Ben Francisco, Game 3 Hero
I may only be 23 years old and clearly far younger than the Phillies franchise, but I’m pretty sure the first 6 innings of Game 3 were the most tense in known team history.
This game had all the elements of a box-office suspense hit, but better, because I didn’t have to pay 12 dollars for someone to kick the back of my chair. And it was baseball. I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure most fans were just as anxious as I, perched on the edges of their seats, pacing around the room, pulling their hair out… oh wait, just me?
The game was nothing less than the pitchers’ duel it was predicted to be between ace Cole Hamels and Jaime Garcia, who has been shutting the Phillies down this season. While neither team scored until the 7th inning, they seemed to be on completely separate levels. The Cards may not have been able to score off Cole Hamels, but they made him work for each out. He ran up his pitch count to over 100 in 6 innings and couldn’t manage to pull together a string of 1-2-3 innings. Garcia, on the other hand, seemed as if he was on pace to pitch the entire game without a problem.
But while it may have looked like Jaime Garcia was the “better pitcher”, he only struck out 3 batters in 7 innings. Cole, on the other hand, pitching 6 innings. He struck out 8.
The 7th inning was the game changer. And because of, wouldn’t you have guessed it, Ben Francisco. Shane Victorino lead the inning off with a single, and with two outs, Tony LaRussa made the decision to walk Carlos Ruiz for Francisco. I mean, can you blame him? Not a shocking move.
Bad fan alert: It may have started raining in San Diego at the very moment Ben stepped up to the plate. And I may have momentarily found it sightly more worth my attention. I decided to enjoy a few moments on my balcony when IT happened.
It was like slow motion. I reached for the door handle. Heard the crack of the bat. Turned around just in time to see Francisco’s bomb land smack in the middle of the visiting bullpen, giving the Phils a 3-run lead.
The eighth inning wasn’t as clean as Cole’s first 6, I’ll just say. Charlie brought in Vance Worley who allowed 1 run, Antonio Bastardo, and then Brad “Lets Hits In” Lidge, who loaded the bases. OF COURSE. He was promptly removed for Ryan Madson, who finished the game, allowing 1 run in the 9th. Just like they’ve been doing all year, even if they can’t score more than 3 or 4 runs, the Phils’ stellar defense is there to make sure the opponent can’t score more.
It’s safe to say that Ben Francisco is the reason the Phillies won this game. Without him, it could have been a very disappointing and panic-inducing loss. He hadn’t had a home run since May 25 of this season. Talk about fate.
As far for the rest of the hitting, Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polance have been in offensive droughts since the division series started. They both got hits today, which may be a sign that Chooch is about to come back, but it is important to remember Polanco is still battling a sports hernia. He’s not the monster of the postseason, but as long as he can hit, we know he’ll push himself to help the team win.
Winning game 3 was pivotal. Now the Cardinals are in a must-win situation. Nothing like some playoff elimination to press your backs up against the wall, eh?