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NLCS Game 4 Recap: Phillies give game away to Giants as extinction looms


San Fransisco Giants logo: http://refrigeratorlogic.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/san_francisco_giants_logo_2000.png


Philadelphia Phillies logo: http://www.wondergy.com/art/logos/phillies_logo.gif








This one was so winnable.

This was the game that was going to turn the series around for the Phillies.

And they let it slip away.

To unfortunately quote Terry Murray again, the Phillies are officially in a "Choking Situation."

There were so many twists and turns in this game I am literally sick and dizzy. It had everything, but there is no way the game should have gotten as close as it did.  Right now, the Phillies are like Superman in Superman III: Really not themselves by any means. What in the world has happened to the two-time National League Champions? To quote Bluto in Animal House, "Where's the spirit? Where's the guts!?"

We're going to break down this wretched 6-5 loss. Forget the good and the bad nonsense.Drunk Superman. Photo: http://www.supermanhomepage.com/images/chris-reeve-movies4/Superevil_002.jpg It it ALL bad. The Phillies are one loss from being sent home as they now trail the Giants 3-1 in the NLCS. Fasten your seat belts. We're breaking down the players,coaches, and umpires.

Charlie Manuel- If "Uncle Charlie" is going to be praised for the good things he's done with this team, it's fair to second guess him when things aren't so good. For the second time in two years, Manuel has started Joe Blanton in a pivotal Game 4. Both games have ended in losses, and have put the Phillies on the brink of elimination.

Did Cliff Lee want the ball last year against the Yankees? Who knows? Did Roy Halladay  want or ask for the ball Wednesday instead of breaking from his routine? Who knows? One thing is for sure: this is a question that will be debated for decades to come. It's almost 20 years later, and we're still wondering why Jim Fregosi took Roger Mason out of Game 6 in Toronto.

The Phillies manage a few runs for what seems the first time in the playoffs, they tied this game 5-5 in the top of the 8th and the momentum was CLEARLY going their way.So why in the world is the bunt not on when Jimmy Rollins gets to the plate? Rollins did NOTHING whatsoever to try and advance Jayson Werth, who tied the game with an RBI double. To be honest, THIS was the final straw. The Phillies had the momentum, and let it slip away. Again.

Carlos Ruiz- Usually their most dependable post season hitter, Ruiz looks absolutely lost at the plate. He hesitated on Shane Victorino's single in the top of the fifth and was nailed at home plate by former Phillie Aaron Rowand, who practically doesn't even play anymore. This was a big difference in the game. I guess Sam Perlozzo figured the Phillies aren't scoring ANY runs so he took a gamble. That gamble may have cost the Phillies the series. Then in the 8th, we watched Ruiz have what was possibly THE worst at-bat of his career against Sergio Romo. You HAVE to have better plate discipline there. Ditto for Ben Fransisco. Disgusting.

Joe Blanton- Blanton hasn't pitched in three weeks. But as he did in last year's Game 4 of the World Series, Blanton failed to have that all-important "shutdown inning" against the Giants after the Phillies mounted a big inning moments before. Blanton started off the fifth inning walking Andres Torres- a .100 hitter in the NLCS, and a .151 hitter since the beginning of September. He didn't get help from Placido Polanco, who botched Edgar Renteria's potential double play grounder. Number four starter or not, you HAVE to make it out of the fifth inning. That eventually opened the floodgates for Chad Durbin in the sixth.

Shane Victorino- Right now, I don't think anyone would argue with me that Victorino has THE worst baseball instincts of any everyday player in Major League Baseball. You HAVE to take second base on Rowand's throw to home plate. The ESPN radio announcers were ripping him a new one- and they should. His bobble in the bottom of the fifth on Aubrey Huff's single plated Torres, and his throw just missed him by a hair. Two years ago (in Atlanta for example), Victorino makes that play.

