Phillies can't win the close ones

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Roy Oswalt picked up the loss in Game 4 of the NLCS after giving up a walk-off sacrifice fly. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

They won these games once. They took advantage of a little thing here, a little thing there, reversed imminent victories for the other team into series-altering losses.

Not anymore. They are that other team now. Officially. They run themselves into outs. They muff double-play ground balls, double-clutch on throws to the plate, watch third strikes pass by with runners in scoring position.

They tie the game, get a runner on second in the eighth inning with no outs last night, have their speedy shortstop at the plate, and don't bunt the runner over.

*  Jimmy Rollins picked off in the second inning with his team down by a run.

*  Carlos Ruiz waved around by third base coach Sam Perlozzo and thrown out at home for the first out of a four-run fifth inning. He would have scored the inning's fifth run.

*  Shane Victorino double-clutched on a throw home with two outs in the fifth. Andres Torres just beat the throw for the Giants third run.

These are the plays of the other team, the plays that haunted the Los Angeles Dodgers over the last two winters, the plays that chilled the Tampa winter of 2008.

The Phillies? They were outpitched by the Yankees last year, that's all. Runs were scored, rallies attempted, plays made. They ran into good pitching, just as they have now.

But they didn't run themselves into the ground the way they have in this series. They didn't give opportunities away. Remember all that talk about playing the game the right way. Well bunting over a runner with nobody out in the eighth inning of a tie game on the road is the right way.

The Phillies are on the brink of going home not because of what happened in the ninth inning of last night's 6-5 loss in the NLCS, but what happened what happened before. In Game 4. In Game 3. In Game 1.

"We're so focused," Giants closer Brian Wilson said after pitching a perfect ninth last night to get the victory. "From the first pitch everyone is jumping around, fists pumping, confident.

``We've put ourselves in a great position."'
 

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