud. So Ibanez’s accidental hit, plus Chooch leaning into one setup chances for us to score on defensive breakdowns. Wow. I hope Manual is kissing his boo-boos after the game.

    Down 3-2, but heading home means the Fightins are right where they are supposed to be theoretically. Played two at home, three on the road, so going home to get the last two. Definitely still got a shot at this.

  13. Brad.

    October 22, 2010 11:50 AM

    “Buttermaker would be proud” indeed! This series is killing me. As for Howard and Utley, let’s not forget that Howard’s defense has been as dreadful as Utley’s, just not in ways that are quite as noticeable. He kicked one last night that made me think he was trying to make Huff feel better about himself.

  14. Andrew B

    October 22, 2010 12:20 PM

    To Brad:

    Ugh, I know. Wasn’t his E on Torres though? It was driving me nuts that it seemed like the Phils kept inventing ways to let that guy on. He is their fastest guy and dangerous on the basepaths, but has been so bad at the plate he got benched. But lucky us, he gets the start but still gets on with a walk in the 1st, an error by Howard in 5th and got an ‘infield single’ in the 3rd where you almost argue Howard and Utley both made errors? Holy sheetz! This guy is terrible, don’t let him get free passes to first base!

  15. CH Phan

    October 22, 2010 01:21 PM

    Brad: I’m with ya. This series has made me a wreck. I’ve had moments of thinking it might be nice to wake up when its over, knowing we’ve won it all. Then I’d watch the yr-end dvd.

    Dukes: You’re right. Utley & Howard have both been pretty dreadful. Utley has kind of scared me. Once, when the ball flew in his direction I heard myself saying, ‘Nonono…’ Howard has no RBIs in the playoffs. He had the same problem last yr up until the end of the WS too, so this isn’t new for him. That FOX thimble-brain Buck has been saying when Howard comes to the plate, “… the OF makes their adjustments …” and I can’t help but think, ‘WHY? He won’t even hit his own back when he swings around.’

    The rest of the defense has been good. Victorino & Werth should be mentioned. And the bullpen was blistering last night. Contreras the night before was terrific. Last night Madsen & Lidge were great. (I haven’t been Lidge’s biggest fan this yr.) They both came through when we needed them.

    The team needs to continue the feeling last night’s win gave them, the energy, the confidence. I think those things were noticeably lacking before, particularly the confidence. Being back in Phila will help. If any team can pull off winning at this point, the 2010 Phillies is the one that can. I just hope they WILL do it.

  16. Rob

    October 22, 2010 02:07 PM

    Rollins has also played solid defense.

  17. Matt

    October 22, 2010 04:40 PM

    Have the Phillies yet set the record for most strikeouts in a playoff series by a team? What we need in Game 6 is a productive 1st inning. Take the pressure off of Oswalt early.

    I disagree with CH Phan, if any team can pull off winning at this point, it is the 2008 Phillies. Those are the guys that need to show up on Saturday.

  18. JR

    October 22, 2010 05:00 PM

    While Howard is taking a pounding by many fans, it is interesting to note that his offensive stats look pretty good compared to the rest of the team. He has the top batting average of the Phils starters (admittedly that is not saying much) in the playoffs and is second only to Chooch in OBP and second only to Werth in Slugging %. I beleive the reason is because he has no RBI’s. This is why Werth took a lot of heat during the season. As much as people try to minimize RBI’s as a statistic, they ultimately are what wins games.

  19. Duane

    October 22, 2010 05:23 PM

    Life is so much better when the Phillies win. I was afraid I’d have to go all Robert DeNiro in “The Fan” on Cody Ross. Lol. I really hope Doc is good for the W.S. because groin injuries are no good. Saturday is going to be great! Go Phillies!

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