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NLCS Game Four Recap: Take the Stairs

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It's not five minutes as I type this since the Phillies claimed Game Four of the National League Championship Series as Jeff Kent's line drive landed in the glove of Pedro Feliz, and I'm struggling to process everything that happened in this one. A back-and-forth battle that featured defensive gems and staggering flubs, managerial idiocy and genius, and heroes expected and improbable, it might have been the best win for this franchise since 1993... if not 1980. 

The Phils scored two runs in the top of the first as Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth and Chase Utley all ripped hits off a struggling Derek Lowe. Los Angeles came back with a run in the bottom of the frame, but Joe Blanton stranded two men in scoring position. Both pitchers tiptoed through the raindrops until the home fifth, when the Dodgers pulled even on a Manny Ramirez RBI single and took the lead on Russell Martin's RBI groundout. The Phillies got the run back in the sixth, after Ryan Howard walked and Pat Burrell singled to start the inning against Clayton Kershaw, on in relief of Lowe. Charlie Manuel then made a questionable decision to bunt Victorino, trading an out to put both men in scoring position. Pedro Feliz popped up to shallow right, but a wild pitch from Chan Ho Park--one of three Dodger pitchers Joe Torre called upon in the frame--allowed Howard to score. So Taguchi nearly put the Phils ahead with a soft flyball into right, but Andre Ethier laid out to make the catch and end the inning. 

Manuel made another iffy call to start the bottom of the sixth, bringing in Chad Durbin for Blanton. Back in the park where he blew two late-game leads in August, Durbin immediately surrendered a home run, a double, and a walk. Scott Eyre came in to face Rafael Furcal, whose bunt try was thrown into right field by Ryan Howard as another run scored. But with two more men in scoring position and no outs, the Phils escaped as Ethier lined to Howard and, with Ryan Madson now pitching, Martin lined one to Chase Utley, who dove back to the bag ahead of Furcal to end the inning. 

Madson stranded two more Dodgers in the home seventh, setting up an eighth inning that Phillies fans will remember for many years. Howard started it with a single up the middle against Hong Chi-Kuo, whom Torre immediately lifted for Corey Wade. Wade retired Pat Burrell, but Victorino followed with a line-drive homer to right that tied the game. Aggressively first-pitch swinging, Feliz lined out and Carlos Ruiz singled to left. Torre came back out and waved in his closer, Jonathan Broxton; with the pitcher's spot due, Manuel countered with Matt Stairs.

And Stairs hit a 3-1 pitch halfway to San Francisco. 

All that was left was six hard-won outs--two notched by J.C. Romero, the last four by Brad Lidge, who worked around a two-out  Ramirez double and a strikeout/wild pitch to Martin by inducing a soft fly from James Loney. Lidge closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth, leaving the Phils one win away from the pennant. 

Cole Hamels looks to seal the deal Wednesday night against Chad Billingsley. By then, I might be down off the cloud.