10/22/10 2:37 AM ET
Momentum swings to Phillies after Game 5
After denying Giants of pennant, NLCS heads to comfort zone
By Hal Bodley / MLB.com
It wasn't easy and it was far from beautiful, but they emphatically put the San Francisco Giants' pennant-clinching party on hold Thursday night.
The Phillies took advantage of a gutsy pitching performance by a hurt Roy Halladay, some miscues by the Giants and wobbled off the AT&T Park field with a 4-2 victory.
And, oh yes. The Phils got some timely hitting, which they haven't had much of since they swept Cincinnati in the National League Division Series, which seems like eons ago.
It's not so much that the Phillies were finally able to stall the giddy Giants, but the way they did it. As the best-of-seven NL Championship Series jets back to Philadelphia for Saturday's Game 6, the Phils are in an excellent position to draw even at three games apiece.
It will be much more difficult for the Giants to knock off the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Since 1985, when the NLCS became a seven-game affair, 11 of 13 teams that have been up 3-1 have gone on to the World Series. Don't be surprised if Philadelphia becomes No. 3 to overcome the two-game deficit.
I believe winning a tense game as they did will give the Phillies more impetus, more momentum than had they breezed through the sometimes rainy night. It was a workmanlike effort by a veteran team that refuses to panic.
The Phillies walked a 3-2 tightrope much of the game, and got a little breathing room when Jayson Werth launched a ninth-inning leadoff homer to right field -- one of the most difficult shots a right-handed batter can hit in this picturesque park.
One of the reasons the Phillies have won the NL pennant the past two years is because they refuse to look back -- or look ahead. They focus on the game at hand, a mind-set they talked about as they roared to their fourth consecutive NL East title with a torrid September.
3-2 advantage in NLCS
|Year||Team up 3-2||Opponent||Final|
"For us, it's just how we do things," said Werth, who rifled a throw from right field to cut down Cody Ross at third base as he was trying to advance on Pablo Sandoval's fly-ball out in the fourth inning. "We just kind of play in the moment. We've got a bunch of guys who are professionals and know what they're doing. We needed to win a ballgame tonight; we went out and did it."
They did it realizing that Halladay was far from sharp, that the velocity of his fastball was lacking and he was working a ton of deep counts. Later, it became known the Doc suffered a slight right groin pull in the second inning pitching to the dangerous Ross, who fanned.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said a couple of nights ago that with Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels poised to pitch the last three games of this series: "If we can't win with them, we don't deserve to win."
And that's where the Phillies are now.
When they were seven games behind Atlanta on July 21, they refused to believe they wouldn't win their division once again.
I don't believe any team down 3-1 was in a better position Thursday night to extend the series than the Phillies. They were due to break out of their offensive slump, plus they had Halladay on the mound.
They must win Saturday night (Oswalt vs. Game 2 loser Jonathan Sanchez), and if that happens, the Giants -- most of whom lack postseason experience -- might have doubts. Missing a chance to wrap up the title at home may come back to haunt them.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy shrugged off the suggestion it might be difficult for his club to put the 4-2 loss behind, especially in the din Phillies fans create at Citizens Bank Park.
"With this club, we don't do anything easy," Bochy said. "And what they've been through, they'll put this behind. Believe me, under no illusion did we think this was going to be easy playing a great club."
Werth put it this way: "Obviously, we play good at our ballpark in front of our fans, and we've kind of regained home-field advantage. This is really good for us to get back there. We needed to win one game to get back home, we did that. ... We still know what we're doing."
I've been calling the Giants a team of destiny, because they have been able to take advantage of every Philadelphia mistake. They've come up with timely two-out hits, they have wasted few at-bats.
But in the third inning, after Tim Lincecum had retired six Phillies in order, the pattern began to change.
The entire series might have changed in that inning. It was the Phillies who got the breaks and took advantage.
Raul Ibanez singled to start the inning and went to second when Lincecum hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch.
Halladay, up to sacrifice, dropped a bunt that appeared to hit home plate and roll in the dirt in foul territory. Catcher Buster Posey threw to Sandoval, but the third baseman failed to put his foot on the bag and Ibanez was safe.
Sandoval threw to first base to get Halladay, but two runs scored when Shane Victorino's grounder bounced off first baseman Aubrey Huff's glove and into right field. Placido Polanco followed with a single to left and the Phillies were up, 3-1.
That was so important, because after Chase Utley followed Polanco with a single, Lincecum retired the next 11 batters in order before Jimmy Rollins led off the seventh with a single.
One concern when the series resumes Saturday is the slump Ryan Howard is in.
He has no homers and hasn't driven in a run in the five games.
The Phillies have just three homers, no triples and eight doubles in the series.
They're hitting just .209 to the Giants' .220.
There was a huge swing in momentum on Thursday night. If the team which won 97 games during the regular season shows up Saturday, the Giants' pennant may not be as close as they think it is.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.