Francisco’s heroics put Cardinals on brink of elimination

Phils pinch-hitter Ben Francisco hits a three-run home run in the 7th inning. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Phillies put their right-handed outfielder into tonight’s line up in hopes to solve Jaime Garcia.

Except, that right-handed outfield wasn’t John Mayberry Jr., who was 0-for-3 through the first seven innings. Instead, it was little used Ben Francisco that came through in a big way against the Cardinals soft-throwing lefty.

Prior to the 7th, Garcia had allowed only three hits and a walk in six shut out innings. Things looked glum for the Phillies offense, who were giving Garcia short at-bats and preserving his chances at an eight or nine-inning outing.

Cole Hamels bought the Phillies as much time as possible. Though he lasted only six innings, throwing a grueling 118 pitches, not a single runner crossed the plate as Hamels surrendered only fives hits and three walks while striking out eight.

Unfortunately for Garcia, that bought time caught up to him.

After Garcia walked Carlos Ruiz to take his chances on the pinch-hitter, he was forced to pay dearly for the mistake. An 89-MPH fastball was left over the plate for Francisco, who blasted the pitch into the left field bull pen to give the Phils a 3-0 lead.

They would go on to hold the lead, winning 3-2 in St. Louis and taking a 2-1 series lead in the NLDS.

The Cardinals pressed hard in the 8th inning. Vance Worley, starting his second inning in relief, gave a single to Ryan Theriot to lead off the inning. Antonio Bastardo immediately came in to face Jon Jay, who flew out to center for one out. That was all Bastardo would see as Brad Lidge came in to face pinch-hitter Matt Holliday.

Holliday singled, immediately followed by a flair by Rafael Furcal to load the bases. But the momentum was instantly shifted back to the Phillies side when the Phillies brought in closer Ryan Madson for the five-out save. He induced an inning-ending double play from Allen Craig to halt the threat.

That was only half of the threat for Madson, who had to face the heart of the order for the Cardinals. Albert Pujols, who was 3-for-4 heading into the inning, led-off with his third double of the game. Lance Berkman, a much better left-handed hitter, flew out to center field for the first out.

That brought up David Freese, who grounded out to second while moving Pujols to third. With the Cardinal fans on their feet, Yadier Molina stepped into the batter’s box. Molina singled home Pujols, slicing the Phils lead in half.

That brought in Ryan Theriot as St. Louis’ last hope, who reached base all four times and was 4-for-4 heading into the at-bat. But he was not going to get a fifth hit, instead grounding out to second to end the game.

2B: Rollins (3). HR: Francisco (1).

WP: Hamels (1-0). LP: Garcia (0-1). S: Madson (1).



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