Roy Halladay versus Kyle Lohse in Game 1 of the Phillies/Cardinals NLDS. It reads like such a total mismatch. It is such a total mismatch, nevermind Lohse's 3.39 season ERA. And in the end, Game 1 wound up reflecting just how bad of a mismatch it really was. It just took kind of a funny route to get there.
With the Philadelphia crowd buzzing in anticipation of another World Series run, Halladay allowed a single with his second pitch of the game. Two batters later, he walked Albert Pujols on four pitches, and the very next pitch after that was a fastball down the middle that Lance Berkman launched out to right field. Four batters in, Halladay and the Phillies were behind 3-0, and the crowd was brought to a stunned silence. A relative silence, anyway, for Philadelphia.
But looking back now, we can interpret Halladay's first inning as an act of generosity, as he spotted the Cardinals three runs just to try to give them a chance. Because after the first inning, Halladay went back to being himself.
Skip Schumaker led off the second inning against Halladay with a ground ball single. What follows is a complete list of Cardinals baserunners against Halladay after that:
Nothing. After Schumaker, Halladay retired 21 consecutive batters before giving way to Michael Stutes for the top of the ninth. In his eight innings, Halladay threw 105 pitches, walking one while striking out eight.
So about that early 3-0 Cardinals lead. Did it hold up? As you've already figured out, it did not hold up. Not even close. But for whatever it's worth, it did hold up for a while.
Lohse actually retired the first ten Phillies before Chase Utley ripped a double of the wall in the fourth. Utley would later score on a single, but the Phillies still trailed by two, and they still trailed by two going into the bottom of the sixth. The Cardinals were, at that point, 12 outs away from a pretty stunning win.
But they wouldn't get it, because it was in the sixth inning that Lohse - or the Phillies - blew up. A pair of ground ball singles gave the Phillies two runners with one out, and Ryan Howard at the plate. In a full count, Howard fought off a tough low changeup, and was rewarded with a hanging changeup two pitches later that he deposited in the right-center bleachers. With that, the Phillies were up 4-3.
They weren't done. Shane Victorino followed Howard with a single, and then Raul Ibanez got another hanging Lohse changeup that he lined over the right field fence for the second homer of the inning. In minutes, a two-run Cardinals lead turned into a three-run Cardinals deficit, and Lohse was trudging slowly to the dugout.
A 6-3 late lead is generally secure enough, but the Phillies only continued to add on. They scored three off Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs in the bottom of the seventh. They added two more off Boggs in the eighth. The Cardinals cashed in with some garbage time offense in the ninth, but at no point was the outcome in doubt, and the Phillies took Game 1 by an 11-6 final.
For more than half of this game, the Cardinals had the lead. But against Halladay, Lohse had to be perfect, and in the sixth, he paid dearly for two bad mistakes that changed the game entirely. Now the pressure is on Chris Carpenter to win Game 2 against Cliff Lee, even though Carpenter will be working on short rest for the first time in his career. One game in, the Phillies have the Cards just where they want them.