PHILADELPHIA -- As they stand just one win away from returning to the World Series, the defending champion Phillies are starting to prove that they aren't bothered during those instances when they are one out away from a potential postseason pitfall.
"A lot of teams say they play 27 outs, but I don't know if there is anybody that does it as well as we do," rejuvenated Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. "There isn't a ninth-inning deficit that we don't think we can overcome." Lidge's assessment was provided approximately 20 minutes after Jimmy Rollins had delivered the two-out, ninth-inning double that gave the Phillies the two runs they needed to claim Monday night's 5-4 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. But those who have watched Charlie Manuel's never-say-die Phillies over the course of the past few years are well aware that Lidge could have confidently made this assessment before the ninth-inning rally against All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton and the Dodgers, who had gone 78-3 when entering the ninth inning with a lead during the regular season. "It's one of those situations where I wasn't afraid," said Rollins, who delivered Broxton's 99-mph fastball into the right-field gap for the two-run, walk-off double that forced him to avoid the celebratory onslaught of Ryan Howard and every other Phillies player rushed toward him. "I went out there trying to wrap Jimmy up," Howard said. "It didn't work out too well. I ended up on the bottom of the pile." Whatever bruises might have been incurred during the postgame celebration proved much less damaging than the stress the Phillies would have encountered had they not preserved their bullpen's stellar performance and produced the ninth-inning dramatics that provide them a 3-1 advantage in this best-of-seven series. The 1996 Braves and 2003 Marlins are the only teams to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS. Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and his then-Red Sox teammates erased 3-1 deficits in the ALCS before advancing to the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
"The only thing we can do is go into the off-day, relax a little bit and come back Wednesday ready to wrap it up," said Howard, whose two-run, first-inning homer off Randy Wolf allowed him to match Lou Gehrig as the only Major Leaguers to record an RBI in eight consecutive postseason games. Had the Dodgers evened this series at 2-2, they would have guaranteed the Phillies would have at least had to make one more trip back to Los Angeles to attempt to wrap up this series. But Dodger Stadium hasn't exactly been cruel to the defending champs. In fact, with this latest comeback victory, the Phillies were able to reminisce about the Game 4 victory they'd gained there against the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS. "I think this [win] was bigger," Howard said. "This game could have potentially changed the momentum of the series." While it's currently arguable which of these Game 4 wins proved to be "bigger," there's no doubt that Broxton would have appreciated the opportunity to avoid playing a leading role in these Phillies victories. During last year's Game 4, Broxton surrendered the decisive two-run, eighth-inning homer to Matt Stairs. This year, he fueled a ninth-inning rally by issuing a four-pitch walk to Stairs. "He wasn't pitching around anybody," Stairs said. "He just happened to throw four balls." Broxton's fifth consecutive misplaced fastball hit Carlos Ruiz and set the stage for Rollins, who came to the plate two batters later and didn't look like the guy who had just three hits in his previous 18 at-bats during this series. Instead, J-Roll looked like the guy who had delivered clutch ninth-inning hits off another All-Star closer, Huston Street, in Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS. "He likes the moment," Manuel said. "He wants to be there, and he can control his adrenaline and he can handle the moment." Rollins' game-winner earned him the opportunity to be toasted by his teammates in the clubhouse after the game and also prevented Manuel from having to answer that he'd appeared to be apprehensive about using his bullpen when he didn't pinch-hit in the fifth inning for Joe Blanton, who allowed what could have been the decisive run in the sixth. Manuel's apprehension could decrease as this postseason progresses. Ryan Madson, who had allowed six hits and issued two walks in his previous two innings, recorded a big strikeout of Ramirez during a scoreless eighth. Madson's effort might have been trumped by Lidge, who further proved he turned the page once his forgettable regular season concluded. While striking out Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the top of the ninth, the veteran closer kept his teammates in position to create yet another memorable postseason finish. "That's a huge game," Lidge said. "If we don't win this game, we have to go back to L.A. It was just awesome for this to happen."
Lightning strikes twice
|Date||Series||How it was won||Inn.|
|10/11/1986||ALCS Gm. 4||Grich (CAL) 1B off Shiraldi (BOS)||11|
|NLCS Gm. 3||Dykstra (NYM) HR off Smith||9|
|10/1/1998||NLDS Gm. 2||C. Jones (ATL) 1B off Mulholland (CHC)||10|
|NLDS Gm. 2||Spiers (HOU) 1B off Hoffman (SD)||9|
|10/18/2004||ALCS Gm. 5||Ortiz (BOS) 1B off Loiaza (NYY)||14|
|NLCS Gm. 5||Kent (HOU) HR off Isringhausen (STL)||9|
|10/5/2007||ALDS Gm. 2||Ramirez (BOS) HR off Rodriguez (LAA)||9|
|ALDS Gm. 2||Hafner (CLE) 1B off Vizcaino (NYY)||11|
|10/19/2009||ALCS Gm. 3||Mathis (LAA) 2B off Aceves (NYY)||11|
|NLCS Gm. 4||Rollins (PHI) 2B off Broxton (LAD)||9|
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.