Tag Archives: Cardinals

The Pressure is on the Phillies in Game Five

A few months ago I posted about the “Beauty of a Game Seven.”  Most underdogs can either steal or over-achieve in two games which improve the quality of a seven-game series because it allows the best team to win. But, game fives don’t have the same magic.  The lesser of the teams CAN win a series because the margin of error is so small.  A team only needs three wins to advance to the next round instead of four. On paper, the difference is only one more win, but there are still two teams.  A 2-2 series compared to a 3-3 series is TWO more games which, in the scope of baseball (only sport with five-game series), is at least 18 more innings, one less chance to use the team’s Ace on full rest, and creates a “hot-team” complex that can be argued doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t have the same grueling drama or bravado that a seven game series has.  Game five is game seven’s little, more annoying brother who just wants to know, “Why can’t I go to movies with you?!” Which big brother would reply, “Because you’re just not old enough, now SCRAM!”  Game five is the reason that the pressure is on the Phillies to win on Friday.

The St. Louis Cardinals have stolen two games from the Phillies.  Two blown leads by the “Phightins” have given hope to a more inadequate pitching staff and an above-average lineup that didn’t come alive until September.  They also have Tony La Russa, the all-knowing baseball prophet, who decided to pitch Jaime Garcia, his second-best starter, in game three because of his home record and La Russa had confidence that they would split the first two games. (The worst part, that idiot was right) Playoff stud Cliff Lee pitched like the opposite of Playoff stud Cliff Lee and surrendered a four run lead in game two that tied the series at 1-1.   Regardless, the pitching for the Phillies has been solid.  Albert Pujols, his generation’s best hitter who is batting .412 in the series, only has 1 RBI and has been getting misleading base hits.  The bases are usually empty or the outfielders for the Phillies are able to get the ball in fast enough to stop any base runners from advancing.  But, the Phillies problem is guys like Ryan Theriot and David Freese who are batting .600 and have five RBIs in the series, respectively.  

The contrary can be said about the Phillies’ bats who still are susceptible to a team-wide slump can’t win scoring 3 runs a game, even with that pitching staff.  Ryan Howard is continuing his trend of disappearing in the playoffs and is batting a dismal .133 with six of his 15 outs being strikeouts. The rest of the offense has stalled to averaging three runs a game after putting up 11 in game one.  In game four, Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Shane Victorino went a combined 0-12 in a loss that sent it to game five. The offense only needs to come alive a little bit because, unlike the Cardinals, Phillies have their Ace of the Aces, Roy Halladay, going in game five.  Halladay, who in a conference said “I’m here to bury Caesar not to praise him,” is the video-game player you’d want for an elimination game.  There’s not much more I can say on it that doesn’t require actually watching the Machine pitch.  He’s so fierce and so competitive and his focus is so strong it’s like he took three Adderall with a 24 oz. can of Red Bull. The man could pass a polygraph test his demeanor is so calm.  If I was to use a cliché I’d say that, “he doesn’t have blood in his veins, but ice.”  At an early 2-1 favorite, Halladay will be the reason the Phillies advance.

But because it is a game five and “anything” can happen, I thought of the two cause and effects that can potentially happen after Friday’s game.

Cause: Roy Halladay does his thing, shuts down the Cardinals offense, and gets the and win

Effect: The Phillies won’t get much hype for pulling off a game five win because that’s not how the media looks at favorites.  The Phillies were SUPPOSED to win this series and all they did was keep within the hype. But, because it wasn’t a sweep, the questions John Buccigross will ask Chris Singleton are along the lines of “The Phillies waited until game five to put a lesser team away, is there cause for concern in Philly?”  The baseball pundits won’t agree and say that the Cardinals were a hot team and “people forget how much talent St. Louis really has.”  It’ll be followed by Halladay being recognized again as arguably the game’s most dominant pitcher with the Phillies players saying that they’re looking at it as just another win and are looking forward to the next series. 

The fans of Philly will be calm, but with shades of doubt.  The Brewers-Diamondbacks series has been display after display of offense as each team is averaging more than five runs a game.  They’ll set pitching matchups, seeing when Zack Greinke will pitch against Halladay or Lee. They’ll call Mike Missanelli nervously asking, “With how good the bats from the Milwaukee/Arizona are looking and our offense doesn’t look like it can compete?” To which Mikey Miss will reply, “In the playoffs good pitching beats good hitting. I don’t see how anyone could doubt the Phillies with that pitching staff. They’re the best team in the National League.”

Cause: The Phillies offense stagnates and the Cardinals do just enough to win

Effect: Turmoil in the streets of South Philadelphia. The end of Philly as a city will commence.  Car pileups, fires, looting, riots, destruction of the streets, and chaos infect one of the oldest cities in America (yes, you can argue that this happened in 2008 when the Phillies win the World Series).  Mayor Nutter has taken refuge in city hall as the citizens of Philly demand for his head because no one can grasp what happened.  Signs littered throughout the city would read “Missing Person: Ruben Amaro Jr.”

Although the above was said tongue-and-cheek, it’s not that far from the truth.  ESPN will brutalize the Phillies as badly as the Eagles.  With Cliff Lee picking Philadelphia for less money and creating arguably the best starting rotation in the history of baseball, anything short of making the World Series is a bust.  The Phillies already used their “get-out-free” card with a loss in the 2010 NLCS to the inferior San Francisco Giants.  ESPN would blast headlines like “What a Mis-steak!” or “Four Aces Can’t Beat St. Louis’ Straight Flush” (those are actually pretty good) and the 2011 Phillies would be considered one of the most blown seasons ever; especially since they lost a team who needed 18 wins just to MAKE the playoffs. (Regardless if the Cardinals are considered the “hot team” there’s no such thing baseball.  Yes, they’re “hot” at the end of the regular season, but the playoffs are a different monster.)  Don’t be surprised if they do a timeline of all the signings the Phillies and Eagles made throughout the past year while the national sports fan begins to look at Philly as a Choke City.

I really hope for the former.