Back in 2009 the Phillies made that big trade deadline deal, passing on the chance at Roy Halladay (for a few months) to acquire Ben Francisco. Francisco came to Philly with a throw in left-handed pitcher whose name I do not remember. The move pushed the Phillies into the World Series against New York, but Benny San Fran went a smooth 0-7 against New York and the Phillies were sent home in six games. Since that series Francisco has had varying roles for the Phils. He’s been an ace right-handed pinch hitter, a 1st week of April sensation, and ultimately a forgotten man. Was I the only one who thought the Phillies were down to Wilson Valdez as a right-handed bat in the 7th inning? But, Francisco it was, swinging for the fences as always, and this time he connected.
The three run shot Francisco hit would provide the only relaxing 10 minutes of game three. A little sigh of relief at the end of Jaime Garcia’s dominance and a breath of air before the Phillies’ bullpen started making things interesting. Garcia was what you’d expect from someone who has dominated the Phils. Luckily, he also appears to be something of a 6-inning pitcher. Perhaps his lack of dominance against the other 28 teams in the league keeps him from building up the 8/9 inning stamina that could have killed the Phils Tuesday night. On the other side, Cole Hamels did what he had to do. To say that he was a little off might be a disservice to St. Louis’ lineup. Hamels struggled putting guys away to a certain extent and absorbed a lot of long at-bats, but St. Louis can work a pitcher, and Hamels was good enough to get his share of strikeouts. If he was a little of his game, it’s a tribute to his toughness (which no one thinks he has) that he got through six scoreless.
If I’m looking back to my keys from before the series, the Phillies are doing pretty well. They’ve hit key homers. They managed to beat Jaime Garcia. Brad Lidge has been a mixed bag, and then of course, there is Charlie. I don’t really want to dwell on Charlie’s decisions after a win, but lets just say I’m not comfortable with how he’s been using the bullpen this entire time. So far, it’s two up and one down so we can forget about it, but I generally think the less trips that Charlie makes to the mound, the better.
The Phillies now have two chances to get this done and advance to the NLCS. Having Roy Halladay waiting in game 5 is a nice insurance policy, but the Phils will want to take care of business on Wednesday. These game 4s (and if there are more rounds the game 3s too) are the spots where the Phillies’ rotation depth really should give them their advantage. Roy Oswalt vs. Edwin Jackson should be a good matchup for the Phillies. Now, Oswalt has not had the season people were expecting, but recently he’s shown the high ceiling that makes him a hell of a 4th starter. If Oswalt can channel his best stuff, and use his considerable post-season experience, the Phillies should be in a good position to end St. Louis’ season. And, any hard-throwing righty like Jackson is always more enticing than a off-speed tossing lefty like Jaime Garcia.
Great win for the Phils, not a great win for my stress level. Confession: It was pretty tense times in front of my TV. But, that’s why you spend the whole season with a team, so you have that connection when the games really matter. I just hope Lil Roy and the Phillies hitters are a bit calmer than I am on Wednesday night.
Oh, and a special shout out to Chase for that double play in the 8th and to Madson for mopping up Charlie’s mess and getting those 5 outs some how, some way.