Previous month:
September 2011
Next month:
November 2011

Ruptured Achilles Will Keep Ryan Howard out of Phillies Lineup Until "At Least May or June". Now What?

Posted by Frank Klose

Howard_Inury

According to Howard Eskin, Ryan Howard has indeed torn his achillies and will be out until at least May or June.

So, what can the Phillies do until then?

1) Play John Mayberry Jr. at first base and pick up another outfielder.

John Mayberry mostly played first base in college.  However, given his athleticism he was mostly used professionally as an outfielder.  With uncertainty surrounding Domonic Brown, Mayberry was the fall-back plan for next season.   So, if Mayberry plays first base, they may need a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Lower-cost free agents that fit the bill include Conor Jackson and 2010 NLCS hero Cody Ross.

2) See if Cody Overbeck or Matt Rizzotti show something in Spring Training.

Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck have both put up pretty impressive numbers in the minor leagues.  Rizzotti is a first baseman, for lack of a a better position (though DH would be much better), and Overbeck is a third-baseman who ended up trying some outfield before settling in at first base.  Rizzotti is left-handed and Overbeck is right-handed.  This coul be an opportunity for one of them to step in, much like Howard himself did in 2005 thanks to a Jim Thome injury.

3) Pick up a first baseman.

There are not many exciting options out there in free agency, given that whoever they sign would need to yield the position back to Howard upon his return.   Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, and former Phillie Russell Branyan may be the cheaper options out there.  Lee probaby could still get a starting job elsewhere in hopes of a trade to a contender.  Lee replaced Overbay in Pittsburgh after Overbay was not good enough there.  I personally would rather have a more athletic or versatile player than signing one of these free agent options.

4) Play Chase Utley at first base, play Placido Polanco at second base.

Polanco being uncertain himself, and with Jimmy Rollins' status well up in the air, perhaps the Phillies could look to solve the third base position long-term.  Should they do so, Polanco would end up in a utility player position, perhaps being more productive not playing every day.  Should the Phillies acquire a new third baseman, Polanco could slide to second base with Chase Utley playing first base as he did in 2003 and 2004 under Larry Bowa whenever Thome was out, or to get his bat into the lineup occasionally.

One thing is clear: Howard's value (or lack thereof) should become very apparent this season.  "I can't believe this is the first of a new five-year contract" arguments abound; let's see what the team does without him.


Philliedelphia's Favorite and Least Favorite Moments from the 2011 Season

It is too early for a 2011 season reflection after the Phillies were knocked out by the Redbirds. Even if the outcome was not the way we thought it would be, there are plenty of memories from this past season from the good to the bad. 

Posted by Christina Angelos

#6 Phillies Pitchers Hitting

You know before the Phillies season started, the Phillies aces had a bet on who will have the best hitting season... well here are a lot of firsts for the aces with the bat: Cole Hamels triple (first career). Cliff Lee smashes 2 homeruns (first and second career, a month apart). Roy Halladay bases clearing double (first career extra base hit). Who do you think had the best hitting season?

 

#5 Opening Day Shocker

Pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. lined an RBI single off closer Brandon Lyon that capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Houston Astros 5-4. He was the hero sending Phillies fans home with a smile.

 

#4 Juan Perez Strikes Out the Side; Raul Sends Phillies in the "W" Column

So what if he was released, he did give us one very good outing. Perez came on to start the 10th and struck out Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Wilkin Ramirez, inducing five called strikes and four swinging strikes ON NINE PITCHES! Perez earned his first Major League win after Raul Ibanez crushed a ball to rightfield! He became the first Phillies pitcher to strike out the side on nine pitches since Andy Ashby on June 15, 1991. Pretty cool history to see.. probably won't see that again.

 

#3 Wilson Valdez Fields and Pitches on the Same Night

Pretty exciting night after both teams each added a homerun in the 10th inning... but it was only going to get funner without a real pitcher. Of course, Ruiz goes to 3rd and then the fielder Wilson Valdez turns into a pitcher. Wohoo! Let's Go 19 innings!! Phillies RP Wilson Valdez retired the Reds heart of the order even if he hit Scott Rolen. Phillies walked off in the bottom of the 19th inning with a sac fly by Raul Ibanez.

