OK, before I start, The Dawn Summers (major three way linkage) got all jammed up and salty in the comments about me not posting about NLCS games anymore, so I will give you a quick recap about game 2 and game 3...
Game 2 - 6 outs away and Pedro gets pulled before starting the 8th (for whatever reasons) after throwing less than 90 pitches and giving up just 2 hits. Charlie puts 6 relievers through the 8th inning and the phils lose having LA tie it up. The only acceptable reason I will take for Pedro's benching would be Pedro's own admission that he told his GM that he just couldn't go anymore. Other than that, It's the weirdest move I've seen in a long time when it comes to playoff baseball. Of course this is why I am writing about it and not playing/ coaching.
Game 3 - 11-0 with Lee on the mound. That is all
After last nights game, the previous two really don't need anymore explanation than that.
It really is crazy to see this whole thing play out. I wrote somewhere that these two teams are really very unmatched with Philly clearly being the much better team. If you compare them on paper, it would be hard for even the staunchest of Dodgers fans to argue how much better the Phils really are. By position, by order in the line up, on the mound.
But this is why they play the game. So lets stop with the belly rubbing and delve into last nights episode.
Both starting pithcers (Wolf v Blanton) knew this was a big game. Obviously a bigger game for Wolf needing to keep his team in this series by not going down 3-1. The Dodgers coming off an 11-0 routing the previous night was something to consider as well. Wolf was probably the best guy to do it as well. His experience, maturity, and general skill was a good fit for last nights situation.
Blanton had some equity as well. This would be his first start in the series and he knew winning this game would be huge. Taking a 3-1 lead, having the opportunity to be the guy who just stepped on the LA's necks and really put the Phils into position to not only win the series, but do it here in Philly on Wednesday.
The behind the plate ump last night must have had a really bad case of the Red Ass before the game, because his strike zone was about the size of a walnut. I'll give him credit because he was at least consistent with it, but Dodgers fans (reads Philly haters) must have been through the roof watching some of the gems Wolf threw be looked off and called a ball.
Blanton suffered as well and it was right about the 4th inning where I said he was done. Get him out. Put him on ice.
My reason for this was simple. When the game started I gave the clear edge to Blanton in this matchup. Blanton has great numbers and he throws hard. Wolf is a fantastic locator of the ball and has one of the nastiest hooks in the league.
However, with that strike zone allowed last night, I gave the advantage back to Wolf right about the third inning.
Blanton is a guy that needs a big strike zone. He throws that nasty fast ball that gets right in there on right handed batters, and if he's not getting that pitch called as a strike, He can forget about it. Once the Dodgers knew they were getting that pitch, they started taking it and getting Blanton behind in counts. Which lead to their big innings in 4 and 5. Not getting that pitch made Blanton force a lot of pitches that were more than hittable. It would have been worse save some superior defense by the Phils (something that is usually taken for granted). It wasn't until the 4th inning that the Dodgers actually had back to back hits within 19 innings. That's a retarded stat in playoff baseball. A death sentence really.
I used to play poker with Wolf, and he is a very centered guy. Almost no ego. I figured the pitches that are normally strikes being called balls wouldn't effect him as much and that proved to be right. He settled in and pitched a very strong 3rd, 4th, and 5th inning. Blanton didn't. He made it through 6 but he was clearly frustrated trying to force pitches in that got him into trouble allowing the Dodgers to take advantage and take the lead.
Once through the middle innings and it being a one run game, all eyes went to the Phils bull pen. How many more would they allow? Turns out none, and it looked to provide a good opportunity for the Phils to at least tie this up and take it into extra innings.
However, Torre did something weird. He allowed Broxton to attempt a 4 out close. Broxton is a big dude. 280lbs or so, and he throws a friggin cannon ball. One pitch (on the third out in the 8th) reached 101mph and just shut down any attempt at a comeback in that inning. He was imposing.
But the issue with Broxton, throwing that hard, is that he can't stay out there long without expecting him to make mistakes. When I saw he was coming back for the 9th, I told my boy who was watching with me that we really had a huge shot to take this game. At least to tie it. He was going to get tired, and make a mistake. It was inevitable.
He gets the first out. Then Stairs comes to the plate. The only guy Broxton has given up a homerun too in like the last million years. It was a big one as well. Remember LAST years NLCS? What does he do? Walks him. Mistake one.
Then he hits Chooch. At this point you gotta figure that he is pitching around the players and is clearly worried about making a game defeating mistake. Why isn't Torre making a switch at this moment?
Torre came to the mound and talked him down, and he managed to get Gregg Dobbs, who pinch hitted in the 9th slot to weakly pop out to 3rd when the inside of his bat pushed the ball in that direction.
Up comes Jimmy Rollins. Jimmy struggled coming into the playoffs and hadn't really done much to change that. He is a solid hitter but hasn't performed the way we would have liked him, or expected him to. But Rollins is also a gamer. He's a spot light guy.
Broxton threw the first two pitches, each exceeding 98mph. The first one was down and inside and Rollings swung and missed. The second was a ball. So here we are Broxton. 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. 2 on, and your team holds a 1 run lead. The count is 1-1.
At this point, which pitch do you think you need to throw? Every pound of the billions in tension right now should be falling on the hitter. The pitcher almost has it easy. You throw the best pitches to the best spots. If the guy hits it, then fine. He did his job. But you don't offer up a meatball the way he did.
Obv, the third pitch Rollins took it to the gap in right center quickly, and scored the two runners giving them the win. It was such a smash that just got out super quick.
I know Broxton throws 100mph, but there isn't a major league hitter who can't hit a fast ball. Throw it 119 mph. If you put it where Broxton put it, 90% of all major leaguers are going to crush it, assuming their timing is down.
Broxton managed to put that pitch in the spot where you just can't. Rollins took advantage and now we have a 3-1 lead coming into Wednesday with Hamels pitching.
Really, what Broxton did is unforgivable. You are a professional. You gave a very good hitter, a gift. And he took it.
It's not as easy as it was last year for the Phils. On top of the pressure of winning the NLCS and trying to get to the World Series, they have the added pressure of doing it AGAIN. That's huge. They have the same weapons they had last year with a little help, but clearly some of those weapons aren't as potent as they were last year. Hamels was a lock last year. So was Lidge. Hell, so was Madsen. They don't have that luxury this year. Yet they still get it done.
Wednesday will be a fun game. I will expect that Hamels will be in rare form and pitch a gem. He will have help from the Dodger lineup as I don't think they will have their heart in it. They were blown out 11-0 and then gave up the best opportunity they had by Broxton pitching a cantelope to Rollins and losing a heart breaker. I obviously don't expect them to lay down, but I will guess that the Phils will put up another 10 runs WITH Hamels going very deep.
I'll have my thoughts on that game after its conclusion and a World Series Preview once the Yanks finish off the Angels. At least I hope they do, because the Angels scare me more than the Yankees. Plus I don't want to upset Summers! Maybe I'll throw in some met bashing as well just to stir it up a little :)