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Phillies move within one win of NLCS

Phillies move within one win of NLCS

PHILADELPHIA -- Should Shane Victorino peer out the window during the flight to Milwaukee, he may see the baseball he hit off CC Sabathia.

OK, so the hanging breaking ball he smacked for the Phillies' first-ever postseason grand slam didn't find orbit, but it may have carried the team to higher altitudes.

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Thursday's 5-2 win over the Brewers allowed Philadelphia to glide to Milwaukee with a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five National League Division Series. History favors them now, as NL teams with a 2-0 lead have gone 16-0 in those NLDS.

Thirteen of those 16 ended with a sweep. Only three times did an NL team extend the series. Should the Brewers do it, they would become the eighth team in history to overcome an 0-2 deficit in a five-game postseason series, period, joining the '81 Dodgers, '82 Brewers, '84 Padres, '95 Mariners, '99 Red Sox, 2001 Yankees and '03 Red Sox.

"Stop it," a smiling Ryan Howard said. "Don't even say that."

Brad Lidge said more.

"None of us are thinking about the numbers," he said. "We're thinking about winning Game 3. Our goal is to go to Milwaukee and take care of things as quick as possible."

Much of the pregame talk focused on Sabathia and his amazing run of pitching on three days' rest, a three-start stretch that produced a sparkling 0.83 ERA and vaulted Milwaukee to its Wild Card berth.

How do you beat the unbeatable? Manager Charlie Manuel, a big fan of Sabathia from their Cleveland days, pondered the topic of stopping the player he affectionately calls, "Big C."

He drew up with a lineup that featured sparkplug Victorino hitting second, while the struggling Jayson Werth moved to sixth. Both figured prominently in a second-inning outburst.

"I never question what he does," Victorino said. "Obviously, it worked. He took us to two pennants for a reason. Charlie's done a great job and maybe just be a coincidence, but it worked out for us tonight."

After Brett Myers issued a bases-loaded walk in the first, he settled down to get Corey Hart to bounce into a 1-2-3 double play.

NLDS 2-0 leads
Sixteen teams have taken a 2-0 series lead in NLDS history. In 13 of those 16, the team ahead 2-0 finished off the series in a three-game sweep.
SeasonWinner LoserOutcome
2007D-backsCubs3-0
2007RockiesPhillies3-0
2006MetsDodgers3-0
2006CardinalsPadres3-1
2005CardinalsPadres3-0
2004CardinalsDodgers3-1
2002CardinalsD-backs 3-0
2001Braves Astros3-0
2000CardinalsBraves3-0
1998Braves Cubs3-0
1997Marlins Giants3-0
1997Braves Astros3-0
1996Braves Dodgers3-0
1996CardinalsPadres3-0
1995Braves Rockies3-1
1995RedsDodgers3-0

Trailing, 1-0, in the second, Werth doubled with one out and scored the tying run on Pedro Feliz's double. A groundout by Carlos Ruiz brought up Myers, and it looked like the inning might end there.

Crouching in the batter's box, Myers flailed at Sabathia's first two pitches, a 95-mph fastball and an 87-mph slider. He then alternated between fouling a pitch off and taking one for a ball, with the crowd of 46,208 -- the largest crowd in the history of Citizens Bank Park -- screaming all the way.

"When he went up there, I said to Lidge, 'What's the chance of him putting this ball in play?'" J.C. Romero said. "I said, 'Slim to none.'"

Technically, Romero was right, though Myers coaxed a key walk, and forced Sabathia to throw nine more pitches. Rattled, Sabathia walked Jimmy Rollins, the next hitter, on four straight pitches.

Sabathia then hung one to Victorino, who clobbered it, setting off a roar that never seemed to stop.

"Huge," Ryan Howard said. "They were counting on CC today, and Shane's hit took the wind out of their sails."

"I stayed aggressive," Victorino said. "I took a first pitch. He threw it for a ball. He threw the next pitch for a fastball for a strike. He left me a slider up to hit."

Myers would battle Sabathia for 10 pitches before flying to center field in the fifth.

"I didn't really hear them," Myers said, of the crowd who hung on every one of his swings. "If I would've, I probably would've swung at some of those pitches. I wasn't trying to be a hero. I was just trying to work him. We were just trying to get his pitch count up."

Coming off a complete-game, 122-pitch effort, Sabathia left after walking Chase Utley in the fourth, his 98th pitch, 19 of which he threw to Myers. The Phillies' righty cruised after that, allowing two runs in seven innings.

He dominated like Sabathia was expected to.

CC was vulnerable.

"It's all about finishing," Sabathia said. "I wasn't able to do that tonight."

"We faced C a couple of times," Rollins said. "The last time was last year. We had some good at-bats against him then, so that helped our confidence. It's not like the first time we've faced him and all we get to do is see him on ESPN and hear about this monster. Knowing that he was going on 600 pitches in 12 days gives you a little bit of an edge, if you can work the count. Brett did the best job of that and it paid dividends. Maybe [Sabathia] ran out of steam."

The Phillies have plenty of steam heading into Milwaukee. With a 2-0 lead, they have big-game pitcher Jamie Moyer scheduled to start, the same hurler who pitched in the division-clinching game for the past two seasons.

A win would line them up to face either the Dodgers or Cubs, not that they'll allow themselves to dream.

"Our mind-set can't change," Romero said. "The series isn't over. We have to go to Milwaukee and end the series. This is like a boxing match. Once you have your opponent on their knees, you don't want them to get back up."

On Thursday, Victorino provided the Hawaiian punch.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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