The good news for the Philadelphia Phillies is that Roy Oswalt is their playoff rotation's biggest weakness, and Roy Halladay is their playoff rotation's biggest strength. The bad news for the Phillies is that now they absolutely have to win with Halladay, and you can never predict what will happen in any single baseball game.
The Phillies took on the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night in possession of a 2-1 series lead in their NLDS, With Oswalt on the hill, they had a chance to knock the Cards out and advance to the NLCS for the second year in a row. Nine innings later, though, St. Louis won 5-3, forcing a Friday-night Game 5 showdown between Halladay and Chris Carpenter.
Things got off to a racing start for the Phillies in Game 4. Jimmy Rollins hit a deep fly to center in the first at bat of the game, and Jon Jay lost the ball in the sun, allowing Rollins to pick up an automatic double.
Chase Utley then followed with a triple to score Rollins, and Hunter Pence followed with a bloop single to score Utley. Three batters in, the Phillies were up 2-0, and it looked like they might run away with things.
They didn't, though. Edwin Jackson stopped the bleeding, and in the bottom of the first, the Cardinals got a run back when Lance Berkman hit a ball to the right-center gap, and Shane Victorino did this:
Skip Schumaker - who began the play on first base - came all the way around to cut the deficit in half.
It remained 2-1 into the bottom of the fourth, when David Freese stepped up with two on and one out and supplied maybe the crucial hit of the game. Oswalt let a first-pitch offspeed offering catch too much of the plate, and Freese ripped it down the left field line for a two-run double that put the Cardinals in front. From there, they wouldn't look back.
The Phillies stranded leadoff baserunners against Jackson in the fifth and sixth, with the latter frame including a phenomenal defensive play by Albert Pujols. Again, I'm not going to describe it - you can just watch it for yourself:
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Freese supplied some insurance. With one on and two out, Freese slaughtered a pitch way out to straightaway center, the ball landing on the grassy batter's eye beyond the fence for a two-run dinger.
Tony La Russa went to his bullpen to begin the seventh, Jackson's day having lasted six innings. He walked one, struck out four, and allowed just the two early runs. La Russa would call on five different relievers over those final three innings, in standard La Russa fashion, and the Phillies put together something of a rally in the eighth when Fernando Salas put two runners on and scored one on a wild pitch, but Marc Rzepczynski whiffed Ryan Howard as the tying run to end the frame, and that was it. Jason Motte came in and fashioned a perfect ninth.
So now we advance. The Phillies, of course, have the edge, as Halladay is better than Carpenter and the Phillies will be playing at home, but Carpenter's the guy La Russa would most want taking the ball in this situation, and you just don't know. The Cardinals have forced the Phillies into a position where one or two bad breaks might end their year, and that's a testament to how well La Russa's Cardinals have played. Game 5 will begin at 8:30pm ET Friday if the Diamondbacks and Brewers also play. If there is no other game, the Cardinals and Phillies will shift to 8pm ET.