Meet Me in St. Louis: Cardinals Overcome Four-Run Deficit and Phillies to Even NLDS

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

The Philadelphia Phillies got a little taste of what their neighbors across the street-the Eagles-have been experiencing over the last three weeks: Blowing a big lead late in the game.

In Game 2 of the 2011 National League Division Series, the Philadelphia Phillies jumped out to a four-run lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first three innings and probably thought they were in a good position to go up 2-0 in the series.

After all, lefthander Cliff Lee was on the mound and when he is on top of his game, the Phillies are virtually unbeatable. Unfortunately, Lee was not sharp as he allowed five runs on 12 hits and the hard-hitting Cardinals not only caught up with the Phillies, but surpassed them.

“When you’ve got Cliff out there, you definitely have a great feeling, but at the same they battled back and make some things happen and we weren’t back and score,” said left fielder Raul Ibanez. “Cliff’s been unbelievable for us all year.”

More importantly, the Cards evened the best-of-five NLDS with a 5-4 win over the Phillies in front of a disappointed record crowd of 46, 575 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park. A night that started with the shouting and waving of towels would ultimately end in a din of silence.

The series will now shift to St. Louis for Game 3 (TBS, 5:07 p.m.).

Things started off well for the Phillies they jumped on Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter early by scoring three runs in the first inning. The first two runs came courtesy of a single by first baseman Ryan Howard with the bases loaded that scored Jimmy Rollins, who reached on a double and Chase Utley who walked. Raul Ibanez added a run scoring single that plated Hunter Pence.

The Phillies  added another run in the second inning on a two-out RBI single by Pence that brought home Rollins, who hit his second double of the game.

That turned out to be the last run of the game for the Phillies whose bats went into chill mode for the rest of the night.

“Well, we felt real good about ourselves,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “You know we got Carpenter out of the game early and we were trying to get into their bullpen. What came—the big problem was that their bullpen held us. We got two hits, two hits after that.”

Meanwhile, the Cardinals began gradually chipping away at Lee. In the fourth, St. Louis got singles from leftfielder Lance Berkman and catcher Yadier Molina. Ryan Theriot doubled home Berkman and moved Molina to third. Jon Jay singled home Molina and then moved to second while Theriot ended up on third.

After Lee struckout pinch-hitter Nick Punto, Rafael Furcal singled home Theriot, but Jay was thrown out at the plate on a brilliant throw to catcher Carlos Ruiz from Ibanez in left field.

The Cardinals evened the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning on a RBI single by Jon Jay that scored Theriot, who reached on a two-out double.

Lee’s night ended in the seventh when the Cardinals took the lead on an RBI single by Albert Pujols that scored rightfielder Allen Craig who tripled to center off the glove of Shane Victorino. After a single by Berkman, Lee’s night was done.

“I take full responsibility,” Lee said afterward. “Anytime you give a starting pitcher a four-run lead in the first two innings, he’s in a pretty good spot and that was the situation I was in and I somehow squandered it away. You’ve got to give their hitters credit, they got a ton of hits and they drove a lot of pitches, they battled and never gave up.”

Perhaps the big question for that situation was whether or not Manuel left Lee in the game too long. When asked if he should have pulled Lee after the sixth when St. Louis tied it, Manuel said had no thought of taking Lee out of the game.

“No I didn’t,” Manuel said. “More than likely if we had two guys on base, I might have hit for him. But at the same time once we didn’t get there, I was sending him back out there.”

Considering that  Phillies relievers allowed just one hit in the final three innings, taking Lee out of the game after the sixth inning might have been the wise thing to do.

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