 


#2 Welcome to the Show, Vanimal

Vance Worley emerges as the Phillies' unlikely pitching hero after the injuries to Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt. However, the night was young when Vance Worley threw his first complete game against the defending World Series Champions SF Giants with the help of four homeruns including a Chase Utley inside-the-park homerun. 

 

#1 Clinching the NL x2; Winning 102 Games

Of course the Phillies will clinch the NL East 5 year straight--It's been an unbelievable run, however, winning 102 games in one season and breaking the old record.  As you may know, the Phillies franchise have only reach the 100 win marks twice before the 2011 season. It is truly hard to do, but Hunter Pence gave the Phillies 4-3 win over the Braves for win #102 as the Phillies swept the Braves.

 

Personally, I do not think I would have thought the Phillies would be on this kind of run.  This is truly the greatest season even without a the parade, I believe. You may not ever see a team with 100+ wins for a long time. I have seen it all.

~~~

My least favorite moment of the season: are all the injuries during the WHOLE season including the one that just happened on the final out of the Phillies season. 

From Chase Utley being out with health issues from the start of Spring Training when most people saying it could be career ending injury. What about Dominic Brown? He did not get a base hit until the day he hurt hamate bone. He was sent to the DL. There are no words what the fans have put him through.  I guess Lidge belongs in this list.  On a night, where Oswalt had a shaky outing—many believe something may be wrong. It turned out; it was family and tornado outbreak. Is he ready to retire? Maybe not, but he was sent to the DL twice. What about Shane Victorino?  What about Jose Contreras? There are plenty of minor injuries throughout the season, but it’s not comparable to what happened on the final day of the Phillies season. Ryan Howard, our last hope to advance had grounded out for the final out; however, he did not know what happened because he collapsed as he was getting out of the batter’s box. Looks like we already have our first 2012 DL victim, could be 6 months or a full season before we see him back. 


Phillies' Ryan Howard's At-Bat Music: "All I Care About is Money and the City That I'm From"

Posted by Frank Klose

Howard_Inury

What an awful loss, and what an awful injury to Ryan Howard.  An achilles tear could knock Howard out for much of the 2012 season.

At last night's game, Ryan Howard stepped to the plate in the 7th inning (the infamous 3-0 swing at-bat).   His choice of music of "I'm On One" by D.J. Khaled was unbelieveable and incredibly ironic.:

All I care about is money and the city that I’m from
I’ma sip until I feel it, I’ma smoke it till it’s done
And I don’t really give a fu--, and my excuse is that I’m young
And I’m only getting older so somebody should've told you

Wow.

1) "All I care about is money" - his $125 million contract extension that begins next year is a sore topic with many Phillies fans

2) "And the city that I'm from" - Ryan Howard hails from St. Louis, home of the opponent the St. Louis Cardinals

3) "I don't give a f--- my excuse is that I'm young" - Phillies fans constantly bemoan the Phillies' age.

4) "I'm only getting older so someone should have told you" - ouch.

I could not believe what I was hearing as the song was played.  Howard has alternated "I'm on One" with "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West.   This was played at what may have been his most crucial at-bat.

Speaking of Ryan Howard, coming up I will look at the prospect of a Howard-less lineup next year, and see what life would be like without him.

Check out the song here:

 


Philliedelphia's Favorite and Least Favorite Moments from the 2011 Season

It feels too early to be reflecting on the 2011 season, but after the Phillies were knocked out of the playoffs by the Cardinals, we all need something to smile about. Philliedelphia writers have composed their favorite moments of the season, as well as their least favorite moment.

Danielle Wilson

#5- Cole Hamels' triple off the wall in right field. 

Did anyone see this coming? Absolutely not. We knew Cole could hit, but we didn't know he could hit and run. This ball was pretty damn close from leaving the park, too.

 

#4- Chase Utley's first at bat of the season.

Despite going 0-5 that night, Chase Utley was back from his knee injury, and the fans couldn't have been more excited. Hearing "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin for the first time all season gave me chills.

 

#3- Wilson Valdez plunking Scott Rolen with a fastball.

