Never doubt this team. The Phillies were down to their last out, but another clutch hit led to another stunning victory. The 5-4 win gives the Phillies a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
Ryan Howard continues to sizzle. He greeted his former teammate Randy Wolf with a 2-run first inning home run. The Big Piece tied Lou Gehrig for most consecutive postseason games with a run batted in. Howard’s streak is more impressive because he did it in one year; Gehrig’s was over two years. After the homer, Wolf settled in and retired 14 straight.
Joe Blanton had a similar streak, retiring the first ten batters he faced. He allowed a walk to Matt Kemp, and then the wheels fell off. Two RBI singles tied the game in the fourth inning. An inning later, Kemp homered to give the Dodgers the lead. Blanton’s struggles questioned why Charlie Manuel did not lift Blanton for Happ.
Blanton’s line was decent: he allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two. He was dominant until his pitches started to become flat, but it is also notable that the strike zone was consistently small. But Blanton wasn’t the story.
Besides Howard’s homer, Wolf only gave up one more run (Chase Utley’s RBI single). The Phillies had plenty of chances to score, but the Dodgers’ bullpen wiggled through jams. The biggest opportunity came in the eighth inning. With two on and one out, Howard struck out. The Big Piece can’t always be the hero.
With two outs, a familiar face appeared on the mound: Jonathan Broxton. Broxton was able to strand the runners by getting Jayson Werth to fly out. The ninth inning was a different story — a story that would define this Phillies ball club. With one out, Matt Stairs was called upon to pinch hit for Pedro Feliz. With game four of the 2008 NLCS fresh in mind, Broxton did not give in to Stairs. Following Stairs’ walk, Carlos Ruiz was plunked.
Greg Dobbs made the second out on a soft liner. The crowd that had been silent for most of the evening had all eyes on Jimmy Rollins. And boy did he deliver. Rollins smashed Broxton’s 1-1 offering into the right center field gap. Eithier chased, but Eric Bruntlett scored easily. Ruiz scored from first, sliding into home safely without a play at the plate.
Rollins was deservedly mobbed by his teammates, but the bullpen deserves some credit too. The ‘pen threw three scoreless innings. Brad Lidge earned the win, striking out two batters in 2/3 of an inning.
This game will go down as one of the most unbelievable endings in postseason history. Jonathan Broxton blew game four of the National League Championship Series, and Cole Hamels will be on the mound for game five. Sound familiar? This is what October is all about.