The Philadelphia Phillies held on in St. Louis to take a 2-1 NLDS lead over the Cardinals, 3-2, in the first non-comeback win of the series so far. The Phillies are trying to reach their third World Series in the past four years, and threw Cole Hamels, the third of their supposed four aces, against the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia.
After six innings of zeros, Garcia blinked first, giving up a pinch-hit, three-run homer to Ben Francisco. That was all the runs Hamels and the Phillies bullpen needed to hold on to the win. Baseball Nation's team of writers bore witness to the game in the form of a live blog. Did you miss it? You wanna cry about it? Why not just read the highlights instead:
• Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing used his 20/20 hindsight vision to question Tony La Russa's decision to leave Garcia in for the seventh. If only La Russa had listened to him:
From a managerial standpoint, it's got to be very, very hard to remove a pitcher like Garcia in that situation. But from a statistical standpoint, I'm pretty sure the better move would've been to pinch-hit. La Russa had options on the bench, all of whom would've had better odds of getting a hit than Garcia. And even though Garcia would've been removed early, La Russa's bullpen is fresh, and good.
Seems to me you have to take a shot at going ahead there in the sixth. La Russa didn't, and he paid for it.
• Counterpoint alert! Before Garcia's misstep, Rob Neyer took the time point out (with pretty charts and everything) that Garcia was having his best start in months. What could possibly go wrong?
As you'll recall, Tony La Russa went to great pains to ensure that Chris Carpenter, rather than Garcia, would start two games in this series if it goes five games.
La Russa's prime motivation was probably for Garcia to pitch at home, where he's been significantly better, ERA-wise anyway, than on the road in his young career. But La Russa might also have been swayed by Garcia's relative lack of success later in the season. Garcia's made five starts this season with Game Scores above 65, and all five came well before the All-Star break
• Of course, being Garcia's best start in months, and that few noteworthy things transpired in this game before Francisco's blast, but one of them was Garcia's ability to swat away the Phillies' powerful lefthanded batters, notably Ryan Howard. Grant Brisbee was able to sum up Garcia's mastery of Howard in this diagram of a strikeout: