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Phils confident with Halladay starting
When the Philadelphia Phillies stripped down their farm system and opened up the checkbook last winter to acquire right-hander Roy Halladay from Toronto, they figured the dividend on the investment would come in October.
Halladay was the big hoss they wanted to anchor their rotation and lead the way to another world championship parade down Broad Street.
Well, it is Halladay or the highway for the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Giants on Thursday night at AT&T Park.
They are one loss away from elimination and three wins away from a third consecutive trip to the World Series after seeing San Francisco rally to pull out a 6-5 victory on Juan Uribe’s walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 on Wednesday night.
"They were asking me earlier (Wednesday) what we play like with our backs to the wall," said manager Charlie Manuel. "I think we’re going to get a chance to find out."
And the Phillies feel they are capable of taking advantage of the opportunity.
They do, after all, have Halladay going on Thursday. Then — in a potential Game 6 on Saturday in Philadelphia — comes Roy Oswalt, who's not the least bit concerned about any problems from suffering the loss and throwing 18 ninth-inning pitches in a rare relief appearance Wednesday.
And if a Game 7 does occur Sunday, they can turn to 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels with five days of rest.
It is not like the Giants are going to fade like the morning Bay Area fog. They have some strong arms of their own.
Thursday, it’s Tim Lincecum, who was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA in September and is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA this postseason, including a Game 1 victory against the Phillies.
And if a Game 7 is played, the Giants will turn to Matt Cain, who pitched the first eight innings in the first postseason shutout suffered by the Phillies in 49 playoff games — dating back to a 5-0 loss to Baltimore in Game 5 of the 1983 World Series.
"What we’ve got right now is a one-game series," said Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino. "Each day, it’s win or go home for us, but there’s a confidence factor knowing we have our three big dogs ready. They have their big dogs ready, too, but we can’t think about that. All we can think about is winning (Thursday) and getting this thing back home."
Manuel made sure that the Phillies' big dogs would be rested and ready when he opted to turn to Joe Blanton on Wednesday, even though the Giants had a 2-games-to-1 edge. Questioned about that move, Manuel never wavered, knowing his team needed three more wins — not one — and feeling his rotation would be better suited with full rest rather than by being rushed back to the mound.
"If any team can [feel good about needing] three wins, we do have to feel good about being that team,’’ said closer Brad Lidge. "Every time Roy Halladay pitches we feel like we are going to win. When Roy Oswalt pitches we feel like we are going to win. When Cole Hamels pitches we feel like we are going to win.
"I’m sure (the Giants) feel the same way with Tim Lincecum, but with Roy on the mound I’ll take my chances."
And it’s not like the Phillies are looking to make history. Their challenge isn’t easy, but there have been 11 teams that have rallied in a best-of-seven series from losing three of the first four games to win the series, including three times in the last seven years.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox, in fact, bounced back after losing the first three ALCS games to the Yankees. The BoSox rallied to not only stun the Yankees, but also sweep St. Louis in the World Series.
Boston — against Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS — and Florida — against the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 NLCS — each rallied after losing three of the first four games; both wound up popping world championship champagne.
"All that really matters is that we need to win (Thursday) and get this thing back to Philly (for Games 6 and 7)," said Victorino. "We do that and I like our chances."
For Halladay it’s a chance to make a statement.
He led the NL with 21 wins, four shutouts, nine complete games and 250 2/3 innings pitched, while compiling a 2.44 ERA in his first season with the Phillies.
He threw only the second postseason no-hitter in history in Game 1 of the NLCS against Cincinnati.
The Giants, however, have been a problem for Halladay.
It was at AT&T Park on April 26 that he was the victim of a 5-1 loss, giving up all five of those runs on 10 hits in seven innings.
And in Game 1 of the NLCS he was a 4-3 loser to Lincecum and the Giants at Citizens Bank Park, and was twice the victim of a Cody Ross home run.
"I made pitches that weren’t quality pitches so it really gets back to me doing a better job of executing pitches, which is how it is with all teams,’’ Halladay said.
And with most teams, Halladay makes his pitches.
So does Oswalt, who gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey before the Uribe sacrifice fly in that ninth-inning appearance he volunteered to make on Wednesday.
Oswalt was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA after being dealt from Houston to Philadelphia in late July, and the Phillies won 12 of his 14 regular-season starts.
They also have won his two postseason starts. The 2005 NLCS MVP with Houston, Oswalt had a no-decision in the Phillies' 7-4 victory against the Reds in Game 2 of the NL Division Series, and worked eight innings in a 6-1 victory against the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Meanwhile, Hamels, the MVP of the 2008 NLCS and World Series, shut out Cincinnati to finish the three-game sweep in the NL Division Series, but was a 3-0 loser to the Giants in Game 3 of the NLCS.
"There’s not a lot of what-ifs," said Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins. "We’ve got to win, but we know we can do it because we have good pitching. We have the kind of guys who can shut any team down.
"When times get tough it seems like our guys get better. I think we are going to see them at their best the next couple games."
It’s not as if the Phillies have any options. They either win or go home early. And that is not what Halladay, nor the Phillies, had in mind when he arrived last winter.