Wilson's entire pitching performance was nothing short of amazing. The simple fact that he was pitching blew my mind. He did a fantastic job sending the Reds down- including Joey Votto. The cherry on top to his performance was nailing Scott Rolen, a former Phillie, with a 75 MPH breaking ball. He won the city over with that.

 

#2- Cliff Lee's home runs.

The man can hit. His first home run of the season came on July 9th, and sent Phillies fans on their feet, cheering so loud that the Mets fans could hear them 90 miles north. It was his first career home run. The second came exactly one month later, and was just as exciting. He does it all.

 

#1- National League East Champions.

Come on, you knew it was going to happen from the moment that pitcher's and catcher's reported to spring training in Clearwater. It was such a great night in Philadelphia, and it was great seeing everyone celebrate with champagne showers, especially Hunter Pence, who might have enjoyed himself too much. Five straight years, who could have guessed that back in 2006?

Pence
Image courtesy of SI.com

Least favorite moment of the season

Roy Oswalt left the team while they were visiting the Diamondbacks in Arizona, after hearing the news of devestating tornadoes in his home town of Weir, Mississippi. That night, he threw three shaky innings. Understandable, given the mental condition that he was in. After telling reporters that he did not know when he would be back, my heart was feeling a bit sore. I was scared for him, and scared for the Oswalt family. Thankfully, everyone was safe and sound. However, while using heavy machinery to help clean up the neighborhood, Roy had injured his back, which sent him to the disabled list. It took quite a while for him to regain velocity in his fastball, but by the end of the season, Roy was looking like his old self.

 


Phillies Eliminated From Playoffs After 1-0 Loss To Cardinals

Posted by Danielle Wilson

A winner-take-all game, something that I, as a Phillies fan, have never experienced. This Phillies team have never experienced it, either. The last series-deciding game that the Phillies played was back in 1981, an NLDS game against the Montreal Expos. They lost that game, and they lost tonight's game too, in the most upsetting way you could ever think of: a shutout.

They had everything going for them: Roy Halladay on the mound, the same lineup posted all throughout this series, and home field advantage in front of 46,000+ screaming fans.

A 33-pitch first inning was not an ideal start for Roy Halladay. Rafael Furcal took a fast ball to deep right field for a lead off triple. The next batter, Skip Schumaker, doubled to score Furcal, putting the Cardinals up 1-0. Roy Halladay shut down the rest of the order, but it was no help that the Cards fouled off almost half of the pitches that Roy tossed.

Chris Carpenter needed 11 pitches to get through Rollins, Utley, and Pence in the first inning. Not exactly what Phillies fans had in mind considering Carpenter's last start against the Phils.

Halladay seemed to have locked into this game by the second inning, shutting down the Cardinals in order with just nine pitches. That's more like it.  Shane Victorino doubled in the second inning with one out, his first extra base hit in five games. However, no one would be able to send him home.

Doc struck out Albert Pujols to end another scoreless inning. Up to 52 pitches. Following a scoreless third from Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay allowed a single to Yadier Molina, but struck out David Freese to end the inning. 68 pitches.

Chase Utley was hit on the knee to lead of the fourth. He later broke up a potential double play, and Hunter Pence was safe at first. Victorino singled, sending Pence to third. Raul Ibanez then hit a towering fly ball, just inches away from a home run, but it was caught by Lance Berkman.

Halladay tossed a quick fifth inning, getting Chris Carpenter to ground into a double play after Nick Punto singled. The bottom of the fifth consisted of the Phillies 7-8-9 hitters in the lineup. It doesn't matter if Halladay hits or not, he does what he needs to do on the mound. Polanco and Ruiz, however, have been atrocious in this series, going a combined 3-34.

Roy Halladay was dealing, shutting down the Cardinals again in the sixth inning. The Phillies had only managed two hits against Carpenter, and really, really needed to come up big and score a couple of runs. The Cardinals were only leading by one run, and held that through another scoreless inning from Carpenter in the sixth.

At 89 pitches, Roy Halladay went out for the top of the seventh, and retired the side, striking out Molina and Nick Punto. After that, Cliff Lee began warming up in the bullpen.

