At no point during last season's run to the World Series title were the Philadelphia Phillies behind in a series.
Now, after the New York Yankees beat them 8-5 in Game 3 of the World Series, they are.
Down two games to one is hardly backs-against-the-wall time. But the Phillies will possibly go with their No. 4 pitcher – the capable but unspectacular Joe Blanton – against Yankee's ace C.C. Sabathia Sunday. If they lose, they will be a game from elimination with only one game remaining in Philadelphia before the series shifts back to Yankee Stadium.
None of this fazes Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel. "We'll come out tomorrow and try to even play better and harder," said Mr. Manuel in the post-game press conference. "We're that kind of team."
Nor are the Yankees planning the ticker tape parade yet. The Phillies are a team of sluggers, and Citizen's Bank Park breathed new life into the two teams' slumping offenses Saturday night, with six home runs flying out of the park.
"It seems like you could have a slugfest," said Yankee rightfielder Nick Swisher, who accounted for one of them.
But it was Alex Rodriguez's shot into right field in the fourth that ignited the Yankees. A-Rod's blast barely cleared the fence and was initially called a double. But, in the first utilization of the replay rule in postseason history, the umpires ruled it bounced off a camera on top of the wall and was a home run.
"It was a big hit, it really got us going," said Yankee manager Joe Girardi.
Yankee pitching, too, needed a few innings to get going. The Phils started quicker, putting three runs on the board in the second inning. Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte said the 1 hour, 20 minute rain delay affected his timing. "It was a grind," he said.
By contrast, Phillie lefty Cole Hamels executed his manager's strategy perfectly early on. Manager Manuel said the art of pitching was to "get ahead of the batter, then try to make the hitter hit what the pitcher wants to throw.
Hamels did. He pounded the strike zone with first pitch strikes. "I thought he did real good in the first three innings," said Manuel.
Then came Rodriguez's homer in the fourth. Hamels couldn't even get out of the fifth, retiring one before making way for a bullpen that conceded three more.
Former Yankee manager Joe Torre used to consider game three pivotal. However, Girardi is less emphatic, calling it only an important game. But there is clearly a sense of urgency in Philadelphia. "We better get going in Game 4," said Manuel.
Before the game began, the Philly fans partied outside the Park, many wearing Halloween costumes. There were beat-up Yankees (only in terms of makeup), Hulk Hogans, fans in gorilla suits, and one fan – Justin Elanjian – dressed as Rocky Balboa, the fictional Philadelphia boxing comeback kid.
After losing game three they may need him.
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