Sam Donnellon: Phillies' postseason not for fainthearted

Charlie Manuel: likes chemistry
Charlie Manuel: likes chemistry
Posted: October 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES - Your brain says they can't win eight more this way.

Your heart says you won't be around for it if they do.

Aesthetically, the Phillies advanced to the National League Championship Series in the worst possible way. They left baserunners all over the place, extended innings with uncharacteristic defensive mistakes. Starting pitchers not named Cliff Lee logged a total of eight innings. Bullpen stalwarts such as Ryan Madson coughed up late-inning runs.

They did not take advantage of a bucketful of bad calls that all went their way.

"I'll tell you something, our guys like to play," Charlie Manuel said after Monday's 5-4 National League Division Series clincher over the Colorado Rockies. "In fact, they like to play more than it looks sometimes."

Leave it to old Chuck to sum up this team better than any of us who do so for a living. Because that's exactly how it has looked at times this season - and, to be honest, last season, too. They were miserably bad with runners in scoring position for most of the second half of this season.

And yet, "This team's fight is just ridiculous," Scott Eyre said after the Phillies answered Colorado's three-run eighth inning with a three-run ninth inning of their own to advance Monday.

"A lot of teams could have easily given up knowing they could have gone home and closed it out," Ryan Howard said. "But that's just been this team's character all year."

Said Manuel: "I look at them sometimes, and I've said this over the last 2 or 3 years: Without a doubt all my years in baseball, the best attitude, the best chemistry I've ever seen on a team that I've ever been on. I've said that over and over again."

"We have belief," Jimmy Rollins said. "And belief goes further than momentum."

Believe this: The Dodgers led the National League this season in walkoff victories, with 12. The Phillies' Brad Lidge blew nine of 15 one-run save opportunities. The Dodgers were 20-8 in one-run games at Dodger Stadium during the regular season and have the kind of well-defined bullpen that made late rallies relevant for the Phillies a year ago.

Throughout this season, the Phillies had a maddening tendency to sit on the slimmest of leads, which made it very, very difficult for their struggling closer to find his footing.

It also made it difficult to watch the four games against the Rockies, three of which were decided by a single run.

But all together now: Watching them has never been easy.

That's the fun of it. Right?

Right???

To be sure, this has been a part of their personality since before this postseason, maybe as far back as last postseason. They were 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position over the first two World Series games last year. The Dodgers were on the verge of tying Game 4 of the NLCS last season before Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs rescued them with those late-inning bombs.

Monday, the Phillies had bases loaded in the third with one out and could not score. The Rockies walked them loaded again with one out in the eighth and again the Phillies could not score. Colorado issued an incredible 19 walks in the series.

The Phillies had 40 hits, including seven doubles and four home runs.

And they scored 20 runs.

This is no recipe for a championship, fellas. You could argue that neither was last year's run. As the Dodgers' improbable Game 2 victory in their NLDS underlined - when St. Louis leftfielder Matt Holliday dropped a ball that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory - you need some breaks along the way.

You should not need as many breaks as big hits, however. You should not need the umpires to miss enough calls for the cycle in Game 1 game, go 0-for-2 on a single Chase Utley nubber in the pivotal Game 3. Or call Victorino safe when he was out at third, or call Cliff Lee safe when he was picked off at second in Game 1, or . . .

Well, you get the idea.

They say the calls even up.

The Phillies should hope the ledger gets balanced over the next summer, not in the next week.

Otherwise, well . . .

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your defibrillators. *

Send e-mail to

donnels@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/donnellon.

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