A quick 1-2-3 inning from Carpenter was both disappointing, and not surprising in the least bit. Cliff Lee would not come into the game,  rather, Roy Halladay would start the eighth inning at 105 pitches. Chris Carpenter slapped a single up the middle to lead off the inning, followed by a fielder's choice, leaving every safe after Furcal made it to first. Halladay intentionally walked Albert Pujols, loading the bases for Berkman, who struck out on pitch number 121. Matt Holliday flew out to Ibanez to end the inning, stranding the bases loaded.

That would be all from Roy Halladay. His line: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB. 7 K. Simply incredible.

The "dark hole" of the lineup was due up in the eighth for the Phillies- Polanco and Ruiz. Again, nothing. Ross Gload came in to pinch hit for Roy Halladay and beat the throw to first after a strikeout. With two outs, Jimmy Rollins lined out in what could have been his last at bat as a Philadelphia Phillie.

Ryan Madson came in for the ninth inning, and shut down the Cardinals in order. One last shot for the Phillies. Here we go.

Zilch. That's what came from Utley's, Pence's, and Howard's bats in the bottom of the ninth. Just like last season, the season ended with Howard as the third out. I can't put into words how painful that is. Even worse, Howard went down while jogging to first after grounding out. Turned his ankle.

This is the end, Phillies fans. There's nothing left after tonight. This postseason was just one big punch in the stomach, to say the least. It's too early in October to be saying this, but, see you next season.


NLDS Game 5 Preview: May the best team win

Posted by Kevin Durso

  Charlie Manuel #41 Of The Philadelphia Phillies Looks

The Phillies are looking to advance to their fourth straight NLCS with a Game 5 win. (Courtesy of Yahoo.com)

The St. Louis Cardinals are in familiar territory. One game will once again make or break their season. They managed to win that one game before. They are perfectly capable of doing it again.

The Phillies are one win away from a fourth straight trip to the NLCS. But the team that has rarely been tested this season with a must-win situation is facing one now. For the best regular-season team in the Phillies' franchise history, this fifth game of the Postseason is win or go home.

There's no reason to cover the lineups anymore. You know what you're going to see by now. The Cardinals will send Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and the rest of the Redbirds against Roy Halladay. The Phillies will send Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and the rest of the Fightins' out against Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter and Halladay have a history together, both being teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays way back when. Both have appeared in the playoffs with other teams since leaving Toronto. Carpenter has the one thing that may drive Halladay tonight, a ring. Either way, these two are their teams' respected aces, so this will be a showdown on the mound. There can only be one ace of the diamond, and one team can move on. May the best team win.

Here's a closer look at the pitching matchup and a prediction.

Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA; 1-0, 3.38 ERA)
Halladay pitched the Phillies to a Game 1 win last Saturday. After allowing a three-run home run to Lance Berkman, and three hits and a walk in the game's first seven batters, Halladay retired the last 21 Cardinals he faced, finishing with eight innings pitched and eight strikeouts.

Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45 ERA; 0-0, 12.00 ERA)
Carpenter pitched in Game 2, a game the Cardinals rallied to claim. Carpenter struggled in three innings of work, allowing four runs on five hits, walking three and striking out two. He was making his first start on short rest in his career. He will be on normal rest for this start.

Prediction:
Phillies 2, Cardinals 1

This is going to be one of the finest pitching matchups you will see in quite some time. Both pitchers are perfectly capable of allowing their fair share of runs, but that is usually a rare occurrence. Look for some excellent pitching, and few offensive chances in this one.

Both pitchers have different stories. While Carpenter can be scored off at any time, the time to take advantage would be early in the game. The same goes for Halladay, who seems to lock himself in once he settles into his third inning of work or so. If anything, both pitchers could enter the late innings with plenty left in the tank and no runs on the board. It could even be decided by the bullpens.

