A masterful outing by “Little Roy” Oswalt and a two-hit, four RBI night by shortstop Jimmy Rollins carried the Philadelphia Phillies to a 6-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants, evening their NLCS at one game apiece.
To the delight of their hometown fans, the Phillies more resembled the team that was the hottest in baseball over the final two months of the regular season. While their offense was not electric, they did come alive for eight hits, while drawing five walks and stealing three bases.
The key to the game was the dominance of Oswalt, who also more resembled the co-ace that was unbeatable at Citizens Bank Park the last two-plus months, save his sub-par performance in Game Two of the NLDS versus Cincinnati. Oswalt would yield only three hits, while fanning nine and walking three in eight sharp innings.
Oswalt even took a no-hitter and a 1-0 lead to the fifth inning before he left a pitch where the volcano-hot Cody Ross could handle it. Babe Ross deposited the inside fastball deep into the left-center seats to tie the game at 1-1. The encouraging sign? While Ross also drove one deep to center that Shane Victorino hauled in, the Phils did limit Ross to only one homer.
The Phillies did not exactly hammer Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez, who struck out seven and yielded five hits in his six innings. They did take advantage of Sanchez’ early lack of control to manufacture a run in the bottom of the first.
After Victorino struck out looking, Chase Utley—who switched spots in the batting order with Placido Polanco—coaxed a walk, and stole second. Polanco followed with a soft bouncer to third baseman Mike (don’t call me Brooks) Fontenot whose slightly errant throw eluded first baseman Aubrey Huff. With runners on first and third, Ryan Howard drew a walk from a full count.
Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna seemed to figure in the fortunes of the next two batters. Jayson Werth was called out looking on a pitch that appeared to be around Werth’s shoulders. In stepped Jimmy Rollins with two outs and the bases still jammed. It appeared that Sanchez’ fourth ball to Rollins ("driving in" the game's first run) got a little of the plate, but perhaps Iassogna owed them one. The Giants’ lefty did come back to strike out Raul Ibanez, limiting the damage to just one run.
The Phillies responded to Ross’ blast with a run of their own to recapture the lead at 2-1 after five. Victorino led off the bottom of the fifth with a rope down the left field line for a double, and advanced to third on Utley’s fly ball to Ross. Polanco lofted a fly to medium center to score the man known as The Flyin’ Hawaiian.
The two-time defending NL champs gave their pleasantly surprised fans a bigger dose of small ball in the seventh to put the game out of reach. Oswalt led off with a solid hit up the middle that served to take Sanchez out of the game. Victorino bunted the pitcher over, and Utley was intentionally walked (curiously?) with the base open.
Polanco, liking the three-hole, singled cleanly up the middle. Oswalt, ignoring the stop sign flashed by third base coach Sam Perlozzo, came around to score to put the Phils up by two. After a double steal by Utley and Polanco, and an intentional walk to Werth to load the bases, the stage was set for Rollins in the type of big spot he usually covets.
Although Rollins had registered a hit earlier in the game, it was only because third baseman Fontenot forgot to put his glove under a pop-up that any half-decent Little Leaguer would have camped under. With a 2-0 count, Rollins attacked a borderline low pitch and drilled it to deep center, one-hopping the wall, and scoring all three runners. 6- 1, Phillies, and with the way Oswalt was dealing, the game was effectively over.
In the final analysis, the return to form from Rollins and the little ball displayed by an offense that often seems to wait for the three-run homer have to be good signs for the Phillies, as they still have to figure out ways to score against a great Giants pitching staff.
Factor in the terrific outing by Oswalt—with Cole Hamels set to pitch Game Three— and it’s now a whole new series with the action resuming Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco.
Placido Polanco’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh was the Phillies first hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Babe Ruth, Rusty Staub, Willie Stargell, and…Cody Ross? With his solo shot in the fifth, Babe Ross became only the fourth player to hit his team’s first three homers in a postseason series.
Polanco may have been out of the baseline on the play in the first inning where Fontenot was charged with a throwing error. The Giants did not appear to protest the non-call.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was for both manager Charlie Manuel and Oswalt in the top of the eighth. With runners on first and second and two outs, left-handed first baseman Aubrey Huff stepped into the batter’s box. Manuel came out to the mound to talk to Oswalt, who apparently talked Manuel into staying in the game. He did, Manuel returned to the dugout to a nice ovation, and Oswalt retired Huff to end the inning.