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Rested starters are key to Phils rally

Rested starters are key to Phils rally

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphians, you can take your cue from hometown hero Rocky Balboa right about now. Despite the odds, despite a climb that may seem truly insurmountable, and despite the opponent, the fight can still be won.

Sure, history says it's not likely. But history also says it has been done.

With Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Yankees, the Phillies became the 44th team in World Series history to fall into a 3-1 deficit. Six times a club climbed out of such a hole, with the 1985 Royals being the most recent example.

Is it conceivable that Philadelphia could become No. 7? Actually, yes.

Start with Game 5 because, of course, it takes one win before three straight becomes conceivable. When Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made the decision to hold Cliff Lee back from starting Game 4 on three days' rest, he did it so Lee could be money in Monday's game.

The Phillies couldn't have hand-picked a better potential starter than Lee for a their first must-win game of the week. Not from any other team. Maybe not from any other year. Lee has been automatic this postseason, going 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. Round 1 of Lee vs. New York ended with the lefty tossing a complete-game masterpiece in which he didn't allow an earned run.

As teammate Brad Lidge put it after Sunday's heartbreaking loss: "We have Cliff going tomorrow and we feel good about that."

"He's our guy," said reliever Chad Durbin. "He's going to give us a great shot to win [on Monday]."

Philadelphia has to feel good, too, that Game 5 comes in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park. Home-field advantage has so far meant little in the Phillies' most recent pair of losses, but it's been a place where they've otherwise fared quite well in recent postseason games.

Before Saturday, the Phillies had won 11 of their past 12 postseason games at home. And they had finished the season with a string of 32 wins in the last 46 games played in the City of Brotherly Love.

Those numbers certainly don't seem to be a harbinger for the Yankees pulling off a three-game road sweep.

"I don't think we could get any more confident," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "We think we have a good chance to win."

Lee coupled with home-field advantage definitely seems like an encouraging omen, and at the same time, the Yankees don't seem to set up so well. Despite manager Joe Girardi's confidence in his rotation of three, history shows that such a setup actually doesn't usually work out for the best.

Long odds on short rest
The numbers haven't been very good for starters pitching on three or fewer days' rest in the postseason since it expanded to three rounds in 1995.
Year GS W-L IP ERA
2009 2 1-0 14 2/3 2.45
2008 3 1-1 15 6.00
2007 2 0-2 4 1/3 20.77
2006 1 0-0 6 1.50
2005 3 1-0 18 2/3 2.89
2004 7 2-2 31 1/3 5.46
2003 10 3-5 57 2/3 3.43
2002 7 2-5 33 5.73
2001 9 1-5 53 3.23
2000 4 0-2 17 2/3 10.70
1999 8 1-3 26 2/3 11.81
1998 5 2-2 33 2/3 1.60
1997 7 2-2 46 3.33
1996 10 2-3 62 2/3 3.30
1995 9 3-2 52 2/3 4.61
Totals 87 21-34 473 4.59
Source: Elias Sports Bureau

Eighty-seven times a pitcher has pitched on three days' rest in the postseason. The combined record in those games: 21-34 with an ERA of 4.59.

CC Sabathia proved human on Sunday when was chased in the seventh after allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks. And now -- if the Phillies can find a way to push this one to the max -- A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Sabathia (again) would all be taking the mound on short rest.

Now if the Phillies can ride Lee and push this series back to New York, it is then anyone's guess as to how Game 6 and possibly a Game 7 could unfold. Obviously, the Phillies have already shown they aren't about to be fazed by the mystique of Yankee Stadium, having taken an Interleague series there in May and then splitting the first two games of this World Series in the Bronx.

In fact, Philadelphia's record on the road this season (48-33) was a better mark than at home.

"We play as a team and play like every game is our last game," second baseman Chase Utley said. "So that's not going to change how we go out there."

Not to mention, a return to New York would be a chance at redemption for Pedro Martinez. His quality start in Game 2 certainly could have been good enough for a "W." However, nothing would be sweeter for Martinez than to walk off the Yankee Stadium mound with a win in front of all those New Yorkers who love to hate him.

"Our backs are against the wall," Durbin said. "But there are a lot of guys with a lot of character in this room."

Should a win be snagged with Martinez on the mound, Game 7 would then be up for grabs. The Phillies would obviously have the momentum, though there is still the looming question about who would start. The good news, though, is that Lee would likely be available to pitch a bit in relief, if needed. And again, the Yankees would be sending out a starter in Sabathia who has not proved to be an invincible opponent.

Is it an improbable path? Sure. But also possible. And at this point in the season, that's about all you can ask for.

"You know, I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back," Manuel said. "We're down, but you know what, we're still breathing."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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