If the Phillies or Cardinals are to move on, they will have to do it together. Having your ace on the mound is nice, but somebody has to get an offense going. Chances are the offense that strikes first will be the one celebrating at the end of the night.

These teams are so evenly matched, and both well on their way to success this October. For one of those teams, the journey ends tonight. For the team that moves on, something will be proven. The team that wins should have all the momentum in the world, and all the faith that they can get to the biggest stage in baseball. Whatever happens, this will be a classic game. The Phillies get the edge in my pick, solely for the fact that many wouldn't disagree in calling Roy Halladay the best pitcher in baseball.

Once again, may the best team win.


Bruins Hang a Banner, Flyers Win a Hockey Game

On Thursday night, the Flyers returned to the site where their Stanley Cup dreams ended last season.

This time, the Flyers had a new goalie, several new players, and a desire for revenge.

The result was a 2-1 victory on a night the Boston Bruins raised their 2011 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.

After Brad Marchand scored the first goal of the NHL season, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each scored for Philly within a 42-second span late in the first period.

Ilya Bryzgalov, fresh from his $51 million, nine-year deal, made quite the impression in his first regular-season start for Philly, saving 22 of 23 shots on net. Chris Pronger led all Flyers in ice time with 24:34 while providing the secondary assist on Giroux's goal.

And Jaromir Jagr's return from a three-year Russian exile resulted in his 1,600th NHL point.

The game didn't start out strong for the Flyers as the Bruins provided the early offensive onslaught and the game's first goal.

With Zac Rinaldo in the box for holding the stick, the defending champions took advantage. Tyler Seguin completed a pass from blue line-to-blue line landing on the stick of Marchand, who weaseled his way past the defense for a breakaway. Going to his backhand, the hulking forward slid the puck past Bryzgalov for a 1-0 lead at 9:42.

The Bruins dictated play for a few more minutes before the Flyers started pushing back. That surge from Philly resulted in Matt Read being slashed by Nathan Horton in Tim Thomas' crease with just under two minutes left in the opening period.

With the man advantage, Jagr used his still-sharp puck-handling skills to send Giroux up the middle.  He broke into the Bruins' zone kicking the puck to his stick and deked Thomas for an easy score -- the Flyers' first goal of the new season.

Forty-seven seconds later, and with under three seconds left in the first period, Voracek registered his first goal as a Flyer. Completing a spin-o-rama with the puck, Voracek managed to put his shot between Thomas's legs to give the Flyers a 2-1 lead heading to intermission.

Bryzgalov recorded his first big save of the season midway through the second period. As Marchand stormed to the top of Bryzgalov's crease, he received a pass from David Krejci. Going against the grain, Marchand took a shot on net with Bryzgalov sliding away from the play. Despite his momentum moving him right, Bryzgalov was able to glove the shot with a flourish and keep the score 2-1.

The rest of the second period was pretty eventless despite two Flyers penalties in the last five minutes. Although the Bruins had three minutes and eighteen seconds on the power play, the Flyers out shot Boston 2-0 to close out the middle stanza. To open the third period, the Bruins had 41 seconds left on Wayne Simmonds' holding penalty.

With the Bruins applying severe pressure on multiple power plays during the third period, Kimmo Timonen provided the save of the game.

Simmonds was sitting in the box again, this time for hooking, and Horton found himself with a wide-open net on a rebound attempt while Bryzgalov was out of position. Coming across the crease to protect the wide open net, Timonen was able to block the puck with his stick and move it away from the net.

The Bruins had another favorable chance later in the power play when Seguin whiffed on a chance at the side of the net with Bryzgalov on his butt and out of position.

Near the end of the game, the Bruins kept fighting and fighting in hopes that one more shot would find it's way past Bryzgalov. Unfortunately, it never happened as the Flyers held on to start off their third straight season on the right foot.

Many of the new faces made a difference in tonight's game. Voracek had a goal,  Jagr (who also drew a penalty late in the game) and Simmonds had an assist, and Max Talbot looked strong on the penalty kill while leading the team with high four hits. Read drew the penalty that led to Giroux's goal and Sean Couturier formed a strong penalty-killing duo with Talbot.