Roy Oswalt- The only thing you can blame Oswalt for is pitching inside to Juan Uribe, who roped the game-winning sacrifice fly. Come to think of it, WHY was Roy Oswalt even in this game? Nonetheless, give Oswalt credit for taking the ball on two days rest. Reportedly, Oswalt told pitching Coach Rich Dubee that he wanted the ball to give the relievers a break. Manuel deflected the question on Dubee. Again, who knows? The second guessing is going to be off the map with this game. Either way, Oswalt in relief shows you how scared Manuel is of J.C. Romero and Kyle Kendrick. If Oswalt gets out of the inning, they would be comparing him to Orel Hershiser pitching in relief to tie the 1988 NLCS 2-2 against New York. Woulda, coulda, shoulda- the bottom line is that the Giants won.

Chase Utley- the only hitter hitting worse than Utley is Raul Ibanez. IS he hurt? He'll never tell. But Utley's two defensive gaffs and his .133 average are beyond disappointing.

Wally Bell- Bell's home plate performance Wednesday was the most horrific display of balls and strikes I think I have ever seen. To give Madison Bumgarner, a 21 year-old rookie the calls that they did is a disgrace to the game. I'm not a homer, I'd say that for any team who took part in that game. Absolutely disgusting.

And now some points about the Giants:

Pablo Sandoval, who hasn't has a multiple-RBI game since the end of August and has basically stunk up the joint all season, typically knocks in two runs of Chad Durbin. Like Blanton, I realize Durbin has had a layoff. However, if he's looking for that long-term deal from a big-league club in the Winter, he really didn't help his chances there. Those two runs ALSO proved to be the difference in the game.

Pat Burrell is only hitting .182 in the NLCS. So why in the world are Phillies pitchers pitching around him like he's Mickey Mantle? Don't they realize Cody Ross is on deck, and he has pretty much delivered EVERY TIME in the playoffs?! And how in the HELL does Burrell get to third base on Ross' double in the bottom of the sixth?!  Man oh man. How did we lose this game?

Bottom line:

How does the normally sure-handed Polanco botch Renteria's ground ball and give the Giants four outs? Why did Blanton throw two wild pitches tonight when he had just two wild pitches all season? Doesn't Uribe have a busted wrist? Why did Ben Fransisco mishandle Buster Posey's fly ball the ONE game Ibanez is benched?

Whether Ibanez could have caught that is debatable. However, I said it once and I'll say it again: teams in the playoffs that have that little "something extra" usually have all the bounces go their way, and the Giants are that team right now. I have scratched my head over and over at how they are beating the Phillies with this lineup. Next to the 1988 Dodgers, I can't think of a weaker all-around lineup on the brink of a World Series berth. And even the Dodgers had NL MVP Kirk Gibson for the regular season.

The Phillies shamefully gave the Giants this game tonight. Even when the Phillies score five runs, they STILL lose. For all those people saying "At least we have our big three for the next three games," I"ve got some news for you: "The Big Three" have all three of the Phillies' losses in the NLCS. The Giants are not at all intimidated by the Phillies. They are on a serious mission, and they were celebrating after Game 4 like they just won the pennant.

And Thursday, they just might. If the Phils lose tomorrow, they will have won and lost in every capacity of the MLB Playoffs in the last four years (lost NLDS, won NLDS, won World Series, lost World Series, won NLCS, lost in NLCS). Tim Lincecum is damn near unbeatable at AT&T Park, so the challenge will not get any easier.

It looks like if all goes well, Lee will be returning to the World Series with the Rangers. Halladay runs the possibility of losing two NLCS games and Oswalt has already lost one. Baseball is one funny game, isn't it?  Only problem is, it's not so funny when your team is on the losing side of things. Yeah man, H2O.......................

I truly thought that if the Phillies could hold on and win Game 4, the momentum would be in their favor and they would win the series. But truth be told, I'm kind of embarrassed for the Phillies right now. Watching these games reminds me of the 2005 and 2006 Phils teams who couldn't put teams away. I now know what it was like for Mets fans after 2007. I really hate to say this, but for the first time in three years, I don't have much faith the Phillies are going to come out of this one standing. If so, it will rank right up there with the Eagles' 2002 NFC Championship Game vs. Tampa Bay among the greatest upsets in Philly sports history.

A team so used to sending other teams home in heartbreaking fashion has become a victim of its own karma.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com