The Philadelphia Phillies couldn't buy a run against the St. Louis Cardinals in last year's playoffs. Of course, Phillies fans like myself know that the team still can't a buy a run on most nights this year. So naturally, the first game between Philadelphia and St. Louis since their 1-0 pitchers duel last October ended with a 10-9 Phillies win on May 24.
After scoring no runs off Chris Carpenter in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, the Phillies got six runs in the first two innings alone off of Jake Westbrook. It would have been nice to have this kind of output last October - or in more games during this April and May. Yet Philadelphia will take one of these unexplained, uncharacteristic outbursts whenever it can get them.
It was especially necessary on this night, since Joe Blanton gave up the lead just as quickly as he got it. The up-and-down Blanton had one of his down nights by giving up four runs in the third, followed by three in the fifth to even things up at 7-7. The Cardinals had a habit of rallying against the Phillies in the playoffs, and it seemed that nothing had changed.
This time, however, Philadelphia actually had the offense to strike back for at least a night. Granted, it happened with just two singles from Freddy Galvis and Mike Fontenot. But for once, the Phillies were able to use small ball successfully - like they couldn't last October.
They couldn't breathe easy for the rest of the night - especially when a streaker interrupted the action in the seventh inning. Yet a Shane Victorino home run in the eighth finally made the difference before Jonathan Papelbon actually got some hitters out.
Papelbon's 13'th straight save was a rare bit of actual pitching in this game. It is still a bit odd that on nights when the Phillies get great pitching, they often lose - but when they actually get offense, they often have a much harder time holding on. Games where they have great hitting and pitching at the same time are quite elusive, and until they aren't, the Phillies probably won't be going anywhere in the long run.
However, the hitting was enough to get the edge over the Cardinals this time - albeit seven months too late. The fact of the matter is that the Phillies remain a last place team without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, while the Cardinals have been in first most of the year even without both Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa.
That difference in foundation may be why St. Louis is a world champion and a still potent contender, while Philadelphia is feared to be near the end of its mini dynasty. Yet the Phillies showed some of the potency they have left in this first rematch - but asking them to keep showing it for more than one night at a time remains problematic.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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