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Giants Take 3-1 Lead In NLCS

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) — The frozen faces came with shifting eyes. Each pitch, each at-bat, each dwindling inning arrived with the same tense facades from one team about to do something not many expected, and the imminent demise of another team many thought would have a clear path to the World Series.

The Phillies coughed up a fifth-inning lead and fell to the San Francisco Giants, 6-5, in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, giving the Giants a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Phils’ ace Roy Halladay will try to stave off elimination Thursday night in Game 5 of the series, opposing the Giants’ ace, Tim Lincecum.

ruiz nlcs ap Giants Take 3 1 Lead In NLCSThe Phillies tied Game 4 at 5-5 with back-to-back doubles from Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth to start the eighth inning. But Werth was left stranded and in came Roy Oswalt, in a rare relief appearance, to try and hold down the Giants.

He couldn’t.

Oswalt took the loss when Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly to left drove home Aubrey Huff with the game-winning run.

The Phillies had built a 4-2 lead with a four-run fifth inning. It appeared as if Philadelphia was in command. San Francisco had not scored more than four runs at home since its 9-2 victory over Milwaukee at AT&T Park on September 19.

The fifth also saw the Phillies do some rare things this series—like driving in runners in scoring position and coming through with two-out RBIs.

Until the fifth, the Phillies were hitting .095 (2-for-21) with runners in scoring position in the series. Until the fifth, Jimmy Rollins was the only Phillie with two-out RBIs (on a walk and a three-run double in the Phils’ 6-1 Game 2 blowout). Placido Polanco snapped that rut with a two-out, two-run double to center, plating Shane Victorino and Chase Utley and giving the Phils a 3-2 lead. A wild pitch extended that edge to 4-2.

Chad Durbin failed to protect the tenuous lead in the sixth, but Werth’s RBI double with no outs in the eighth erased Durbin’s futility, tying the score at 5-5. Werth, however, introduced another futility. The Phillies’ offense bogged down again courtesy of the Giants’ Sergio Romo, who got Rollins to pop out to third, and then Romo struck out both Ben Francisco and Carlos Ruiz swinging on nasty sliders to end the inning. Giants’ closer Brian Wilson slammed the door in the ninth by retiring the Phillies in order.

The Giants had rebounded from a 4-2 deficit in the sixth, when Pablo Sandoval came through with a two-run, one-out double to give the Giants a 5-4 lead. Giants’ catcher Buster Posey also played a crucial role, going 4-for-5, with a pair of two-out RBIs in the first and third innings.

Throughout the NLCS, San Francisco has been effective with two outs and runners in scoring position. Posey joined five other Giants (Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, Uribe, Huff (2) and Cody Ross) who had provided two-out RBIs. Huff’s two-out single through the middle pulled the Giants to within 4-3 in the fifth, before Sandoval’s double in the sixth gave San Francisco the lead.

Huff and Posey were a combined 7-for-10 in the game, driving in three of the Giants’ six runs and scoring twice. They paired up again to sting the Phillies in the ninth, when Posey battled back from an 0-2 count against Oswalt to set up the winning run, poking a single to right and sending to third Huff, who reached on a one-out single. That set the stage for Uribe’s sac fly, which easily scored Huff from third.

“Oswalt said he wanted to be in there and he’d be glad to go, and that was  a great at-bat by Posey,” Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel said. “When we took the lead, we had momentum on our side, and we couldn’t hold them. The sixth inning got away from us, and lead-off walks opened the door for the Giants. They found a way. We had a chance to win the game and we didn’t. They got the big hit and Uribe did a good job of hitting the sacrifice fly. They did a good job.”

Though the Phillies had the big-inning fifth, they’re still hitting .161 (5-for-31) with runners in scoring position in the NLCS–a big example was Werth’s double in the eighth. With no outs, the Phils left the go-ahead run stranded. In comparison, the Giants are hitting almost 100 points better with runners in scoring position .259 (7-for-27). The Phils’ inability to score runs with two outs has also placed them in this quandary. Only Rollins and Polanco have provided two-out RBIs in the series, while eight of the 14 Giants’ NLCS runs have come with two outs. The Giants seem to have a penchant for handling pressure moments. Five of the Giants’ six postseason victories have come by one run–the one exception being their 3-0 Game 3 victory.

Over 18 innings at AT&T Park, the Phillies have scored in just two.

One Phillies’ regular is hitting over .300 in the NLCS, Howard, at .385-5-for-13, with three doubles, while three San Francisco regulars are hitting .300 or better (Ross a series-high .417 5-for-12; Posey and Huff each at .313 both going 5-for-16). And though Howard is hitting, he’s not lifting anything out. The Phillies’ power source has been homerless since September 25th.

If the Phillies can’t rebound from the 3-1 deficit, what will leave an indelible mark on this season is the Game 4 image of a dejected Ruiz sitting alone in the Phillies’ dugout still in his catching gear wearing a stunned look, no doubt wondering ‘how could this be happening.’

Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito

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