The team, as a whole, came out pretty sluggish and unmotivated to start the game -- but that can be chalked up to the adrenaline rush the Bruins felt from their pregame ceremony.  However, late in the first period, Peter Laviolette's boys started looking strong and resembled a team that could find its way to the playoffs.

Bryzgalov had a strong night despite a shot that fooled him in the middle of the third period. As a shot leaked through a standing Bryzgalov, the puck landed in the crease and towards the net with Horton on the verge of putting it home. However, Bryzgalov covered and kept the score the same. The team seemed to play confident in front of both him and Pronger tonight.

The Flyers look to start the season 2-0-0 for the first time since 2009-2010 when they travel to New Jersey and play the Devils at The Rock on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

Notes: The Flyers have now won three straight season-openers (all on the road)...The Flyers snapped a five-game losing streak in Boston with their win tonight -- the win also snaps a six-game losing streak to the Bruins overall...Jagr's assist was also his 90th career point against the Bruins...Marchand now has three goals in seven regular season games against the Flyers...The Flyers out- shot the Bruins 25-12 in the first two periods of the game (13-6 in the 1st, 12-6 in the 2nd). The Flyers blocked 17 shots while the Bruins blocked only nine...Chris Pronger had 5 blocked shots alone.


Phillies' bats still Freese-ing cold as Cardinals force Game 5

Posted by Kevin Durso

Philadelphia Phillies players watch from the dugout during the ninth inning in Game 4 of baseball's National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 5-3. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Phillies and Cardinals will now play a decisive Game 5 on Friday. (Courtesy of SI.com)

The Phillies are usually so reliable when having a simple task at hand. Winning in the Postseason is not simple, but when the opportunity presents itself, the Phillies rarely give in to the pressure, and run away from the competition to the next round. Tonight, a hot start was thwarted by the Cardinals, forcing the must gut-wrenching of all games Friday night.

The Phillies jumped out on a hot start. Jimmy Rollins led off with a double. Chase Utley tripled him home. Hunter Pence singled him home. And five pitches into the game, this looked like a runaway.

Not long ago, the Phillies scored three first-inning runs off Chris Carpenter to pull ahead in Game 2. Slowly but surely, that lead disappeared.

The Phillies were out of the first inning it appeared, but a missed play and error by Shane Victorino turned Lance Berkman's routine fly ball into a double and scored a run.

In the fourth, with a threat on, David Freese doubled home a pair to give the Cardinals the lead.

In the sixth, with the Phillies getting closer to forcing the Cardinals' bullpen to hold down a one-run lead, Freese added fireworks to the mix, belting a two-run shot.

The Phillies got one of those runs back on a wild pitch, but everything went the Cardinals' way otherwise.

After those first three hits in the first, the Phillies managed just four the rest of the way, and the Cardinals forced a decisive Game 5 on Friday in Philadelphia with a 5-3 win.

For one, my predicitions are scaring me. I call for a 3-2 Cardinals' win in Game 3, and the Phillies win by that score. I call for a 5-3 Phillies' win tonight, and the roles are reversed. In Games 2 and 4, the Cardinals have found a way to make the Phillies look silly, and frankly, scoring early, which is usually a good thing, might as well be a bad thing.

St. Louis got their chance to be here from the Phillies. Now they're making the Phillies pay for giving them a chance. There will be baseball on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. The best team will truly come out on top. Forget the NLCS opponent. The winner of this game might as well punch their ticket to the World Series. You can guarantee it.

The Phillies' pitching was supposed to get them to the next level. Two pitchers have fired gems. Two have allowed five runs in their game. If Roy Halladay is anything less than his usual self, the Phillies' season might be over. Realistically, the fear here is not that the Phillies could lose. Anything is possible in the Postseason, especially to a team that featured several Postseason vets. What's scary is that the Phillies' season will be on the line on Friday, just five games into the Postseason. The team that was supposed to automatically play until late October could be gone before the first week of October is over. Honestly, that's baseball, but the Phillies will most definitely remember the chances that got away. They will remember how they relied too much on pitching, and when it failed, didn't back it up with hitting. All that's left now is to hold your breath, because two aces are going in Game 5, and whatever happens...happens.

