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Phillies and Roy Oswalt can't close out NLDS as Cardinals force Game 5

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Philadelphia Phillies logo: http://www.wondergy.com/art/logos/phillies_logo.gifWith all due respect to Roy Oswalt, the pressure is on the Phillies.

With the exception of Game 1, the St. Louis Cardinals have outplayed the Phightins in every game, and they did again Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NLDS, forcing a decisive Game 5 Friday at Citizens Bank Park.


I did predict the Phillies would win this thing in five games. But personally, I thought they would be in much better shape than they are currently in. In addition to their bats being absolutely anemic, two of their four aces (Cliff Lee and Oswalt) have had rough outings at best. Either the Cardinals are really just a bad match up for them, or the Phillies don’t stand a chance against the Brewers or Diamondbacks if they are lucky enough to even survive this round.

So for the Phillies, 102 wins and the owner of baseball’s best record for the second consecutive year, could easily go home Friday with absolutely nothing to show for it. World Series or bust, the dream season, getting Cliff Lee to complete the piece of the puzzle- possibly all for nothing.

It’s going to be a long 48 hours. This won’t be pretty, but we’re going to break this down. We aren’t even going to recap what went right.

What went wrong: With the exception of the game’s first five pitches, everything. The Phillies couldn’t capitalize or hold a 2-0 lead against EdwinCardinals logo: www.sullybaseball.blogspot.com Jackson. The same Edwin Jackson who owns a lifetime record of 60-60. The same Edwin Jackson who once surrendered a home run to Joe Blanton.

The game really changed when Angel Hernandez, one of the worst umpires in the baseball, called a third strike on Ryan Howard that was three feet outside home plate, and then Hunter Pence got called out attempting to steal second base. Replays showed Pence had clearly stolen the bag. You could actually feel the momentum the Phillies had built up to that point get taken from under them like an M.L.Carr clothesline of Dr. J.

Yeah yeah, we all know that umpiring in Major League Baseball is a disgrace, but bad calls aside, the Phillies never recovered from this.

Roy Oswalt- You would have thought Oswalt would be in prime form to close out this series. He historically pitches well at Busch Stdium, threw great against the Redbirds several weeks ago when the Phillies clinched the NL East, and had never lost a post season game in which he started. In saying that, the Cardinals came into he game with a lifetime average of .307 off of Oswalt, and it showed. Letting David (Cody Ross) Freese  drive in four of the five Cardinals runs is just brutal.

Chase Utley- I know, Utley went 2 for 3. You know that saying that sometimes what you do doesn’t show up in the box score? Well that applied to Utley Wednesday night, who clearly pulled one the biggest gaffes of his major league career by getting thrown out at third base for the first out of the inning on a ground ball hit by Hunter Pence. For one of the smartest players in the game, this could come back to haunt the Phillies if they don’t pull out a win in Game 5.

Ryan Howard and basically the entire offense-  In his hometown of St. Louis, Ryan Howard has gone 0 for 8 with five strikeouts in major clutch situations. I feel like a broken record ragging on Howard, but it’s hard to ignore. To be fair, Raul Ibanez had an 0-4 night, you wouldn’t know Carlos Ruiz even played in this series if you didn’t see him behind the plate, and why Wilson Valdez hasn’t replaced Placido Polanco in the lineup is a mystery. With the possible exception of Jimmy Rollins, nobody is hitting on this team with regularity, and the fear of this offensive impotency has indeed become the living nightmare we all feared. The Cardinals are working every at-bat like it’s Game 7 of the World Series. I can’t tell you what the Phillies are trying to do.

Hard to believe, Harry.

Looking ahead:

Unlike a true championship caliber team, the Phillies failed to close the door on the Cardinals, who are looking more and more like a team of destiny when you factor in everything that has transpired. While the Cardinals are hungry, it feels like the Phillies are the ones who just snuck into the playoffs.  And if you think the Phillies are going to get the same Chris Carpenter  that they saw in Game 2, you’re sadly mistaken. He is fully rested, and if Roy Halladay  can’t shut down the Cardinals, the big, bad Phillies with 102 wins will be watching the NLCS from a television set just like the rest of us.  

And if you thought the backlash from the Eagles loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game was bad, you truly haven’t seen anything yet.

Man, the next 48 hours will not be enjoyable.

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Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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