Friday, October 22, 2010

NLCS Notebook: Halladay gets Phillies back to Philadelphia

By Chris Ruddick

Roy Halladay did what everyone expected him to do on Thursday night in San Francisco. He extended the season for the Philadelphia Phillies and got the National League Championship Series back to Citizens Bank
Park for a Game 6.

I thought the Giants had to win on Thursday if they wanted to win this series. I know they still have the edge heading back to Philly, but it is never easy closing a team out, especially on the road against a pair of former NLCS MVPs in Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

Things didn't look good for the Phillies in the first inning. Halladay appeared to be wound tighter than a 10-day clock and it showed as he gave up a run, then stared down home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, as he walked back to the dugout.

San Francisco outfielder Pat Burrell, who struck out looking to end the first, thought Halladay was looking at him as he walked back to the dugout and television cameras caught him politely asking him what he was looking at it.

Halladay, though, settled down after that and allowed six hits and two runs in six innings with a pair of walks and five strikeouts to get the win and bounce back from his loss in Game 1 of this series.

It was an at-bat by Halladay in the third inning that changed the game.

With runners on first and second, Halladay laid down a bunt  which seemed foul, a few inches to the third-base side of home plate.  Nelson signaled fair and both runners advanced a base. Pablo Sandoval failed to get to third base in time on the throw from Buster Posey and Raul Ibanez was safe Halladay, however, thinking the ball went foul, never ran to first and was out.

So, in essence Halladay did his job, but had that throw to third been on target, Ibanez would have been out and Halladay would have been out by a mile for the double play. Instead there were runners at second and third.

"It's a bad bunt and they got a break there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Buster did a great job giving it to Pablo. He just couldn't find the bag and fell down there. But we're inches away from getting a double play and the bunt was right in front of home plate. At that point the third baseman goes back to the bag and we had a force there, and he wasn't running. So that's a missed opportunity for us not getting the double play, and it came back to haunt us."

Shane Victorino then hit a hard bouncer that glanced off the heel of first baseman Aubrey Huff's glove and caromed into center field, scoring both runners. Placido Polanco followed with a line RBI single to left field for a 3-1 margin.

The Giants wasted a golden opportunity in the fourth inning. After Cody Ross continued to dominate this series with an RBI double to close the gap to one, he made an absolute bonehead of a play trying to tag up from second on a fly to right fielder Jayson Werth, who gunned him down to end the inning.

There is a few ways to look at this. Rule No.1, you never make the third out at third base. But then again, with Ross at second and first base open. the Phillies likely would have walked Juan Uribe to pitch to Tim Lincecum.

So give Ross some credit for trying to make something happen there. But then again, even it that scenario had played out, the Giants still would have turned the lineup over and had the top of the order coming up in the fifth had they come up empty.

Bottom line, dumb play by Ross, who has been the MVP of this series through the first five games.

As gutty as Halladay was, the real hero of this game was the Phillies' bullpen, which tossed three scoreless innings to nail down the victory one night after surrendering three runs in the Game 4 loss.


After the game was over it was revealed that Halladay was pitching with a groin pull that he suffered in the second inning on a pitch to Ross.

"After a couple innings, I was like, 'God, this guy is pitching on one leg. Really?'" Victorino said. "His velocity wasn't 92, 93 [mph]. It was 89, 90. That shows me what he's about. He wasn't coming out of the game, I can tell you that much."

Halladay kept the groin loose by riding a stationary bike between innings and shortened his stride on the mound.

"He wasn't going to let us take him out," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel also said that depending on how Halladay feels over the next couple of days that he could be able to give them an inning if need be in a potential Game 7 on Sunday.


With the Phillies' victory Thursday, an NLCS stands at 3-2 for the 17th time since the series became a best-of-seven in 1985. Eleven of the prior 16 series were won by the team that led after five games, but half of those series went the full seven games.


Before we talk about a Game 7, though, the Phils have to get by Game 6 and that could be a daunting task with left-hander Jonathan Sanchez going for the Giants against Roy Oswalt in a rematch from Game 2.

Although Sanchez was charged with the loss in Game 2 of this series, he has traditionally been a thorn in the side of the two-time defending National League champions.

He allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits and struck out seven in six innings last Sunday, but prior to that loss, he had been 3-1 lifetime against the Phillies with a 2.86 ERA in nine games (five starts).

The Phillies, though, will have Oswalt on the hill, as he tries to bounce back from a loss in relief on Wednesday. Oswalt gave up the winning run in Game 4, but was simply sensational in his start last Sunday against Sanchez.

Oswalt followed up his loss in the NLDS with a terrific effort against the Giants, who managed just a run and three hits in eight innings of work. He also fanned nine in the win.

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