Game 5 will be on Friday at 8:37. Roy Halladay takes the mound against Chris Carpenter for a trip to the NLCS.


NLDS Game 4 Preview: With chance to clinch, little Roy takes mound

Posted by Kevin Durso

Philadelphia Phillies, including Chase Utley, John Mayberry, center, and Ryan Howard, right, celebrate after their 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of baseball's National League division series, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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.

Prediction:
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.


Questions Entering The 2011-2012 NHL Season

What can one expect from the Philadephia Flyers this season?

Trading away the captain and an elite goal-scorer for one of the league's best goalies and young talent is a bold move, and we will find out soon enough whether or not Paul Holmgren's tumultuous offseason will pay off for the Flyers and their fans.

You, me, and every other Flyers' fan on the planet has no idea what's going to happen with the newest batch of warriors just yet, but is the mystery surrounding the Flyers the biggest question in relation to the upcoming NHL season? Here are some more topics to think about as the puck gets ready to drop on the league's 94th course.

Will Crosby Ever Be The Same?

He missed 48 games last season (41 regular-season and seven playoff) due to a high hit from former Cap David Steckel in the Winter Classic compounded by a Victor Hedman check four days later.

Nine months wasn't enough time for Crosby to fully recover from the hit in January. He said he wouldn't play in the first week of the season, and that was backed up when the Pens placed him on injured reserve. Concussions affect every player from every sport differently, but taking three-quarters of a calendar year to recover from one concussion is a pretty serious matter.

One has to think he tries to comeback from this injury just purely on how important of a commodity and personality he is to the success of the NHL, but what if he's rushed to comeback before he's 100 percent? In his first game back, if he takes an elbow to the head or has his face smashed up against the glass, is that the end of his career?

Can The Devils Become Cup Contenders?

With the dual losses of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to the St. Louis Blues and the affects of Marty Brodeur's age becoming evident, at first glance the obvious answer is no. However, the Devils did turn it on near the end of the season -- making a push for the playoffs after sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for most of the year.

Going 28-10-3 in their last 41 games, the Devils could use the remnants of last season's late momentum in a similar fashion to how the Flyers carried Big Mo from the 2010 playoffs to the start of the 2010-2011 regular season. Not to mention the fact Ilya Kovalchuk is now settling down and the team couldn't possibly be plagued again with as many injuries to start the year.

How Will Ville Leino Perform in Buffalo?

Leino was a big part of the Flyers 2010 Cup run and helped our club maintain the top spot in the Eastern Conference for most of the 2010-2011 regular season, but he had a lot of help in the process.

One could argue a lot of Leino's success was due to the fact he was on a line with puck mover Danny Briere and body-mover Scott Hartnell. Most players could post a 50-point season playing on that line. It's true the Sabres ranked in the top 10 in goals-per-game last year and that Austrian sniper Thomas Vanek had over 70 points, but these aren't stats that help Leino's case.

The Flyers placed third in the league in GPG and Vanek plays the same position as Leino. The trio of Jason Pominville/Derek Roy/ Leino could be a forceful combo for the Sabres, if they choose to use it, but will any line the Sabres form with Leino be as effective as the LBH line?

Will The Capitals Do Something to Get Over the Playoff Hump?

The Washington Capitals have won the Southeast Division each of the last four years, but have advanced to the conference semifinals only twice.

Losing to the Flyers in seven games back in the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and then losing to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the 2010 quarterfinals, the Caps have only frustrated their fans in the postseason after dominating during the regular season. The only team they've beaten in the playoffs over the last four years is the New York Rangers. Granted they've done it twice, it took the second-seeded Capitals seven games to edge  the Rangers in the quarterfinals back in 2009 -- done after going down 1-3 in the set.

