After a somewhat disheartening loss yesterday, when the Phillies bats arrived in Milwaukee too late, the Phillies try to close out the Brewers today, as Joe Blanton takes on Jeff Suppan. Not exactly a star-studded matchup, but the Phillies better hope Blanton comes up big for them today, to avoid Hamels-Sabathia in Game 5.
1:09: The Phillies and Brewers are just underway and Rollins crushes a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall. Corey Hart didn't even chase it, and who can blame him. So much for Suppan's postseason success. Phillies lead 1-0.
1:16: Utley works a walk but it's all for naught as Howard hits into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Still, can't complain about a 1-0 lead. The Phillies seem to be seeing Suppan pretty well.
1:24: Blanton works through Cameron and Durham without much difficulty, but Braun lines a single into left. Now Blanton's got his work cut out for him, as Fielder steps in with one on and two out.
1:29: Fielder battles Blanton in Brett Myers-esque fashion, but Joe gets the last laugh as Fielder flies out to Burrell and the Phillies come to bat again, still leading 1-0.
1:40: After Burrell singles down the right field line, Werth strikes out on 9 pitches. Kind of a shame for it to end like that, but at least he made Suppan work. Dobbs, in his first postseason strat, singles into the gap in right center. Burrell lumbers from first to third. The Phillies are threatening again, but rally-killer Ruiz is up, followed by Blanton.
1:42: The Phillies catch a break, as Jason Kendall can't handle Suppan's pitch and Dobbs heads to second. A ground ball might be enough here...but Ruiz won't get it. He takes strike three looking. Now Blanton comes up with two outs and runners on second and third.
1:44: Blanton whiffs on three straight and the Phillies strand two runners. A frustrating inning, but on the bright side, Suppan has thrown 41 pitches through two innings. Looks like we'll be seeing more of that Brewers bullpen. Surprisingly it's been pretty good so far in the series, but their luck has to run out at some point.
1:49: Blanton couldn't come through at the plate, but he's looking pretty good on the mound right now. He retires the Brewers in order on seven pitches.
1:54: Rollins leads off the third and gets a good piece of the 1-2 pitch, but he's under it and it's an easy fly out to right. Victorino follows with a blooper to left. J.J. Hardy makes a diving effort, but it's out of his reach. Victorino takes second and the Phillies have a runner in scoring position for Utley.
1:58: Utley grounds out to the right side and Victorino takes third, which is nice but inconsequential, as he would have scored from second on a base hit anyway and there are now two outs. Howard will be intentionally walked and Suppan will go after Burrell. Definitely the right decision, but Burrell is 1 for 1 today. Just saying.
2:02: Can you say extension? Burrell may have just earned himself one as he crushes the 2-2 pitch for a three-run shot! The Phillies take a 4-0 lead.
2:04: Jayson Werth says "Not so fast, I'm the future of this outfield!" as he sends one deep over the center field wall. 5-0 Phillies. Dobbs flies out to end the third, but the Phillies now hold a commanding lead. Gotta love that clutch hitting. (I never thought I'd say that about Burrell.)
2:11: That'll be all for Suppan as Sabathia steps in to pinch hit. I think the Brewers have officially thrown in the towel. Sabathia can hit for a pitcher, but he's still a pitcher. He proves my point by striking out on three pitches. Cameron flies out to center and Blanton has retired seven straight.
2:14: Gallardo heads to the mound, as the Brewers attempt to use their entire rotation in a single game. I wonder if Dave Bush can play the field.
2:26: Blanton strikes out Durham and Braun, then gets Fielder to line out to right. He has now set down ten straight batters. He's pretty much on cruise control at this point.
2:32: So far so good for Gallardo, as he sets the Phillies down in order. At this point it may not matter, but the Brewers aren't completely out of it yet.
2:39: Blanton gives up his second hit of the game, as Hardy singles, but he retires the next two batters, including Craig Counsell who couldn't catch up to Blanton's fastball. When Joe Blanton is mowing you down with his hard stuff, it might be time to call it a career.
