Phillies break out in fifth, but fall short
Ruiz getting thrown out at home plate pivotal in one-run loss
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Phillies finally found their way onto the AT&T Park scoreboard in a four-run fifth inning in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday. But the run they didn't score in that inning loomed much larger than the ones they did.Catcher Carlos Ruiz was thrown out at the plate amid the Phillies' biggest rally since Game 1, costing the team a key score in what turned into a 6-5 loss that left Philadelphia trailing in the series, 3-1, and on the brink of elimination. "Every play counts," said Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino, whose single set in motion the game's defining defensive play. Victorino was limited to a lone RBI on his single, Placido Polanco ripped a go-ahead two-run double and Polanco scored an insurance run on a wild pitch as the Phillies temporarily took a 4-2 lead against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner and reliever Santiago Casillo.
Before Victorino's hit off Bumgarner, the Phillies were 2-for-21 (.095) in the NLCS with runners in scoring position and 7-for-46 (.152) in the postseason. They went 3-for-9 in the clutch in Game 4 and will probably need a few more such hits against Tim Lincecum on Thursday to stay alive."You always take the positive things," Victorino said. "There's always a point where you take something positive out of a game, and to me the positive was battling back." The Phillies' first battle began with them trailing, 2-0, going into the fifth. Ben Francisco and Ruiz sparked the rally with consecutive singles and advanced on Joe Blanton's bunt. Victorino cashed in with a single to straightaway center field. Francisco scored easily, and third-base coach Sam Perlozzo waved home Ruiz. Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand made a strong throw home to rookie catcher Buster Posey, who fielded the baseball on a hop and held on as Ruiz lowered his shoulder. Cue the second-guessing. "I thought a couple things," Perlozzo said. "The ball was not directly at [Rowand]. He had to go to his right and square back up left. Then he had to make a perfect throw. I give the guy credit. He threw the ball right [to home plate]. If that ball bounces or is off just a little, we're in there. "I just thought it was a good call. I factored all those things in. I tip my hat to the guy. He made a big throw." Perlozzo insisted that the Phillies' troubles in the clutch didn't factor into his decision to send Ruiz. "I think if you do that, sometimes you get yourself in trouble," Perlozzo said. The play was part of Posey's sensational night. He finished 4-for-5 at the plate, with two doubles, two RBIs and a single that set up the Giants' winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
But as a former catcher himself, Giants skipper Bruce Bochy may have most appreciated that play at the plate.
"It's the toughest play in baseball, a play at the plate," Bochy said. "You've got to handle the throw, you've got the runner bearing down on you, and you've got to keep your focus and make sure you secure the ball. It's a close play there."
Ruiz did not answer questions about his role, as neither he nor Polanco were available following the game.
"I can't say that dictated what happened in the end," Victorino said. "It's another run. It [could have been] 6-5 us, but I don't know how you can analyze the situation. Was it a big play? Yes."
Victorino may have made a mistake by not advancing to second base on the throw home, costing him a chance to score when Chase Utley followed with a single to right field that knocked Bumgarner from the game.Polanco made up for the missed opportunity by greeting reliever Santiago Casilla with a double to the left-center-field gap, plating two runs for a 3-2 Phillies lead. He moved to third thanks to an intentional walk and a hit batsman, and scored when a Casilla fastball to Jimmy Rollins got past Posey for a run-scoring wild pitch. That made it 4-2, but Rollins, the ninth Phillies batter in their breakthrough inning, struck out to end the rally. The Giants pushed back ahead in the sixth inning. Philadelphia tied the game in the eighth, but San Francisco answered again in the ninth to win the game. Now the Phillies face elimination. They will have to beat the Giants three straight games to advance to their third consecutive World Series.
"It doesn't matter if it's Rowand's throw or not manufacturing runs, not doing the little things -- it's all magnified," Victorino said.