Cole Hamels went six innings and allowed no runs but he threw a lot of pitches. He threw 117 pitches to be exact, 72 of them for strikes. Hamels struck out eight batters and walked three. He had three innings in which he threw 21 pitches or more. But his high pitch count might be what won the game for the Phillies. Follow me on this one.
Shane Victorino singled to start the inning. He advanced on a shocking passed ball that went right between Yadier Molina’s legs. John Mayberry Jr. then flied out, followed then failed to advance the runner by grounding out to David Freese at third. With two outs and first base open, LaRussa and Garcia opted to intentional walk Carlos Ruiz to get to pitcher Cole Hamels. Due to Hamels high pitch count Charlie Manuel called on Ben Francisco to pinch hit. On a 1-0 pitch, Francisco took a big swing and got a hold of one and deposited it 405 feet away into the Phillies bullpen in left centerfield to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.
Vance Worley gave one back in the bottom of the seventh to make it 3-1. The Phillies went down in order in the top half of the inning then made it extremely interesting in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff single by Ryan Theriot (his fourth of the day), Antonio Bastardo came on to pitch to Nick Punto. Bastardo got Punto to fly out to shallow centerfield for the first out. Manuel, channeling his inner-LaRussa decided to pull Bastardo after one batter to bring in Brad Lidge. Lidge came on to face pinch hitter Matt Holliday. Holliday singled to left to move Theriot to second. Rafael Furcal came up and hit a hard liner to left that was hit too hard for Theriot to score. That brought Allen Craig to the plate with one out and the bases load, trailing 3-1. Manuel brought on Ryan Madson to record the five out save. Madson got Craig to ground to Utley on the second pitch. Utley took the grounder, sprinted to second then threw on to first to get the inning ending double play. The lead stayed at 3-1 and Albert Pujols stayed in the on deck circle.
Good thing Pujols stayed in the on deck circle because, in the bottom of the ninth, Pujols ripped the first pitch to left for his third double of the game. After a Lance Berkman fly out and a David Freese groundout, Yadier Molina stepped to the plate with Pujols on third. Molina ripped the first pitch into centerfield cut the Phillies lead to 3-2 and bring up Theriot who was 4-for-4 entering the at-bat. After fouling off some pitches, Theriot worked a 2-2 count then grounded out to Chase Utley to end the game.
Would it have been different if Garcia had a high pitch count and LaRussa pinch hit for him? I don’t think anyone would have taken him out the way he was pitching to that point. Would Charlie have pinch hit for Cole when he did if his pitch count was down where Garcia’s was? Probably not.
The Phillies take a two games to one lead in the series and can advance to the NLCS with a win tomorrow. The Phillies send Roy Oswalt to the hill and the Cardinals send deadline acquisition Edwin Jackson out to start Game 4. Game time is 6:07pm at Busch Stadium