For instance, the 1-2-3 double play the Rockies pulled off with no outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning had the potential to be a killer. The Phillies could have delivered the deathblow in that spot, but instead the Rockies wiggled out of big trouble when Pedro Feliz tapped one back to the mound.
Starter J.A. Happ’s three-inning stint turned out to be an afterthought, too. If the bullpen had not be able to step up, the 35-pitch first inning and 76 total tosses to get just nine outs could have been one of those things that came back to bite the Phillies.
Of course in stepping up where Happ did not were Joe Blanton and Chad Durbin, both whom were pushing into atypical roles. Blanton started 31 games during the regular season, but has been called on to pitch out of the bullpen in the past two games. Durbin, on the other hand, was pushed into the eighth-inning role and needed just 10 pitches to get three straight ground balls.
But the most overlooked part of the Game 3 victory were the plate appearances from Jimmy Rollins in the first and ninth innings. The typically impatient Rollins was truly doing a Rickey Henderson impression in each of those at-bats by forcing 13 pitches. The ninth-inning at-bat resulted in a 3-2 single that started the game-winning rally.
"It's about time he did something," No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino joked.
Here’s the big number… Rollins saw 29 pitches in five plate appearances. During the regular-season, Rollins averaged 3.56 pitches per plate appearance, but in the last three games he has seen 53 pitches for a significantly better 3.79 pitches per appearance.
The strange part is Rollins went into his ninth-inning at-bat riding a 2-for-13 in the series with four strikeouts and no walks. Rollins is seeing more pitches, but it hasn’t resulted in better results.
Maybe it’s better if Rollins isn’t patient at the plate?
Still, the Phillies have been pretty good at playing the so-called “small ball” during the series. That’s especially the case considering the Phillies led the Majors (by a wide margin) in most runs scored via the home run. However, in the first three games of the NLDS, the Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the series despite scoring just two of their 15 runs on the home run.
“Like I said in the last two or three days, we know how to play,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Basically, I get back to it, baseball is a funny game. A lot of times how you play and who you're playing dictates how you're playing, if that makes sense. Follow what I'm saying? And I think we're playing a good team.”
In other words, the Phillies are doing the small-ball thing because they have to.
“You gotta do what you gotta do to win games,” said Howard, who led the club with 45 home runs in 2009. “Everyone knows we hit a lot of home runs, but we know that’s not going to happen every time. You have to figure out ways to play some small ball and get some runs home.”