Phillies capitalize on Giants’ mistakes, push a Game 6 in NLCS

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay in the 2nd inning during the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, on October 21, 2010. UPI/ Bob Larson Photo via Newscom

For much of this year’s NLCS, it’s been the Phillies that have made costly fielding errors, timely mistakes, and have not created their own breaks. And it’s been the Giants who have capitalized on those errors and those mistakes to build a lead in the best-of-seven series.

But on Thursday night, it was the Phillies who capitalized on Giants’ miscues in the third inning in order to take Game 5 by a score of 4-2 and stave off elimination.

The game was hardly the pitching match for the ages that most people expected it would be. Roy Halladay (who pitched through a mild groin pull) and Tim Lincecum weren’t their dominant selves and instead of coming down to pitching, the game was won by the team that made the fewest mistakes.

In that pivotal third inning, Raul Ibanez reached base on a weak single off Lincecum, who then hit Carlos Ruiz after building a 0-2 count. Roy Halladay then bunted a ball that was clearly foul, but home plate umpire Jeff Nelson must have forgotten his contacts because he ruled it fair. Buster Posey’s throw to Pablo Sandoval at third was a little off the mark and Sandoval, who isn’t the fleetest of foot at defensive tackle-like size, missed the bag as Ibanez slid in safely. Ruiz went to second on the play and Halladay, who knew the ball was foul and didn’t even run, was thrown out at first.

Shane Victorino then hit a hard ground ball to first baseman Aubrey Huff, who had it ricochet off him into centerfield as if his entire body and glove were made of rubber, and both runners scored. Placido Polanco then singled to center to score Victorino and all of a sudden the Giants’ 1-0 lead (a lead they earned in the first inning) evaporated into a 3-1 deficit.

The Phillies never trailed after that. Cody Ross (the greatest postseason player alive, apparently) hit a double to right to score Pat Burrell in the fourth, but that was all the fight the Giants had in them. Jayson Werth homered to right in the top of the ninth to give the Phillies breathing room and then San Fran quietly went down in order in the bottom half of the inning as Brad Lidge earned the save.

Now the series shifts back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Saturday and probably a Game 7 on Sunday. I say “probably” because if anyone thinks the Phillies are done then you haven’t been paying attention the past couple of years. Their Game 5 victory has given them new life and while they still trail 3-2 in the series, they’re traveling back home to that Little League Park they call a stadium where a routine fly ball can travel over the wall. They’ll also have Roy Oswalt (Game 2’s winner) and Cole Hamels set to start.

The Giants missed a huge opportunity to let a sleeping dog lie. Now they have to earn a victory in hostile environment against a veteran squad that’s used to winning in October. Strap it up – I can feel a Game 7 coming on.

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