Posted by Kevin Durso
The Phillies' Game 3 win has them one win away from their 4th straight trip to the NLCS. (Courtesy of SI.com)
The Phillies were going to be in one place or the other after Game 3. A win in Game 3 yesterday put them on the cusp of returning to the NLCS for the fourth straight season. A loss would have put their backs to the wall. It's safe to say they ended up in the right place.
The Phillies are a team that likes to play in front. That's not to say if the roles were reversed that they couldn't win, but when they know the task at hand, and are asked to go get it, they usually don't disappoint.
The Cardinals battered the Phillies for 12 hits yesterday in Game 3. That's not as bad as it sounds. Eight of those hits were courtesy of two players. The other four were all off the bullpen. Albert Pujols has caught fire with a four-hit night yesterday, and Ryan Theriot has become a more-important out, especially if he comes up with runners on. Don't forget the guys who drove in runs yesterday – David Freese and Yadier Molina – and the other guys at the top, like Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, and Rafael Furcal.
With the Cardinals facing their season's end possibly tonight, expect Matt Holliday to be back in the lineup. He singled yesterday as a pinch-hitter in a clearly obvious move to bring him off the bench. Now, they may try to get him playing a full game.
The task of keeping the Cardinals' season alive falls to Edwin Jackson. The Phillies send Roy Oswalt to the mound with a chance to move on.
Here's a closer look at the pitching matchup and a prediction.
Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69 ERA)
Oswalt's last start came with two days left in the season, as he lasted six innings and blanked the Braves. He also faced the Cardinals in the Phillies' division-clinching win on Sept. 17, allowing no runs over seven innings. Since returning to regular action on Aug. 7, Oswalt has a record of just 5-4, but his shortest outing since then has been 5 2/3 innings, and all other starts in that time have last six innings or more. He has surpassed six innings pitched in seven of those starts. In 31 career games – 30 starts – against the Cardinals, Oswalt is 10-9 with a 3.19 ERA. In 12 Postseason games, 10 of them starts, Oswalt is 4-1 with a 3.39 ERA.
Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79 ERA)
Jackson was part of a three-team trade that brought him to the Cardinals at the deadline. Despite his season record of 12-9, he was 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA after joining the Cardinals. He pitched one shutout inning in a tuneup appearance just two days before the season ended, but made his last start against the Cubs ten days ago, allowing two runs over seven innings in taking a no-decision. In one start against the Phillies in his career, Jackson allowed five runs over five innings in a loss. In three Postseason relief appearances, including one in the 2008 World Series against the Phillies, Jackson has a 2.08 ERA with 4 1/3 innings pitched.
Phillies 5, Cardinals 3
In five years of watching this team, if you haven't figured out that each and every game is gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, and chock-full of pressure. That still doesn't mean that at the end of the day, the Phillies don't usually find a way. You could certainly echo that sentiment for both Games 1 and 3 of this series.
The Phillies are such a good team when they know the task at hand. More times than not, when the chance to move on is there, they jump on it in the very next game they play. Notice even the way the Phillies have exited the Postseason in three of their four years. In 2007, they were swept, with no taste of moving on. In 2009, they fell behind 3-1 in the Fall Classic, no room to think of the final win that elevates them to championship status. In 2010, again a 3-1 deficit, backs against the wall. Every other series has featured a win, and none of them have gone the distance. That doesn't mean that the Cardinals won't be the toughest team to play of all the Phillies playoff opponents past and present.
Still, the Phillies not only know what they have to do, they now get the pitcher Tony La Russa intended to use last. They beat La Russa's best move, saving Jaime Garcia for yesterday, and won. With the task right in front of them, and Roy Oswalt facing a very familiar foe, the series will end tonight, giving the Phillies a few days off before the next step begins.