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Bats start off hot, but turn cold down the stretch

Bats start off hot, but turn cold down the stretch

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Bats start off hot, but turn cold down the stretch
PHILADELPHIA -- This is the fear of an entire city, the same fate that doomed the National League favorite last fall.

The Phillies invested a lot of money into their rotation, and Cliff Lee was the first person in line to accept blame for Sunday night's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. But the loss also reminded the fan base of how its team ultimately fell to the Giants last October, how an offense can go from hot to cold in the course of just nine innings.

And that is the other storyline behind a 1-1 series as it shifts to St. Louis. The Phils managed just one hit (a single) after Hunter Pence's two-out RBI single in the second inning gave them a 4-0 lead. Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter retired the last four batters he faced, and the St. Louis bullpen retired 11 straight batters before Jimmy Rollins' line-drive single to left field with two outs in the seventh.

"When we score four runs early like that and we get into their bullpen, I was pretty much thinking we were going to score some more runs," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "We felt real good about ourselves. The big problem was that their bullpen held us. What did we get? One hit?"

As prognosticators scripted it before the series started, if the Cardinals were forced into their 'pen early, the Phillies would pounce. So when Cards manager Tony La Russa sent Nick Punto to bat for Carpenter in the fourth, trailing by two, he challenged that very line of thinking.

And, naturally ...

"We didn't score a run after that," catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "You have to give credit to their bullpen. They did a good job."

Chase Utley was in the middle of a tough at-bat with Marc Rzepczynski when Rollins was caught stealing to end the seventh. Had Utley reached base, who knows? Maybe Pence gets a hit and ties the game. Maybe he draws a walk to bring Ryan Howard to the plate with a chance to give the Phils a lead.

It was only Saturday night that Howard electrified a silent stadium and staked the Phils to a lead after falling behind, 3-0, in the first inning.

Howard never got the chance Sunday.

"They did the job," he said. "Their bullpen came in and held us at bay. They kept chipping away. The only thing we can do now is forget about this one, get ready to go to St. Louis and try to get it right on Tuesday."

Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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