He thought he could do it again, except Dodgers closer Jonathon Broxton wouldn't let him.
That was OK. Jimmy Rollins took the spotlight instead.
"Just belief," Rollins said after he hit a clutch two-out double to right-center field to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 5-4 victory to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. "We believe in ourselves. We believe in our ability. As long as you continue to believe in good things, I believe -- and I think we believe -- that good things will happen."
Only two teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the NLCS: the 1996 Braves against the Cardinals and the 2003 Marlins against the Cubs.
The Dodgers had a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. The Phils cut the Dodgers' lead to one in the sixth, but Philadelphia had been hitless since Chase Utley singled to right field with one out in the sixth to score Shane Victorino.
Broxton got the final out in the eighth and induced Raul Ibanez to ground out to the start the ninth.
Broxton walked Stairs on four pitches, which guaranteed there would be no repeat of last year's heroics.
"When I stepped into the batter's box, I had one thing on my mind, and that was to go for the Budweiser sign [in right field]," Stairs said with a smile.
3-1 NLCS ADVANTAGE HUGE
|Year||Team up 3-1||Opponent||Final|
"I just wasn't going to try to get it over the plate," Broxton said. "I was just going to pitch him tough and try to keep the ball down. If I got him to chase, I got him to chase. But I wasn't going to try to give him a fat one over the plate."
But Stairs got on, which was the next best thing. Pinch-runner Eric Bruntlett, who scored the winning runs in Games 3 and 5 of last year's World Series, took his place, and Broxton promptly drilled Carlos Ruiz with his next pitch to put runners on first and second.
Broxton jammed pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, who hit a soft liner to third baseman Casey Blake for the second out.
Rollins, who was hitting .167 (3-for-18) in the NLCS, stepped up and smoked a 1-1 fastball into right-center field.
"I didn't see what happened once it got past the outfielders," Bruntlett said. "Once the ball got off the bat, I knew it was falling, so I just put my head down and ran. I didn't really know what was going to happen until I had scored."
Bruntlett and Ruiz scored easily -- Ruiz slid just for the heck of it -- to win the game.
Rollins was mobbed by teammates at third base.
"Getting a hit is great," Rollins said. "You know, getting a win for driving in that winning run is even better. The pileup and the beatdown that happens afterwards, that can be pretty dangerous, especially when Ryan Howard is the first guy out there. But then I guess he's kind of like a shell at the same time, a little bit of protection.
"Only thing I didn't want to do was get crushed, so I just kind of went in fetal position and started throwing punches, and whoever got hit, got hit. Ben Francisco did a pretty good job of throwing his arm around my neck and restraining me, so I think I caught the worst of it. So it's a lot of fun, but that's what we do.
Back From The Dead
|1947||WS - Gm. 4||Cookie Lavagetto, BRO||Bill Bevens, NYY||down 1-2; 2B|
|1972||ALCS - Gm. 1||Gonzalo Marquez, OAK||Chuck Seelbach, DET||down 1-2; 1B|
|1985||WS - Gm. 6||Dane Iorg, KCR||Todd Worrell, STL||down 0-1; 1B|
|1986||NLCS - Gm. 3||Lenny Dykstra, NYM||Dave Smith, HOU||down 4-5; HR|
|1988||WS - Gm. 1||Kirk Gibson, LAD||Dennis Eckersley, OAK||down 3-4; HR|
|1992||NLCS - Gm. 7||Francisco Cabrera, ATL||Stan Belinda, PIT||down 1-2; 1B|
|1993||WS - Gm. 6||Joe Carter, TOR||Mitch Williams, PHI||down 5-6; HR|
|1995||ALDS - Gm. 5||Edgar Martinez, SEA||Jack McDowell, NYY||down 4-5; 2B|
|2003||NLDS - Gm. 3||Ivan Rodriguez, FLA||Tim Worrell, SFG||down 2-3; 1B|
|2009||NLCS - Gm. 4||Jimmy Rollins, PHI||Jonathan Broxton, LAD||down 3-4; 2B|
"Baseball has changed, you probably didn't have celebrations like that in the past, but today guys show emotion, I guess, a lot differently," Rollins added. "That's a good way to go into an off-day, but we understand we still have a job to do, and that's over. The celebration, that part is done. We look forward to the off-day and getting back to Wednesday, trying to close it out."
The Phillies took Rollins into a private part of the clubhouse and toasted him with a drink afterward.
Rollins is hitting .243 (9-for-38) with three doubles and three RBIs this postseason. But while his hits have been scattered, they have been big. He had two big hits against Rockies closer Huston Street in the NL Division Series. His leadoff single in Game 3 of the NLDS led to the winning run. His one-out single in Game 4 of the NLDS sparked a miraculous three-run rally to clinch the series.
And then the double Monday.
"He likes that," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He likes the moment. He wants to be there, and he can control his adrenaline and he can handle the moment. Those are things that are very important when you get in the postseason and also in any big game.
"Jimmy Rollins, he thrives, the bigger the stage, the better he likes to play. The more people watching him, he likes the mike, he likes to talk, that's the way he is. I like everything about his personality. He's got a tremendous personality as far as laughter. But at the same time, when he goes up to the plate, he goes up there to hit. And believe me, this guy, he's always wanting to be up there at a big moment in the game."
Thanks to Rollins, the Phillies are one step closer to returning to the Fall Classic, where they hope to become the first National League team since the 1975-76 Reds to win back-to-back World Series championships.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.