But nobody could have anticipated quite how this would all play out. Charlie Manuel ended up going to his bullpen five times. The last occasion was for a special guest appearance from starter Roy Oswalt, which didn't work out exactly as planned. He gave up the run in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Giants to a 6-5 win that gave them a commanding lead of three games to one in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
The wheels were set in motion long before that, though.
As it turned out, Blanton was all right. He pitched 4 2/3 innings. Manuel might have been able to let Blanton go longer. But, the Phillies had a one-run lead at the time and the manager had to be thinking he only needed to get two innings from a well-rested bullpen before he could turn the game over to Ryan Madson in the eighth and Brad Lidge in the ninth. Or, depending on how things went, he might have used his setup reliever or his closer for more than three outs.
It was a reasonable plan.
It just didn't work.
"We had a chance to win the game. We didn't win the game. Blanton had a lead when he left," Manuel explained. "We took the lead and we had momentum on our side. And all of a sudden, we go out there and they take it right back away from us. We couldn't hold them in the sixth inning and it kind of got away from us."
Jose Contreras got the final out of the fifth. He'd pitched two innings on Tuesday, though, and the pitcher's spot was coming up in the top of the sixth. So Chad Durbin came in to start the bottom of the inning. Three batters later, San Francisco had regained the lead.
Pat Burrell led off with a walk. Giants manager Bruce Bochy chose not to run for him. That was a decision that could have boomeranged, but it didn't. Cody Ross doubled to shallow left; even a speedy runner wouldn't have been able to score.
That brought up Pablo Sandoval, who ripped a shot down the rightfield line that was foul by an inch, then doubled to put the Giants ahead.
Now trailing, Manuel had to start mixing and matching. In short order he also used Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson.
The Phillies tied the score in the top of the eighth. The home manager has the option of using his closer in a tie game in the ninth, and that's what San Francisco's Bruce Bochy did. Brian Wilson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. The Phillies gambled on Oswalt.
Could have worked. Didn't.
The second guess
Jayson Werth doubled Ryan Howard home with the tying run in the top of the eighth. With the potential go-ahead run on second and nobody out, it seemed to be a perfect time for Jimmy Rollins to bunt.
"Rollins usually pulls the ball," Charlie Manuel explained. "Hitting the ball to the right side of the diamond is one of his strong points. He's got a short, quick swing from the left side and he usually pulls the ball. Not only that, if he pulls the ball he also has a chance to get a hit or drive the run in. That's how you play the game. We do that a lot with Rollins. We let him hit there because that's one of his big strong suits from the left side, to pull the ball."
Of course, it didn't even have to necessarily be a sacrifice. He could have tried to push the ball past the pitcher on the right side. If he beats it out, great. If he doesn't, Werth moves to third with one out.
Instead Rollins, swinging away, popped out to third and Werth was still on second when the inning ended.
Did you notice
* That the Phillies had gone 14 straight innings without getting their leadoff hitter on before Ben Francisco started the fifth with a single up the middle?
* That a Phillies team that managed just three hits in Tuesday afternoon's game got four hits in the first five at-bats in the fifth inning last night, knocking Giants starter Madison Bumgarner out of the game in the process?
The Giants batted just .212 with runners in scoring position and two outs this season. In the National League, only the Mets were worse. In the last two games at AT & T Park, their first six runs scored with two outs.
Frustration with the umpires was an issue for the Phillies in the early innings. Both Shane Victorino in the first and Carlos Ruiz in the third took 3-2 pitches they thought were balls and started to trot to first, only to have home-plate ump Wally Bell ring them up. Neither hid their displeasure.
In the second, after Jimmy Rollins singled, he broke for second. Giants starter Madison Bumgarner threw behind him and first baseman Aubrey Huff's relay throw to second was in time to complete the caught stealing. Both Rollins and first base coach Davey Lopes argued that Bumgarner had balked.
For what it's worth, the Phillies have fallen behind three games to one four times previously in franchise postseason history: 1915, 1950, 1993 and 2009 World Series. Not once did they even force a seventh game. Twice they were eliminated in Game 5 and twice they lost Game 6.
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