The pitching battle between Jaime Garcia and Cole Hamels in Game Three of the NLDS was great on two fronts. First, it was an amazing exhibition of two pitchers at the top of their game absolutely confounding the opposing batters. Second, it was great in producing nervousness for fans of both teams. After the Cardinals’ come from behind victory in Game Two, this became Game One all over again. Sports fans that were watching, myself included, were sitting on the edge of their seats those first few innings during that amazing pitching duel.
It’s a sure thing that a great pitching duel can be exciting, but damn it it’s the playoffs, and we want runs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that something totally out of the ordinary had to happen. Someone had to come in and break the stalemate.
Who honestly thought that that man would have been Ben Francisco? Nobody did. But the three run shot that he provided in the seventh inning was as much serendipity as it was the end result of a bad mistake by veteran manager Tony La Russa. After throwing well over a hundred pitches, he should have known that when the pitcher spot came up in the 7th that Charlie Manuel was going to pull Cole Hamels in favor of someone that wasn’t completely gassed.
The intentional walk of Carlos Ruiz was the placing of the nails into the wood, and Ben Francisco was the hammer that drove them into the coffin. Nobody expected it, not even Francisco. By his own admission he thought that the best he was going to get was a double. But fate stepped in, and pushed the ball the extra few feet over the fence to make it a 3-0 Phillies lead.
The relief staff for the Phillies definitely have played their parts a great deal better than in the first two games. Although giving up two runs before Ryan Madson came into close and shore up what little damage had been done by the Cardinals hitters that made it a one run game. Those last three outs Madson was a focused machine and went on to pitch for the save.
The defensive efforts of men like Chase Utley can simply not go unmentioned. An unassisted double play that definitely played towards good fortune shining on the side of the Phillies was an absolute thing of beauty. I do not think I have ever seen a man run ten feet so fast in my entire life.
The game itself was a display of the Phillies superiority on both ends of the field. Their pitchers can get you any time they want, and their batters can get you any time they want. Even the ones you do not expect. That should make the Cardinals extremely afraid in Game Four of the ones they expect to get them.