PHILADELPHIA -- The preacher's son has been delivering the same sermon to the Phillies so often most of them have memorized it, especially the punch line: "It takes 27 outs to close out a baseball game."
So, to Charlie and his multi-talented players, Monday night's incredible 5-4 walk-off victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers was uncanny reality. Charlie hums "The Impossible Dream" and his players chime in with the lyrics. In short, they believe as long as there's one strike -- just one strike -- remaining in a game a miracle is possible. And Monday night, not even the Big Dodger in the Sky could keep this one from happening. The Phillies were getting beat by the Dodgers, 4-3, down to their last out in the ninth inning and many in the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park were heading to the parking lots. In the crowded press box, weary journalists were booking Thursday flights to Los Angeles because that's where the National League Championship Series would return Friday for a necessary Game 6 after the Dodgers got the last out and evened the best-of-seven tournament at two games apiece. But with the count 1-1 on Jimmy Rollins, runners on first and second and two out, the gritty shortstop sent a Jonathan Broxton fastball screaming to the gap in right-center and the Phillies owned an amazing 5-4 triumph. "We always talk about it takes 27 outs to close out the game," Manuel kept saying. "I tell them to stay there until it's over." I don't think the Phillies celebrated winning their Division Series over Colorado earlier this month with the enthusiasm this comeback produced. Rollins was mobbed by his teammates, who piled on top, refusing to let their hero come up for air.
The Phillies can wrap up a return to the World Series they won in 2008 if they can polish off the Dodgers when this series resumes here Wednesday after a day off. If the Dodgers have enough life left in them to keep that from happening, the Phillies must jet across the country. It's one thing to preach that there's always a chance for success before the last out, but I wonder what makes the players believe that. The Phillies bombed Los Angeles on Sunday night, 11-0, but typical of a long-running pattern in baseball, they had trouble scratching for hits and runs Monday. At one stage, former teammate Randy Wolf retired 12 batters in a row after Ryan Howard's two-run, first-inning homer. In short, as the game progressed, the outlook for a Philadelphia victory wasn't good. The Dodgers, with their superb bullpen, were 78-3 entering the ninth inning with a lead during the regular season. Last year in the NLCS, it was the Dodgers' Broxton who blew a lead as pinch-hitter Matt Stairs blasted a two-run homer in Game 4 to propel a 7-5 Philadelphia victory. For Rollins, the double was maybe the most important of his career. "I really haven't thought about that," he said after a brief closed-door session with his teammates who celebrated his gigantic hit. "But it doesn't get any bigger, I guess, at this moment in the LCS. Last game we had played, last at-bat I had, victory for the Phillies. So it would probably have to be at the top by far." Reliever Brad Lidge, who got his first victory of 2009, talked about the talent in the lineup. "But besides that, I think -- not just the experience of last year, but the type of guys we have on our team really believe in themselves and are borderline extremely cocky that they're going to come back every single time."
3-1 NLCS ADVANTAGE HUGE
|Year||Team up 3-1||Opponent||Final|
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.