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Must C Curtains: Howard belts three-run shot for lead

PHILADELPHIA -- Between innings in every one of his starts at Citizens Bank Park, Roy Halladay enters the Phillies' dugout and takes a seat in a chair at the bottom of a small flight of steps, just around the corner from the bat rack, just a few feet behind manager Charlie Manuel.

Halladay could have killed somebody with the look on his face Saturday as he took his seat after the top of the first inning in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. He had thrown a terrible pitch, a first-pitch sinker that cut back over the heart of the plate to Lance Berkman, who crushed the ball to right field for a three-run home run to hand the St. Louis Cardinals a three-run lead.

As Halladay thought about his mistake to Berkman, pitching coach Rich Dubee pulled catcher Carlos Ruiz aside.

"Those are the only runs they're going to get," Dubee said.

His words proved prescient. Halladay's recovery, and big homers from Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, allowed the Phillies to answer that first-inning blow with an 11-6 comeback victory to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Teams that take a 1-0 lead in the NLDS are 29-3 since the beginning of the Wild Card era in 1995. But the Phillies weren't concerned with those numbers afterward. They were concerned with this one:

"10 mas."

Ten more.

Ruiz wrote the note on the dry-erase board in the middle of Philadelphia's clubhouse after the game. Ten more postseason victories, and the Phillies will be holding the World Series Trophy for the second time in four seasons.

Division Series History
It's been much more difficult to come back from a series deficit in the Senior Circuit.
Scenario ALDS NLDS
1-0 18 14 29 3
2-0 17 4 19 0
2-1 14 5 16 1

It looked early like that first victory would be a tall task. Berkman's homer sucked the energy completely from the ballpark. Then, Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse cruised through the first three innings, retiring the side in order each time. He threw just six pitches in both the first and second innings, and he needed just 23 pitches to get through three.

Folks were on edge, maybe even the Phanavision scoreboard operators. They showed a clip from the movie "Varsity Blues" in the second inning, when those clips are typically reserved for the eighth and ninth innings.

But nobody panicked in the Phillies' dugout, especially Halladay. He quickly got into a groove, and by the time he left the game after the eighth inning, he had retired the final 21 batters he faced, with just one ball leaving the infield.

"You get to this point, you're not going to pack it in," said Halladay, who allowed three hits, three runs, one walk and struck out eight in eight innings. "Yeah, I was upset, but the biggest thing you try to think about is, 'I can't get it back. I can't go out and pitch and start subtracting runs.' You have your moment of frustration, and you've got to move on, you really do. You can't dwell on it, and you can't do anything to get it back."

The Phillies pumped life back into The Bank in the fourth inning, when Shane Victorino singled to left field to score Chase Utley with two outs to make it 3-1. Victorino caught a huge break when he popped up a 1-2 changeup in foul territory down the left-field line. Cardinals third baseman David Freese tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch, but the ball fell out of his glove.

Two pitches later, Victorino singled.

"I got a second chance," he said. "Any time you get a second chance in a game, it's definitely something you hope you take advantage of."

Then, the Phillies really made their mark on the night. Jimmy Rollins put some English on a ball that spun into center field for a leadoff single in the sixth. Hunter Pence followed two batters later with a one-out single to center to put runners on first and second. Fans started to cheer a little louder and wave their white rally towels a little more enthusiastically as Howard strode to the plate.

This could be it.

Howard fouled off three changeups before crushing the fifth changeup of the at-bat into the second deck in right field for a three-run homer to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead. It was Howard's first postseason home run and RBIs since Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, after having none in nine postseason games in 2010.

"This is a completely new year," he said. "You can't bring what happened last year into this year, so for me, it was a fresh start."

Victorino followed with another single up the middle. It appeared Lohse had come unglued in a matter of moments, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa thought Lohse had handled himself nicely other than the pitch to Howard, and he stuck with the veteran righty.

Raul Ibanez made both pay with a two-run homer to make it 6-3.

"You could just tell the atmosphere had changed dramatically," Victorino said.

They could have stopped the game there. Halladay was not going to lose this one. He had given up his runs. He was not giving up any more, just like Dubee had told Ruiz.

"He was kind of like a Rocky movie," Manuel said of Halladay. "He got mad after he gave up the homer. That ticked him off, and he hung in there, and he got going. But he's special. He's everything that people talk about."

The Phillies have a special guy pitching in Game 2 on Sunday night in Cliff Lee. If he can get into a groove, Philadelphia hopes to be headed to St. Louis with a 2-0 lead in the series.

But first things first. It's "10 mas" for now. Comments