With the series back at Citizens Bank Park, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard need to step up their games immediately.
After watching the Phillies perform a three-game sweep of his Cincinnati Reds in the National League division series, manager Dusty Baker was invited by his former team - the Giants - to attend Game 4 of the NLCS at AT&T Park.
Baker had an interesting observation in the San Francisco Chronicle. He said he thought the Phillies were playing too tight. He did not name any specific players, but watching the robotic Utley this postseason has been hard on the eyes.
It's not just that the second baseman is hitting .158 through the first five games of the NLCS and .200 in eight postseason games. Batting averages in short series are like batting averages in April: They can change a lot in a hurry.
Forget the numbers and look at the swings. Other than his home run in Game 3 of the series with the Reds, Utley has rarely looked aggressive at the plate during this postseason. Equally as concerning are his misadventures in the field. He botched what should have been a double play in the first inning of Game 5 and more than a few of his throws to first base have been erratic.
In the clubhouse, Utley has stuck to his regular-season routine of studying video to the point where his eyes must become blurred. Given the intensity with which Utley plays the game, you know he must love it even if he almost never shows it.
Just once, you'd think, it would be good for his mental health to crack a smile on the field or laugh when something goes wrong. The season is too long and the postseason is too intense to never show any emotion.
Since his infamous five-word speech after the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, it's impossible to think of another memorable public show of emotion by Utley.
You cannot say the same about any other of the Phillies' regulars. Shane Victorino showed his displeasure with Wally Bell when the home-plate umpire rung him up at the start of Game 4. Jayson Werth flung his helmet in the dugout during that same game and was visibly disgusted in the clubhouse afterward. Roy Halladay let his emotions show in Game 5 when the Giants' Pat Burrell did not like a called third strike at the end of the first inning, and again when Werth nailed Cody Ross with a throw from right field to third base.
Utley always seems like he's preparing for a landing: locked with an uptight disposition.
Maybe he cannot do it any other way. There is evidence that he can rebound from a bad postseason series and have a great one. A year ago, he hit only .211 with four singles in the NLCS, then hit five home runs in the World Series against the New York Yankees. But a year ago the Phillies did not need Utley to step up in the NLCS because they easily disposed of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, more than ever, they need Utley to come through with some good, aggressive swings if the Phillies are going to complete this series comeback they believe they started Thursday night.
Likewise, Howard must also be a part of it.
A year ago, he was the NLCS MVP and the slugging first baseman has had a lot of postseason success. In fact, he is hitting .294 in this NLCS and some of his finest work has come against two of the Giants' lefthanded pitchers.
In the eighth inning of Game 4, he came through with a leadoff double against reliever Javier Lopez, who held lefthanded batters to a .165 batting average this season. Howard scored the game's tying run when Werth followed with a double.
In Game 2's 6-1 win, Howard had two hits - a double and single - and drew a key first-inning walk off Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez, who held lefthanded batters to a .181 average this season.
What Howard does not have in this series or this postseason is a home run or RBI.
"I think when we get guys on base, I think he's definitely trying too hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think that he wants to do something. I think that he wants to feel like he's part of something - I think that he's definitely trying too hard. I think if you notice, sometimes when there's no one on base, he'll get some hits and he'll hit the ball. I think when he gets somebody on, I think that he realizes that he wants to be a part of it and he has to knock runs in. I think that he needs to slow down and . . . just hit a couple of balls good and things will happen for him."
Howard is coming off a disappointing Game 5 during which he went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. Afterward, his confidence was still high.
"I actually felt good," Howard said. "I think my timing was just a little bit off. I was actually seeing the ball pretty well and I feel like just one little thing here or there . . . and if I get that right, who knows what happens?"
The Phillies would love to find out in Games 6 and 7.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.