Had the Phillies preserved their one-run, eighth-inning lead on Friday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, they could have returned to Philadelphia this week owning a 2-0 advantage that Dodgers manager Joe Torre would have recognized as being nearly insurmountable.
Torre's 1996 Yankees overcame this obstacle during the World Series against the Braves' vaunted pitching staff. But still he is wise enough to know just how important it was for his club to erase Friday's two-run deficit and come to Philadelphia with the best-of-seven series tied.
If neither team wins the three games scheduled to be played in Philadelphia this week, the series will shift back to Dodger Stadium for Games 6 and 7.
"It was very important to have that win yesterday and come in here," Torre said. "It's an interesting phenomenon when you win a game in postseason play, when you realize you play 162 games during the course of the year and one win makes you feel good, but not the way it does in postseason, because momentum can switch so quickly."
When the Phillies send Cliff Lee to the mound to face the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLCS on Sunday night, their focus won't be on gaining the three consecutive wins that would prevent them from having to return to Los Angeles. Instead, the defending World Series champions will simply attempt to conquer one challenge at a time.
"I think thinking too far ahead is a bad thing," Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez said. "The cliché about taking it one day at a time, that's what you have to do. You have to play just one game at a time and one pitch at a time. The goal is to win tomorrow and then the next day. But you can't get to the next day without getting through tomorrow."
Having won a National League-best 48 road games this year, the Phillies certainly don't have to fear what might happen if they were to only win two games this season. But it's obviously important that they at least hold serve by claiming two home victories this week.
"It's all about taking it one game at a time," Victorino said. "You worry about tomorrow. You don't worry about Monday or Wednesday. What we do tomorrow night dictates how we approach the next game."
Coming off Friday's tough loss, the Phillies were able to look forward to the fact that they'd be able to turn the ball over to Lee in Game 3. But if they aren't able to win behind the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, they'll find themselves feeling the pressure that comes courtesy of the fact that Joe Blanton will be called upon to start Monday's Game 4.
Blanton, who has been used out of the bullpen throughout the postseason, posted a 5.52 ERA in his final five regular season starts this season. More troubling might be the fact that his latest start occurred on Oct. 2.
When asked about the importance of Sunday night's game, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel echoed his players' responses by reiterating that he's looking at this series on a day-by-day and game-by-game basis.
"That's basically what we've always done," Manuel said. "To me that's good philosophy and something that our team has always bought into."