With the additions of Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Roman Hamrlik, and most importantly Tomas Vokoun, perhaps the Red can rock their way into the semifinals for the first time since their trip to the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals.

How Good Will The Winnipeg Jets Be?

The Atlanta Thrashers weren't too good in 2010-2011, so the expectations for them to make the 2012 playoffs aren't too high. Since the team has moved to a city more focused and passionate about hockey, there will be more pressure and emphasis on success -- however that's defined. This can push the Jets to make the playoffs, or at least within a couple points of the playoff picture, but the amount of travel this team will be forced to undertake is likely to hurt their chances for this season.

The divisions will realign next year, but this season the Jets will be making cross-continent trips just to play teams in their division. A die-hard fanbase combined with a bit of adversity will either make or break the Jets this season.

Will Two Teams From The Northwest Division Make The Playoffs?

It's safe to say the Vancouver Canucks will make the playoffs again after not doing much roster shuffling in the wake of blowing a 2-0 lead in the Cup Finals.

The rest of the division, however, missed the playoffs last year. Each of the four teams can make an argument that they could reach the postseason. The Calgary Flames finished the season similar to the Devils, as they went 23-9-7 down the stretch but fell just out of the playoff picture. If they start out the season a little better a playoff berth is within grasp. The Minnesota Wild were able to keep most of their defense and goaltending together while grabbing two offensive-minded forwards, both from San Jose. Although they lost Brent Burns and Martin Havlat, the Wild now have Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi to help out Mikko Koivu. Will the Wild finally have enough offense to return to the playoffs?

Despite young rosters and a promise of contention in future days, the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers aren't really out of the picture either. The Avs now have a strong goaltending duo while the Oilers will audition another young talent in first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Can one of the two squeak into the playoffs?

How Will Phoenix Play Without Ilya Bryzgalov?

Bryzgalov, without a doubt, was a huge part to Phoenix's success last season. Without the ability to rely on his goaltending, it remains to be seen if Coyotes can make their way back to the playoffs.

Jason LaBarbera was the other goalie for the Coyotes last year, posting a record of 7-6-3 with a save percentage of .909 and a high goals-against average of 3.26. Mike Smith could make a push for the starting job with a record of 13-6-1 in 2010-2011 and gaining some pressure experience in the 2011 playoffs, but his save percentage of .899 doesn't scream top-notch goalie. Curtis McElhinney is in the system as well, but can you turn to a guy with only 67 games over four seasons in the NHL? Add in lack of playoff experience (four games in total among the three goalies) and it doesn't look too good.

Who Will Come Out of The West?

It's easy to say the Canucks will win, but teams around them have gotten stronger this off-season. The Central Division alone will boast three teams that may likely cause the Canucks problems.

The Blackhawks, who were one goal away from upsetting Vancouver in the West quarterfinals, have added grit to their roster and are getting some key players (Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith) to focus harder on reaching the Finals again.

The Predators also gave the Canucks some problems in the 2011 playoffs. With the experience and confidence likely gained from their first playoff series win in franchise history, the Preds are looking to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever.

The Red Wings, as always, are always a provisional Stanley Cup contender. Perhaps with strong goaltending from Jimmy Howard, and if the veteran team can endure the grind of another season, the Red Wings could knock the Canucks out. From the Pacific Division, both the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings could advance to the Finals. The Sharks added a strong defender in Brent Burns and a proven playoff performer in Martin Havlat, while the Kings added Mike Richards to an already playoff-ready roster.