Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Francisco provides spark off bench, Phils up 2-1

Ben Francisco provided the spark off the bench in yesterday's nail biter, hitting a three-run pinch-hit home run in the seventh to break a scoreless tie as the Phils would hold on for a 3-2 victory. That game was about as frightening a Phillies games as I can remember.

Cole Hamels pitched very well, but worked in and out of trouble just about the entire game. His pitch count was elevated from the start, while his counterpart Jaime Garcia was on cruise control.

You had to get the feeling that the Cardinals were going to scratch a run across on Hamels on some bleeder or blooper, and that the bats may have a tough time rallying against Garcia. The game seemed to be heading that way.

But, the Phillies started putting better at bats together in the sixth, raising Garcia's pitch count. Garcia intentionally walked Hunter Pence, with a runner on second, and two outs in the sixth to get to Ryan Howard. He should have gotten fired up that Garcia wanted to face him. Thought he'd be the easier out. Turns out Garcia was right, as Howard bounced out weakly to end the threat.

Hamels also worked in and out of trouble in the sixth. After striking out the first two batters, Ryan Theriot came up with yet another single, and Jon Jay worked a walk. Tony LaRussa opted to leave Garcia in the game, and Hamels struck him out to end the frame.

A similar situation arose for the Phils in the seventh, and this time, they took advantage. With Shane Victorino on second with two outs, Garcia intentionally walked Carlos Ruiz. Francisco stepped to the plate, pinch-hitting for Hamels. Francisco got a high fastball and it crushed it into the Phillies bullpen in left-centerfield for a three-run shot.

St. Louis would threaten against the Phillies' bullpen, scoring one run off Vance Worley in his one inning of work. Antonio Bastardo retired the only batter he faced, before Brad Lidge came on in the eighth to allow the two batters he faced to reach to load the bases.

Charlie Manuel turned to Ryan Madson for a five-out save for the first time this year. Madson induced a huge double play from Allen Craig to end the threat.

Madson would allow a run in the ninth, closing the lead to 3-2, before getting Theriot to finally make an out, as he grounded out to Chase Utley with a runner aboard to end the ballgame.

Hamels threw six scoreless innings, surrendering five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. He threw 117 pitches.

Garcia allowed three runs over seven innings on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts.

Through three games, Jimmy Rollins (.583), Utley (.400), Pence (.273) and Victorino (.333) are all swinging the bat well. Meanwhile, Howard (.182), Placido Polanco (.083) and Carlos Ruiz (.091) are struggling.

Roy Oswalt looks to close it out tonight against a team with a lot of experience and success against him in the past. Edwin Jackson will oppose him, hoping to force a Game Five back in Philly.

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