The Phillies managed to hold off the Cardinals today in Game 3, and were able to take a 2-1 advantage in the series. They are now just a win away from advancing to the NLCS for the fourth consecutive season.
The Cardinals have not rolled over, however. After getting trounced in Game 1, they came from behind to win Game 2 and lost today by just a run.
Here are five reasons that they still have a chance to win this series.
Let's forget about Game 1 for the second. In the past two games, Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino have not hit the ball well at all.
These guys combined to go 1-for-11 in their Game 2 loss, and have gone just 3 for 22 (.136) over the last two games.
Everyone in the Phillies' lineup killed the ball in Game 1, but their offense has looked anemic since the second inning of Game 2. If it weren't for a Ben Francisco home run today, they would have gone 16 straight innings without scoring.
This line up can obviously turn things around, but the Cards will have a chance if they can continue to limit the damage from the heart of the Phillies' lineup.
Again, let's forget about Game 1 for a second. I guess you can call Ben Francisco's home run today clutch, but the Phillies failed to add any insurance runs. If it wasn't for that bases loaded double play in the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals very well could have won the game.
It was more of the same thing in Game 2. Their offense pretty much shut down after the second inning, and that allowed the Cardinals back into the game.
The Phillies have left 19 guys on base the last two games. You simply need to cash in on scoring opportunities in the playoffs. If Cardinals pitching can step up and continue to prevent the big hit from happening, they have a chance to win the next two games.
The Cardinals have a great core of veteran leaders. Postseason baseball is so different than the regular season, and experience is so important. Especially if you need to come from behind in a series.
Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Chris Carpenter were all in St. Louis for their World Series run of 2006. That run featured a grueling seven game NLCS against the Mets, which included a bunch of timely hits from veteran leaders. Yadier Molina's eighth inning home run in Game 7 propelled them to the World Series.
Experience might not necessarily be the most important thing, but it can serve as kind of an "x-factor" in October. The Phillies have that with their recent playoff success, but the Cardinals know what it's like to win playoff games as well.
Roy Oswalt will go up against Edwin Jackson in Game 4 in St. Louis. If there is one guy in the Phillies' rotation that you wouldn't mind facing, it's Roy Oswalt.
That isn't really a knock on Oswalt—it's just that he's in the same pitching staff as Hallady, Lee, and Hammels. He also went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA during the regular season.
This is a great matchup for the Cardinals. Rafael Furcal, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina all are hitting over .300 lifetime against Oswalt in extended samples. Lance Berkman has been such an important part of the St. Louis offense this season, and he's 3-for-5 against Oswalt. They were also teammates in Houston for quite a while, so Berkman probably has a good idea of what to look for.
Edwin Jackson will be pitching in one of the biggest games of his career, but he's been great since joining the Cardinals mid-season. I like the Cards' chances in Game 4.
Say the Cardinals pull off a win tomorrow. Then they have to go to Philadelphia for a decisive Game 5, presumably against Roy Halladay.
Yeah, it'll be a very difficult game to win, but crazier things have happened. Baseball is a strange game, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals find a way to win this series.
Tony La Russa said earlier this series that he was hoping it would come down to Halladay vs. Carpenter. If his team can win tomorrow, there's a pretty good chance that we get that matchup.
Roy Hallady vs. Chris Carpenter for the right to play in the NLCS. How great would that be?