Philly Humiliates St. Louis 11-1 to Take Commanding 3-0 Lead in NLCS
St. Louis, MO (AP) - A change in scenery doesn't change Philadelphia's dominance. The Phillies jump all over the Cardinals early on and never look back, beating the Cardinals 11-1 to get within one win from reaching the World Series for the third time in four seasons.
The excitement is palpable in the Phillies locker room as well as across the City of Brotherly Love. The Phils came through in the clutch and really dashed any significant hopes that the Cardinals could come back in this series.
"We wanted to get ahead early, there's no question about it," said Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. "Our goal was to keep the pedal to the medal. We knew after game two's comeback win, they'd be on the mat. We wanted to make sure they couldn't get up."
Philadelphia certainly made sure that was the case. In the first inning, Jimmy Rollins drew a lead off walk. Placido Polanco followed up by blasting a pitch from Jaime Garcia into the left field stands, immediately giving Philly a 2-0 lead. But, that wasn't the end of it. Chase Utley singled. Then, Raul Ibanez came up with a clutch 2 out hit, knocking a double to the gap in left-center field. That scored Utley, and the Phillies were up 3-0 before most fans had a chance to sit at their seats.
|Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins watched as Polanco's shot clears the fence in the first inning.
Philadelphia made sure Cardinals fans continued to sit on their hands, giving them little reason to stand up and cheer. In the fifth inning, the Phils tacked on a couple more runs, and once again, it was thanks to clutch hitting.
With two outs, Ryan Howard got the rally started by doubling over the right fielder's head. Shane Victorino then slapped another double off the wall in left field, barely missing a home run by just a few feet, scoing Howard. And, Raul Ibanez grounded a single up the middle to bring Victorino home.
"We didn't let up, and that was key. Even when we got a decent lead, we just kept coming at them," said Manager Charlie Manuel. "And, our pitching didn't let up, either. Roy gave us a great start right when we needed it."
Phils starter Roy Oswalt actually had a perfect game going into the fourth inning. That was broken up by a Brian Roberts walk. After stealing second base, Albert Pujols picked up a base hit, scoring Roberts. It was the only run the Cardinals would be able to produce the rest of the game.
"I just wanted to give our guys a chance. It's kind of easy, when they're giving so much support offensively," said Oswalt. "All I have to do is throw strikes at that point and make sure I don't give up any big innings to let the other team back into it. And, I think I did a good job with that."
Oswalt went 5.1 innings, giving up just the one run and five hits, while striking out four batters. He's been the most solid starter so far in the postseason for Philadelphia. Right now, Oswalt sports a 2-0 record with 14 strikeouts and a 1.54 ERA.
In fact, the strongest part of Philadelphia's attack so far in the playoffs has been the strenght of its bullpen. In game two, the bullpen held St. Louis scoreless for seven innings, which was vital in the Phillies comeback. So far this series, Philadelphia's relievers have given up just one run in 13.2 innings of work.
|Ryan Howard flashing some leather, catching a screaming line drive that had double written all over it.
"When we can get that kind of pitching, it makes such a huge difference," commented Manuel. "Holding teams down allows us to come back like we did in game two. It also shortens the game dramatically for us. We know that if we can get our starters into the sixth inning, and we can shut down the other team with our relievers, that makes us very tough to beat."
Philadelphia's offense hasn't been hurting lately, either. So far in the NLCS, the Fightins have tripled the Cardinals in runs scored, 30-10. The Phillies have had 21 extra base hits, including ten home runs, compared to St. Louis having just 8 extra base hits (four of them being homers). And, the Phils are hitting an eye-popping .364, while the Cardinals are a dismal .228.
All of those things point to the current situation both teams find themselves in: Philly on the verge of the World Series, and St. Louis about to head for the golf courses for the winter.
"We know we're in good shape," admitted Rollins. "But, sometimes winning that fourth game can be tough. We all know what Boston did to the Yankees a few years back, we all saw the Flyers do it to Boston in hockey. So, this series ain't over yet, by any stretch of the imagination. We've got to finish this thing up."
Philadelphia gets its first chance to do that Wednesday night. The Phils will send Cole Hamels to the hill to try and clinch the series. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will put their homes on the arm of Adam Wainwright. The St. Louis ace was lit up by the Phillies in game one, as he gave up 7 runs in just three innings.
If St. Louis wins Game Four to avoid elimination, it could make for an interesting decision for Charlie Manuel, as to whether he goes to a fifth starter in Joe Blanton, or brings Roy Halladay back to the mound.
"Let's worry about game four first, huh?" was Manuel's reply.
That's exactly the sentiment St. Louis has.