ST. LOUIS (AP) –– Charlie Manuel disregarded the numbers. He knew Ben Francisco was the right man for the job. Ryan Madson, too.
Francisco came on with a pinch-hit, three-run home run to provide the only offense the Philadelphia Phillies needed in a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in their NL division series.
Madson got the last five outs to save Cole Hamels’ seventh postseason win.
So much for the fact none of Madson’s 32 saves this season lasted more than an inning. So much for Francisco’s postseason futility and his lack of success against Jaime Garcia before his game-changer.
“All that matters is we’re here today and whatever you do today is going to pretty much define you,” Francisco said. “Charlie put me up there and I got a big hit.”
The Phillies, favored to win it all after a franchise-record 102 wins, can finish off the wild-card Cardinals in Game 4 on Wednesday, with Roy Oswalt opposing Edwin Jackson and 19-game winner Roy Halladay on deck.
“We have two Roys going for us if we need to get to that second one and you have to feel pretty good about your chances when that’s the case,” reliever Brad Lidge said. “But you can’t take these guys lightly at all because they show why they’re such a tough team.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s decisions in the crucial seventh inning were ripe for second-guessing. He let Garcia bat in the sixth with two men on and then let Garcia keep pitching, and both moves backfired.
Garcia struck out on Hamels’ 117th pitch to end the sixth and keep it scoreless, and just a few minutes later served up a fat pitch that Francisco hammered over the left field wall and into the visitor’s bullpen.
“Well, it didn’t work, so that’s bad managing,” La Russa said. “I’m watching him pitch and was really pleased. I thought he was the guy to continue pitching and I knew the matchups were in our favor. It didn’t work.”
Even Garcia dissociated himself from the call to intentionally walk Carlos Ruiz before Francisco’s homer.
“That wasn’t my idea,” Garcia said. “That’s what (La Russa) wanted to do and that’s what we did.”
Second baseman Chase Utley was perfectly positioned to turn a double play to end the eighth on Allen Craig’s sharply hit grounder with the bases loaded. Madson allowed Yadier Molina’s RBI single in the ninth before earning the save.
“That was a lot of fun, a lot of fun,” Madson said. “I wish I was a lot better but I guess I was good enough and that’s all that matters.”
After stranding 14 runners to frustrate a season-best crowd of 46,914, the Cardinals are in an yet another win-or-else predicament. They won the NL wild card on the final day of the season, erasing a 10 ½-game deficit on Aug. 25 to overtake the Braves.
“Somebody was going to be up 2-1 after this game anyway, so the series doesn’t end just because they’re up 2-1,” Lance Berkman said. “We’ll come back out tomorrow and see what happens.”
Several Cardinals said it was no coincidence that neither team scored the first six innings.
Shadows during games with late-afternoon start times have bedeviled the hitters and Berkman joked that when he learned Game 3 would begin at 4:07 p.m. CDT, “I threw a tantrum, stomped my feet and stuff like that. Didn’t do any good.”
Francisco’s shot on a 1-0 fastball from Garcia was only his second hit in 19 postseason at-bats. He hit six homers this season, the last on May 25 against the Reds.
“I didn’t know it was a homer, I knew I hit it good,” Francisco said. “I saw it bounce over the fence and just pure excitement, pure joy.”
Hamels struck out eight in six scoreless innings and reversed a disturbing trend after allowing nine homers in September, with a pair of doubles by Pujols the only extra-base hits. He’s a franchise-best 7-4 in the postseason with a 3.09 ERA.
Pujols and Ryan Theriot had four hits apiece for St. Louis with Pujols getting his 22nd career multihit game in the postseason. The Cardinals came up empty despite three hits in the eighth, including a pinch-hit single by Matt Holliday in only his second appearance of the series.
Holliday, still bothered by an inflamed tendon in his right middle finger, wasn’t sure whether he’d be ready to start in Game 4. He said he hadn’t tried to throw.
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