The Cardinals have made a miraculous run in even getting to this 2011 postseason, and their time spent here has been every bit as exciting.
Their come from behind, late-innings heroics again Cliff Lee in Game 2 helped propel them to an inkling of momentum as they headed home for Games 3 and 4.
And then Cole Hamels came and took a pin to their little red balloons.
On a day in which the Cardinals expressed their dismay in not being named the Yankees, slugger Albert Pujols openly complained to the media about the starting game time for them, as opposed to say that other team (in a much larger market, and with a much more renowned hatred/adoration of them throughout the nation like no other team).
Pujols expressed his concern in the fact that the shadows which plague the Busch Stadium Field harshly during certain times of the day might actually factor into the outcome of a pivotal play in a critical game.
Unfortunately for him, the shadows didn't back him up Tuesday. They didn't make Chase Utley drop an easy pop fly, allowing two Cardinals to score and steal away the game.
In fact, they didn't do anything.
Much like the Cardinals, the shadows had no factor on the outcome of Game 3. Neither one of them seemed very inspired to do much of anything today, and the ghosts of the Clydesdale's rang silent once again. And the Phillies appear headed on their way to yet another NLCS.
The Phillies can wrap up this series in today's action and hand the ball to one more ace on their pitching staff who is absolutely dominant in his own right, and perhaps even more so in the postseason.
Roy Oswalt takes the the mound tonight looking to extend his perfect career record in the postseason, and if the Cardinals are again without Matt Holliday in the lineup, he may very well have a great shot at achieving that feat.
Oswalt has always been a stud who shines brightest when the biggest lights are on him. He comes into this start with a perfect 5-0 career postseason record, with a very respectable 3.25 ERA in those 10 career postseason games started.
There is some history with St. Louis in the postseason as well, as Oswalt last squared off against the Cardinals in the postseason in 2005. He lead the Houston Astros in the series-winning victory, and captained the team to their one and only World Series appearance in the history of their franchise.
In his career, Oswalt has faced the Cardinals three times in the postseason as well, and has pitched even better in those campaigns by going 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA.
Against this current crop of Cardinals, he defeated them on September 17, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 9-2 walloping by the Phillies.
Although Oswalt suffered through what was a uncharacteristically tough season for him, going 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in only 23 starts, that outing in September against the Cardinals was the beginning of a season-ending stretch in which he pitched very well to conclude his 2011 campaign.
He finished strong down the stretch, going 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA over his last three starts overall.
Two of the Cardinals hottest hitters pose the biggest threat to Oswalt in today's game, and he would be well pressed to somehow find a way to pitch mistake free to both Pujols and Theriot with both guys coming off four-hit games in Tuesday's loss.
Always assume Pujols hits every pitcher well, but he has also batted .316 with seven home runs in 95 career at-bats against Oswalt, and is currently on an even bigger tear going 7-for-13 to start off this series.
Theriot is equally hot, going 6-for-9 in recent games, and is also 10-for-32 in his career against Oswalt.
The Cardinals counter with midseason acquisition Edwin Jackson, who has pitched well since coming over in the trade. Over 12 starts in a Cardinals uniform, Jackson returned to form going 5-2 with a fairly decent 3.62 ERA.
However, he did square off against the Phillies back in late July and was hit hard, allowing five runs in five innings, and ultimately getting tagged for the 7-1 loss.
Surprisingly, Jackson has never started in the postseason before (which came back in 2008 while with Tampa Bay), but he does actually have an appearance against the Phillies in the postseason when he allowed one run, two hits and one walk in two innings of relief in Game 4 of the World Series.
But this Phillies team is just geared to win and the Game 2 loss will soon be revealed as merely a hiccup along the road in their quest for their third World Series appearance and second championship in the last four seasons.
The Phillies were the best team in MLB throughout much of 2011, and their late-season addition of Hunter Pence should have solidified a gaping hole in their lineup around Ryan Howard.
This allows the Phillies to adjust their lineup to include Chase Utley in a role more comfortable for him, and that geared for his strengths in the No. 2 spot. This also allows Jimmy Rollins to move back to the No. 1 spot in the order—a role he has thrived in throughout his MVP-winning career.
Manager Charlie Manuel is then allowed to further compliment that stacked front of the lineup with several complementary pieces led by Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez, both of whom are tested playoff veterans that provide a spark and run-delivering potential from the lower part of the order.
Add in unheralded guys such as Game 3's big hero Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr., and not only is the lineup impressive from top to bottom, but is also just too much for this Cardinals lineup to overcome in this series.
Whether or not Holliday will be ready to go today will have an impact on this game, but in the end, the Phillies should have enough to squeak out yet another postseason victory on the road.
Oswalt should pitch well enough to improve to 6-0 in his postseason career with another W in this one.
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