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Phillies Advance to NLCS as Ryan Howard Sparks Historic Comeback

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What more can you say? Really? What more can you say about this team?

Just when you thought nothing could top the sheer emotion and excitement of the previous game, the Phillies once again showed that they have an uncanny ability of outdoing themselves in October. Their historic, dramatic, and almost improbable come from behind 5-4 victory over the Rockies to win the NLDS and advance to the NLCS for the second straight year does indeed surpass Game Three's mid-morning triumph. Come to think of it, this game (dare I say it) is neck and neck with last year's Game Four of the NLCS against the Dodgers (aka- the Matt Stairs game) and into the top ten of the greatest games in the history of the franchise. Just when you think this team doesn't have any life, it rescues itself from the jaws of death and emerges victorious. For now, we as fans must savor every moment of this ride. This truly is a special era in Phillies history that may never pass this way again. Let's break down the good, the bad, and who should be awarded the game ball for Game Four.

The Good:

-Cliff Lee seems to have found his groove, and it would have been an absolute crime if he was charged with the loss. Lee has thrown more innings in 2009 than he has ever thrown in a season, so let's hope he can keep it going for just a little while longer.

-Ryan Howard reportedly told his teammates prior to his big hit to just "get him to the plate" and he would do the rest. Howard, who hasn't found his home run stroke this postseason despite his high RBI total, backed it up with probably the biggest hit of his career. That's the stuff that champions are made of. We'll be talking about that line for years to come. If Howard is swinging the bat this well without homering, imagine what's going to happen when he heats up..........

-Let's not forget Jayson Werth, who also had the biggest hit of his career when he knocked in Howard with the go-ahead run.

-Everyone in the Delaware Valley has to feel great for Brad Lidge. If the baseball gods screwed this up for him, there truly is no justice. His newly developed cutter seems to have caught hitters off balance who are either expecting the slider or fastball. Is Lidge back? Who knows, but with the Phillies banged up bullpen, Charlie Manuel is using him no matter what.

 

The Bad:

I don't know what could have been more demoralizing. If the Phillies lost game three? Or if they would have lost tonight's game after keeping Colorado's offense in check for the better part of eight innings?

There were two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth inning, and the Phils offense collectively had less fight in it than Rocky against Clubber Lang in their first match-up. This game wouldn't have been lost when Ryan Madson served up a two run, two-out, eighth inning double to Yorvit Torrealba. The game would have been lost in the top of the third inning, when Raul Ibanez struck out on a pitch that landed two feet in front of the plate. Or better yet in the top of the eighth, when Pedro Feliz showed the most undisciplined approach to hitting in the history of a post season game I have ever seen by swinging at the first pitch and popping up to shortstop. When you have the bases loaded twice and can't score a run, it will come back and get you. And it almost cost the Phillies the game. Championship caliber teams do not pull that nonsense. Championship caliber teams get that run home. The Phillies can ill afford to do this against the Dodgers. They are one determined team, and have used what the Phils did to them last October as motivation all season long.

 

Game Ball- Scott Eyre

What more can you say about this guy? The Phillies most consistent (and for most of the season only) lefty in their deeply flawed bullpen is pitching with "particles" in his elbow and a rolled ankle which he suffered Sunday night. While his status was considered uncertain for Game Four, Eyre nonetheless retired Eric Young Jr. and Dexter Fowler for two of the three outs in the ninth, setting the stage for Lidge vs. Troy Tulowitzki: Part II. Eyre takes the ball whenever Manuel needs him. And as you know, lately that has been all the time. Let's hope he decides to stick around in 2010 and that the Phillies will bring him back. He is earning a spot on this roster with every pitch he throws.

In closing, I must say that as early as yesterday morning at 3:30 am, I was the one urging the Phillies to turn their caliber of play up a notch like the other three playoff teams who had already advanced to their respective League Championship Series.' After watching what I did tonight, I don't think anyone has to worry about the Philadelphia Phillies and their sense of urgency from this point on.

Let's hope that Cole Hamels has his head together if he starts Game One in Los Angeles Thursday night. Because collectively, the Phillies may be starting to get their swagger at the right time.

photo: www.boston.com