Okay, so I'm not going to come at you all Pollyanna-ish and tell you that things are going great for the Phillies. They're not, this is pretty bad, and they practically have to draw an inside straight to win this thing, having fallen behind three games to one and facing down Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain on full rest. The Phillies do have more than just the faintest, hypothetical wisp of hope. Consider:
1. Six teams have come back from 1-3 deficits to win the LCS since the series went to seven games in 1985: The 1985 Royals, the 1986 Red Sox, the 1996 Braves, the 2003 Marlins, the 2004 Red Sox and the 2007 Red Sox.
The 2007 Red Sox are probably our closest comparable here. They were, arguably, the best wire-to-wire team in baseball that season. Like the Phillies, they fell behind an excellent Cleveland Indians ballclub three games to one, and sent their ace, Josh Beckett, against the Indians' ace and 2007 Cy Young Award winner, C.C. Sabathia, in a Game Five in Cleveland. If they won, the Red Sox would take the series back to Boston. Sabathia was less than sharp, allowing four runs and ten hits in six innings, while Josh Beckett struck out 11 and allowed one run in eight innings to add another line to his formidable postseason resume. In Boston, the reinvigorated Red Sox clobbered the Indians by scores of 12-2 and 11-2, en route to their second AL Pennant and then World Championship of the decade.
Tonight in San Francisco it's another battle of the aces as Roy Halladay takes on defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. And while Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain are probably a good bit better than the Indians' Game Six and Seven starters Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, the return home could boost the Phillies' chances, especially against fly-ball pitcher Matt Cain.
2. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels are awfully good pitchers. The starters were first (2.92), eighth (3.45), and seventh (3.43) in the National League in xFIP in 2010. SIERA likes them all quite a bit as well (Halladay 2.93, Oswalt 3.33, Hamels 3.19). All three are pitchers with terrific swing-and-miss stuff, who can dominate any given game.
Yes, so are Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain, but the fact remains that the Phillies have the horses to stay in this thing. If they lose, it won't be for want of starting pitching.
3. The bats are coming around. Yes, the team has yet to hit a home run since Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth went deep in Game One. And yes, Chase Utley is currently sporting a .133/.278/.133 line. But the Phillies had some really solid at-bats last night, and stroked three doubles. And it's not like the Giants are hitting particularly well; each team has scored just 14 runs in the series.
4. Home Field Advantage goes back to the Phillies if they can scratch out a win tonight. It's unproveable and I freely admit that it's borderline junk commentary, but it will be pretty hard to convince me that the boisterous postseason crowds at Citizens Bank Park don't get into the opponents' heads just a little bit. Witness C.C. Sabathia's 2008 NLDS meltdown, and Andy Sonnanstine's World Series egg, not the mention the three runs that the Phillies managed to scrape together against a red-hot Tim Lincecum in Game One, including his first two homer game since August 5th. I'm not going to say that it's a huge edge, or otherwise determinative, but it's something, and every little bit helps.
5. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, baseball is weird and unpredictable. A seven game series is far too short to project anything. The Phillies have three really good pitchers going against the Giants' three really good pitchers. If the Phillies' offense can improve just a little bit, and the starting pitching holds the line this thing is winnable.