Phillies are down 3-1 and have no margin for error
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The defending champions need another comeback to keep their title.
The Philadelphia Phillies led the National League with 43 come-from-behind wins during the regular season, and they have five more in the postseason.
But this one won’t be so easy.
The New York Yankees took a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series with a 7-4 win in Game 4 on Sunday night. Of the 42 teams to take a 3-1 lead in the Series, 36 went on to win the crown. The last club to overcome such a deficit was Kansas City in 1985.
Can the Phillies become the seventh team to win three straight elimination games in the Series? They’ll have to stick with the age-old sports cliche and take it one game at a time.
“I think we take a lot of pride on being resilient and the way we bounce back,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “I know that we’re going to come out and play tomorrow to win. I know that. I’ve seen us go through it before.
“We’re in the World Series now. We’re down, but you know what, we’re still breathing.”
Cliff Lee, an ace in October, takes the mound Monday against New York’s A.J. Burnett. Lee dominated the Yankees in the opener and is 3-0 with a dazzling 0.54 ERA in four postseason starts.
“I don’t think we get any more confident,” shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “Whoever is on the mound, we feel like we’ve got to win that day. You can’t do anything to change tonight. Nothing, think about it hard, it won’t change the result.”
The Phillies’ biggest problem so far has been a lack of hitting. A potent lineup that led the NL in scoring and averaged 6.1 runs a game against Colorado and Los Angeles in the first two rounds has fizzled. Philadelphia has 16 runs in four games against the Yankees.
Nearly all the big boppers are slumping at the worst time. Ryan Howard is 3 for 17 with 10 strikeouts. Raul Ibanez is 3 for 16 with nine Ks. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are hitting .200. Chase Utley has three homers and an RBI double off CC Sabathia, but no hits off anyone else.
Only Jayson Werth, who is batting .308 with two homers, has an average above .267 in the Series.
Even when they do get hits, they don’t come at the right time. All seven of their homers have been solo shots. Utley popped out with two on and nobody out in the fifth. Then he connected with the bases empty in the seventh.
The Phillies were 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday night. Howard, Werth and Ibanez stranded nine runners combined.
“From a good offense standpoint, I look at our team, and we should score on average five runs,” Manuel said. “But on a good night, we should be scoring five to six, seven to eight runs with the kind of offense we’ve got. If we’re scoring two and three runs, sometimes it’s hard to win games. It’s hard for anybody to win games like that.”
It’s difficult to win with subpar pitching, too.
Lee was masterful and Pedro Martinez was outstanding in Game 2. But Cole Hamels pitched poorly Saturday night, allowing five runs in 4 1-3 innings. Joe Blanton gave up four runs in six innings in Game 4 when the Phillies needed a shutdown performance.
“We’re going to go out and play hard,” Blanton said. “We’re not going to give up, we’re not going to lay down. We’re going to play like we have the rest of the games and give it all we got.”
If the Phillies need a pep talk, Martinez can provide it. He was with the Boston Red Sox when they overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series.
“We’re in way better shape,” Martinez said, comparing the predicaments. “This is just one other battle we have to overcome.”