With the NLDS series tied 1-1 between the Phillies and the Cardinals, Game 3 was going to be big for the winner. The Phillies had not been able to hit Cards starter Jaime Garcia in previous meetings, so for the Phillies, this was not an easy task.
Equally intimidating, Cole Hamels pitched for the Phillies. Over 6 innings, he did not allow a single run. But multiple base runners and deep counts ran Hamels out of the game earlier than the Phillies would have liked.
There was no score by the time Hamels was out of the game, but an unlikely hero emerged in the top of the 7th inning to keep Hamels in-line for the win. Shane Victorino singled to start the inning and later, Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked to bring up Big Ben Francisco.
Outfielder Francisco was a relative non-factor most of the year after the emergence of John Mayberry Jr. and the acquisition of Hunter Pence. He hit only 6 homers the entire regular season and saw limited at-bats.
But on the one night the Phillies really needed a hero, Big Ben stepped up with a 3-run blast in the 7th. Even better, the bomb came off a pitch from Garcia who suddenly lost some of his command in that inning. Finally, the Phillies hit Garcia and took a 3-0 lead.
The Phillies bullpen made the final 3 inning a real adventure though. Vance Worley gave up a run in the 7th. Then he and Brad Lidge combined to load the bases in the 8th. But Ryan Madson, brought into the game earlier than usual, coaxed a double play ball to end the threat. Madson did give up a run later in the 9th, but still earned the save.
This was a huge win for the Phillies who now need only one more win to erase the Cards and advance to the NLCS. Roy Oswalt will pitch tomorrow night; game time is 6:00pm.
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Photoshopping by Jenn Zambri Photography