First off let me give kudos to Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee—who pitched an eight-inning shutout in an 11-0 whitewash of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday during Game 3 of the National League Championship Series in Philadelphia.
Lee allowed three hits, struck out 10, and walked none. His 10 strikeouts tied a Phillies playoff record, joining Curt Schlling and Steve Carlton.
He was ahead of hitters and kept play moving, using an array of pitches with such a fast-pace not seen since Carlton.
Last night was heady stuff for Phillies fans. Highlighted by a Ryan Howard triple and Jayson Werth home run, the Phillies posted four runs in the first. They put Dodgers' starter Hiroki Kuroda out of the game with two more runs in the second.
Shane Victorino's three run blast in the eighth was icing on the cake.
Chad Durbin finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
With the win, the Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Tonight's game at 8:07 EST pits former Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23 ERA) against Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05 ERA).
Wolf—who was the starting pitcher for the Phillies when the team opened Citizen's Bank Park in 2004—won't let emotion get the best of him, as reported on the Dodger's team Web site:
"I have a lot of memories here, a lot of good memories here," Wolf said. "I always enjoyed pitching here. The fans were always really great to me. But I think it's a lot of fun just being in a playoff game, an NLCS game against my former team. The fact that it's a rematch from last year makes it exciting. But the main thing is when the game starts, it's a game, and it all starts over. I've got to pitch my game and all that stuff that's a memory, you've got to block that out."
Wolf has a lot going for him. His soft stuff could thwart the Phillies left handed bats. Ryan Howard lifetime against Wolf is 1-9 with four strike outs.
I tried to remember a team that responded from a championship series beat down as my mind immediately went to the 1993 NLDS pitting the Atlanta Braves against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies won the first game 4-3, then lost big 14-3 (I remember Fred McGriff hitting an upper deck homer at the old Veterans Stadium in that game), and Atlanta took a 2-1 series lead with a 9-4 win in Game Three.
The Phillies came back to win Games Five and Six, by scores of 4-3 and 6-3, respectively.
While watching last night's broadcast on TBS, the cameras panned Ryan Howard in the dugout with his head on his bat, eyes closed and deep in thought.
The announcers said that after talking to Howard, he said he was trying to forget his last at-bat. It could have been a three-run home run, a strikeout, or pop up with men on base.
I think all baseball players are like that, as well as managers, in terms of forgetting the last game.
A Phillies win tonight would put a chokehold on the series for the Fightin' Phils.
But, two well pitched Dodger wins against a suspect Phillies bullpen would give the boys in blue a 3-2 lead heading back to Los Angeles.
Even if that happens, I am not concerned.
In Game Seven, a rested Cliff Lee will emerge from the visitors' dugout and take control of the deciding game.
It ain't gonna be easy.
This series is far from over.