It was an offseason in which delighted Phillies fans salivated at the prospect of offering the opposition the double dose of aces that was the lot of the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend. The down side? Both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are signed to long-term deals, which makes the chance that the two men will ever face off against each other in a game as important as tonight’s nearly nil.
Which means the closest you are likely to come to last year’s dream/nightmare matchup was Game 2 of the National League Division Series, which pitted Lee against Halladay clone Chris Carpenter, the St. Louis ace who stands 6-6 and on most nights, commands his pitches like a surgeon handles his tools.
This was not most nights. For either man. The Cardinals rallied from a four-run hole to beat the Phillies, 5-4 in front of 46,575 at Citizens Bank Park, another sellout record.
Carpenter allowed four runs over the first two innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. But that fourth-inning proved Lee’s undoing as well, as seven Cardinals came to the plate and Lee’s advantage was shaved to a single run. St. Louis tied it on Jon Jay’s two-out single in the sixth, and went ahead when Albert Pujols singled in Allen Craig, who had tripled off Lee to start the seventh.
Lee was operating on normal rest, the luxury of a staff that also includes Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Carpenter was working on three days rest for the first time in his career, and after throwing more innings this season than any other National League pitcher, it showed. He allowed the first four Phillies he faced to reach base, surrendering a leadoff double to Rollins off the top of the wall, and a bases-loaded two-run single to Ryan Howard. Of the 64 pitches he threw before leaving the game for a pinchhitter amid the fourth inning rally, 34 were strikes.
Carpenter’s control issues continued, allowing an RBI single to Raul Ibanez that inning and another to Hunter Pence in the second. Ryan Howard’s bid for a second three-run home run in as many days fell just short of the leftfield wall, and as odd as the Eagles fizzle had been earlier in the day, this one, by this team, was odder than the final pitching lines of both starters.
Facing a bullpen that was seen as the Cardinals Achilles at the start of this series, the Phillies made 15 consecutive outs before Rollins singled with two outs in the seventh.
And then, in what some would say was a loss of focus, he was picked off.
Lee surrendered a first-inning, first-pitch triple to Rafael Furcal and a leadoff double to David Freese, but pitched his way out of both with the type of unpredictable accuracy he has been known for. In the ugly end, his Achilles were not been the big boppers at the top of the order. Until the seventh, he had allowed the top five guys just three of those 12 hits, had recorded five of his nine strikeouts. It was the back-end guys, particularly part-time second baseman Ryan Theriot, who smashed doubles in both the fourth and the sixth, and who scored both times.