2:48: Werth hits what looks to be an easy fly out to left, but it ricochets off a cable and ends up in Counsell's glove, as he makes a diving catch to get the out. Fine, Craig, you can still field.
2:53: Charlie Manuel made his first defensive replacement of the game, going to relief third baseman Pedro Feliz. Yet somehow the Brewers get a lead-off single to right field. Apparently no one told the Brewers that the Phillies defense just got better.
2:59: Every time Carlos Ruiz snap throws to an occupied base, an angel gets its wing. I don't believe that, but Ruiz must as he makes a pointless throw to first. Braun strikes out on the next pitch and the Phillies still hold a 5-0 lead through six innings.
3:03: Blanton steps to the plate for his third at-bat, which, for a Charlie Manuel team, usually means that he'll face one batter next inning before a reliever gets called in. That said, Blanton's only thrown 99 pitches and has been dominant. Might as well see if he can get through one more inning.
3:06: Impressive glovework by the Brewers, as they turn a 6-4-3 double play with Rollins and Victorino running. The Phillies offense seems to have gotten bored, now that they have a decent lead.
3:12: Blanton challenges Fielder with the 3-1 pitch and gets away with it. But not on 3-2. Fielder goes yard and the Brewers are finally on the board. Hardy follows with a first-pitch single and Blanton is probably done for the night.
3:18: Ryan Madson comes on for Blanton and gets the first out of the inning, as Hart chops out to second. Looked like Utley could have gotten the force at second there, but instead he went for the safer play at first. With a four-run lead, it's hard to blame him.
3:20: Impressive play by Howard, who makes a diving stop of Counsell's grounder, then tosses to Madson for the out at first. Kendall flies out to shallow right for the final out of the inning.
3:32: Burrell does it again! This time it's only a solo shot (not his fault) and the Phillies are back to a five-run lead. That's what the Brewers get for sending Guillermo Mota into the game. Somewhere, Ned Yost must be smiling.
3:37: Madson stays in the game, and why not, he's been great so far. He gets the first batter, but gives up his first hit of the series, courtesy of Mike Cameron. Meanwhile, it's pouring in Chicago, threatening to delay the inevitable Rays win. How dare the White Sox not play in a dome!
3:41: Braun singles to left, scoring Cameron with two outs and the Brewers cut into the lead yet again. All of the sudden, the Brewers have a shot to make things interesting, with Fielder up with a runner on. Of course, he'd have to homer and the Brewers would still probably have to rally off Brad Lidge. Not too likely. All the same, it'd be nice if Madson could just get Fielder out here.
3:44: Fielder hits it hard...but right at Utley, who snares the line drive for the third out. The Phillies are just three outs away from a trip to the NLCS!
3:49: Matt Stairs comes in to pinch hit for Madson. I know Stairs is the better choice, but couldn't they have used Geoff Jenkins here? It just seems fitting for him to have a chance against his old team. Stairs hits into an inning-ending double play. Whatever. Let's just get those last three outs.
3:53: Lidge comes on to close out the game, though it's not a save situation. Let's hope it's the Game 2 version, rather than Game 1.
3:54: Hardy grounds to third for an easy out. Two outs to go.
3:57: Hart helps keep the Brewers alive, hitting one by Feliz and into left for a single. Feliz probably should have had that one, but it was hit too hard to give him the error. Hart takes second on the first pitch to Brad Nelson, as the Phillies ignore him.
4:00: Nelson whiffs on the breaking ball and the Brewers are down to their last out. Jason Kendall steps in.
4:01: Kendall grounds to Rollins who fires to Howard, and that's the ballgame! The Phillies are heading to the NLCS for the first time since 1993!
Bring on the Dodgers! The Phillies head to the NLCS with a series-clinching 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Thanks to the Dodgers upset of the Cubs (did anyone but Cubs fans see that happening?) the Phillies get homefield advantage. Last time the Phillies saw the Dodgers, they swept them in four games. Of course, the Dodgers swept the Phillies in four in the series before that, so who knows. We'll have analysis and coverage of that series in the next few days (Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday) but for now, we'll just savor the win.