Now that was a baseball game.
I just hope you didn't turn it off after three innings with the Phillies up 4-0 and Cliff Lee cruising along, thinking it was over, turning the channel to that sport where big fat guys bump into each other. If you did, you missed a Cardinals comeback, a violent home-plate collision, another bang-bang play at the plate, Tony La Russa bringing in Arthur Rhodes to face Ryan Howard this time and the sound of silence from 46,575 Philadelphians.
Here's what you may have missed:
When Lee gave up a triple to Rafael Furcal to lead off the game only to escape the inning without a run, you got the feeling this was going to be his game. After all, this is the guy with a 2.13 career postseason ERA and .194 batting average allowed in 10 starts. Chris Carpenter -- pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career -- had trouble locating his fastball and the Phillies jumped him in the first with a double, two walks and two singles. (The three runs he allowed in the first inning was the first time he'd done that in 174 starts. That's the longest streak of not allowing more than two runs in the first inning of the live-ball era, ahead of Juan Marichal's 152.) Another run in the second made it 4-0. Cliff Lee pitching? Citizens Banks was rocking. Put it down in the books as a Phillies victory and a 2-0 series lead. Check the calendar for the NLCS dates.
But ... this is the postseason. You cannot predict the postseason. Maybe the law of averages were just working against Lee. Through his first eight postseason starts he was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA. He was Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Curt Schilling rolled into one. The Cardinals chipped away with three runs in the fourth, although the rally died when Raul Ibanez nailed Jon Jay with a perfect one-hop throw to Carlos Ruiz, who held despite a vicious arm to the head.
La Russa had to go early to the much-maligned St. Louis bullpen. But this is the postseason. You never know which pitchers will get hot, which will turn cold. Fernando Salas, once the team's closer, entered in the fourth and threw two perfect innings. Octavio Dotel retired all four batters he faced. The Cardinals tied it in the sixth when Ryan Theriot doubled with two outs and Jon Jay grounded a ball into left, Theriot just beating the throw from Ibanez this time around. They took the lead in the seventh. Allen Craig tripled to deep center, the ball bounding off the glove off Shane Victorino. A tough play. A play that could have been made. Albert Pujols singled home Craig for a 6-5 lead. Lee gave up 12 hits, the first pitcher to do that in the postseason since Detroit’s Nate Robertson in 2006 and the first NL pitcher since Larry French of the Cubs in 1935. Law of averages. Lee in his past three postseason starts: 0-3, 17.2 innings, 26 hits, 15 runs. His FIP is still excellent, however.
La Russa used four pitchers in the eighth. It's easy to second guess managers in the postseason, of course. When things go wrong, we second guess. When they go right, we applaud the moves. But the game is won and lost by the players, not the managers. Victorino couldn't make the catch. La Russa's relievers did the job and with Ryan Howard representing the tying run, La Russa did what he didn't do in the sixth inning on Saturday, bringing in Arthur Rhodes. Howard struck on three pitches. If Howard faces a right-handed pitcher late in a close game again, the Cardinals deserve to lose the series.
So now we look ahead to Game 3. Cole Hamels, ace No. 3 goes for Philly; Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. Garcia has some interesting splits: 2.55 ERA at home, 4.61; .230 average allowed at home, .313 on the road. Oddly, his strikeout/walk ratio is actually a little better on the road. Maybe it's just a fluke and the law of averages haven't evened out yet.
What will happen? It's the postseason. We cannot predict.