Game 2 win was classic Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies' biggest fear in the NLCS was not the quality of the San Francisco Giants' starting pitching, nor the depth of the Giants' bullpen nor even the can't-get-him-out home run prowess of slugger Cody "Babe" Ross. It was the state of their offense.
"I'm concerned with that," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel had said before Game 2. "I think we need to hit better. We need to put together more offense."
Fact is, before Sunday night, this Phillies team did not look like the one that won back-to-back NL pennants in 2008 and 2009, and a World Series title in 2008. Those teams crushed opponents, waiting until they were given the smallest opening, then bursting through it. Those teams were offensive powerhouses. This one wasn't.
In the 2008 postseason, as they marched to the World Series title, the Phillies averaged 5.5 runs per game. In 2009, they averaged 4.6. This year, entering Sunday, it was down to 4.0. Even in sweeping the Reds in the Division Series, the Phillies batted just .212 and slugged just .273. And this comes on the heels of a regular season in which they hit 58 fewer homers than the year before.
"We got off to a good start to the [regular] season," Manuel said after the Phillies' Game 1 loss, "but we've been sputtering kind of ever since."
Sunday night, then, was a triumphant return to classic Phillies baseball. Plenty of things were significant about that 6-1 win: Roy Oswalt's dominant pitching performance, his unlikely sprint home from second on a single to center field, and the simple fact that the Phillies avoided a terrible fate -- going down 2-0 in the series as it heads to San Francisco.
But something else very significant happened: The Phillies' bats came alive -- particularly those of two players critical to their success, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Howard, whose OPS this postseason was just .686 entering the game, went 2 for 3 with a walk. And Rollins, who was just 1 for 15 this postseason entering Sunday, delivered the biggest blow of the night, a three-run double to break open the game in the seventh inning.
That pivotal seventh inning, in what was a one-run game at the time, was classic Phillies. The Giants gave the Phillies an opening -- allowing a leadoff single to the pitcher, Roy Oswalt -- and the Phillies plowed through it. And just as significantly, the Giants melted down, allowing Oswalt to score from second on Placido Polanco's single (because Aubrey Huff mistakenly cut off the throw), permitting the Phillies to pull off an audacious double-steal, issuing a pair of intentional walks to put additional runners on base, and finally, giving a slumping batter -- Rollins -- the opening (and the pitch) he needed.
It was the type of Phillies win we have grown accustomed to seeing the last few Octobers, but one I wasn't sure they still had in them.
Posted by: Dog-1 | October 18, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse