Doing it the hard way

Ryan Howard drove in Shane Victorino and Chase Utley with a double in the ninth inning, then scored the winning run himself on Jayson Werth's single. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

DENVER – The Phillies had bases loaded in the third with one out and could not score.

The Rockies walked them loaded again with one out in the seventh and again the Phillies could not score.

Raul Ibanez dropped a fly ball that put Seth Smith on second with one out in the seventh.

Chase Utley flubbed a slow ground ball in the eighth inning, putting two Rockies on with one out, leading to a three-run eighth inning and a 4-2 Rockies lead.

This is not the recipe for a championship, fellas.

It is an opportunity however for Ryan Howard to once again underline his worth. Batting with two outs and two on in the ninth, Howard ripped a ball into the rightfield corner that tied the game. He then lumbered home on Jason Werth’s flair single, regaining the slim lead the Phillies had nursed behind Cliff Lee’s pitching for most of the game.

The Phillies advanced to the National League Championship Series behind a come-from-behind 5-4 victory, the third one-run game of this series. But man, did they do it the hard way.

Ironically the crucial mistake of the Rockies’ three-run eighth inning was made by Chase Utley, who had reached base three times and been in the middle of both aborted rallies. Utley charged a ground ball that looked like a double-play off the bat. Bracing for contact that never occurred, Utley picked up Todd Helton’s slow roller as Dexter Fowler lept wide of him to avoid contact. Utley struggled with the exchange to his hand, and his throw sailed off the tip of Jimmy Rollins’ glove.

A more prudent, heady play might have been to get the slow-footed Helton at first, leaving Fowler alone at second with two outs. And if nothing else, Utley always makes the heady play.

Until last night. Utley’s error signaled the departure of Lee, and Ryan Madson came to pitch for the second day in a row.

en Francisco’s diving catch in left got a second out, but pinch-hitter Jason Giambi sent a flair to left that sent Flwler home with the tying run. But the big blast came moments later, when Yorvit Torrealba bashed a shot over Shane Victorino’s head, plating what seemed to be the winning runs.

But Howard’s hot September has seeped into October.

They were his sixth runs batted in of this series. And the most important .