Rich Hofmann: Phillies know what to do for an encore to Halladay's no-hitter

Charlie Manuel on his players: 'I think they know exactly what we have to do.'
Charlie Manuel on his players: 'I think they know exactly what we have to do.'
Posted: October 08, 2010

THE HUMAN sacrifice is about to begin in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and the evil Mola Ram approaches the caged victim. Then, in a scene of splendid grotesqueness, he actually reaches into the man's chest - his hand roughly piercing the skin - and rips out the still-beating heart. He holds it aloft as the victim is lowered into a molten lake, at which point the heart bursts into flames. So ends the wicked triumph.

Mola Ram would not have been out of place in the Phillies' dugout the last couple of Octobers.

It has happened a couple of times now - when the Phillies have authored a great postseason moment and then followed it up by eviscerating their opponent. It happened after Matt Stairs hit the pinch homer at Dodger Stadium in 2008. It happened after Jimmy Rollins banged his two-out, two-run, walkoff double into the right-centerfield alley at Citizens Bank Park in 2009. Now, this.

And if it is true what they say in the stockbroker commercials - that past performance is no guarantee of future results - the truth is that Roy Halladay has just finished authoring a moment for forever. Can it happen again? Can it really be true, time and time and time again, that the Phillies will follow up their biggest games with even bigger team accomplishments?

And what is it about this bunch that makes it so?

"What exactly that is, I'm not sure," rightfielder Jayson Werth said, on the off-day between Games 1 and 2 of the National League Division Series. "It's more of that 'it' factor, I guess you'd say. The guys that we have in our clubhouse played together for a while. A few of those guys have played together longer than I've played with them. So it is a close-knit bond among the group. I think there is something to be said about that.

"But the guys, specifically the guys that we have, are probably like no other guys in the game in regards to their personality and just their overall talent level. We've got some pretty good players on our team."

Talent is some of the explanation, certainly. Put it this way: Roy Oswalt's talent is going to have an awful lot to say about how Game 2 plays out tonight. Still, talent in some people is accompanied by complacency, by the belief that ability will win in the end so there is no imperative to sweat, to exploit a damaged opponent, to seize an opening when presented.

The Phillies show none of that complacency once the calendar turns toward, oh, September. Before that, it's a long season and blah, blah, blah. After that, and especially in October, and especially when they stagger their opponent by making staggering contact - like Stairs did, like Rollins did - they win the next game and close out the series.

The Phillies grab that opening. Hail, seizers.

"I think we definitely are focused on tomorrow's game and what we have to do," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think our team, we've got enough core players, and we've got enough experience and everything that they've been there. The fact that they've been there and how they played speaks in their mind. Those are the things that we remind them of all the time. I think they know exactly what we have to do."

Tonight, Oswalt pitches for the stranglehold. This is the Reds' only real chance now. If they were to go down by 2-0 in the series, they would be just about done. The math is pretty cruel at that point, especially in a five-game series.

But the Reds are also facing history. After the Stairs game, Cole Hamels pitched the Phillies to a pretty routine 5-1 victory, a game in which the shellshocked Dodgers made three errors. After the Rollins game, the Phillies pounded the Dodgers, 10-4, and clinched their second straight trip to the World Series, with homers from Pedro Feliz, Shane Victorino, and two from Werth.

Stairs, Rollins, now Halladay - how do you even rank them?

"Probably have to wait till after the season to know exactly," Werth said. "But right up there. I would say Jimmy's double last year against the Dodgers was one of the coolest things I've ever seen with the way we came back and how we were down. Even maybe more so than Stairs' homer, but Stairs' homer was right there, too. But as time goes on, we're able to kind of take in how special last night was. I'm sure it will continue to go up in the ranks."

But the task now is to prove this axiom again: that the bigger the shot the Phillies deliver in October, the bigger the follow-through.

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