Logan students are displaying their
Giants gear. Courier Staff Photo
By Matt Gelb
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)
SAN FRANCISCO — Ben Francisco's desperation heave floated into Roy Oswalt's glove, a few feet short of home plate where Aubrey Huff slid unnecessarily. The pitcher scooped it in one motion and shook his head as he was surrounded by Giants storming the field.
Game 4 was over, a bizarre 6-5 victory by San Francisco to push the Phillies to the brink of elimination in the National League Championship Series. And this one was as demoralizing as they come for the Phillies.
Both teams emptied their bullpens after their starting pitchers recorded just 14 outs each. The Phillies were left with Oswalt, who had started Game 2, on the mound in the ninth. He was pitching on two days' rest — but technically four hours' rest since he had already thrown a bullpen side session before Game 4.
Huff singled with one out in the ninth. Rookie Buster Posey moved him to third with his fourth hit of the night. Then Juan Uribe, who didn't start because of a wrist injury, hit a deep-enough sacrifice fly to left.
The reigning National League champions are one loss away from elimination by the Giants, who lead the best-of-seven series, three games to one. San Francisco will have the two-time defending Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum, on the mound in Game 5 on Thursday night.
Of course, he will be opposed by Roy Halladay, this season's presumptive Cy Young winner, who will be pitching with his team's season on the line.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't want to start Halladay on three days' rest for Game 3, but with the game on the line, he brought in Oswalt as a reliever.
Oswalt had pitched out of the bullpen 14 times before Wednesday. He pitched two innings of relief of Roger Clemens for Houston in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS. He threw 18 pitches in the ninth inning and took the loss.
So many times the Phillies looked done in this game but recovered. Jayson Werth tied the score at 5 in the eighth with a double to score Ryan Howard, who led off the inning with a double. But Werth was stranded there, without no defining, late-game offensive moment like in past Game 4s for the Phillies, when Matt Stairs homered deep into the Los Angeles night or when Jimmy Rollins shocked a city with a walk-off double.
Here at AT&T Park, stadium builders forgot about bullpens when they designed this ballpark by the bay. It's an involved process whenever a team wants to warm up a reliever. A caravan of pitchers, catchers and coaches file out of the dugout and down the line as play continues.
So naturally, Game 4 of this starting-pitching-dominated NLCS turned into a bullpen game. Both managers asked for 13 outs from their relievers Wednesday. Both groups committed mistakes.
The Phillies made more. With the Big Three pitching nearly all of the important games down the stretch and in the postseason, rarely was the Phillies' bullpen called upon for heavy labor. On most nights, it was Ryan Madson for the eighth and Brad Lidge for the ninth. It was a formula that worked quite well.
With one out in the fifth, Manuel had his thoughts about a quick hook on starter Joe Blanton. As Aubrey Huff stepped to the plate, the manager took a few glances down the line at lefthander Antonio Bastardo, who had been throwing. But Manuel never moved and Blanton faced Huff, who almost took the pitcher's head off with a run-scoring single up the middle, cutting the Phillies' lead to 4-3.
That prompted a brisk walk to the mound by Manuel, who took the ball from Blanton, having just thrown 63 pitches. Jose Contreras struck out the only batter he faced, and then it got interesting.
Manuel was stretched so thin he tried getting away with the youthful Bastardo facing Giants slugger Buster Posey in the seventh. Posey doubled to right. The manager brought Madson into a game before the eighth inning for the first time since July 25. He put out the fire.
When the ninth came and the game was still tied, Oswalt emerged from the bullpen. Now the vaunted Big Three have three losses in four games.
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