WHAT A DIFFERENCE a night makes, 24 little hours and six fewer runs. But the champagne will be on ice tomorrow night nevertheless with a home clinching in order.
Some nights you get the Big Dodger in the Sky. And some nights the Big Dodger in the Sky gets you.
This was not one of those nights . . . Another improbable Phillies comeback, this time against the closer of a bullpen who had thrown 2 1/3 hitless innings going into the bottom of the ninth, when the bottom of the orderbegan the dramatic comeback.
Joe Blanton was perfect for three and imperfect for three more. He left trailing, 4-2, after a flat-footed throw by Pedro Feliz turned into an unearned run in the sixth that appeared to be the final shovelful of earth.
The Dodgers clung to the ledge and the Phillies finally stomped them off it. But a team known for its bounceability failed to parlay that unearned run and it began to unravel for the Dodgers when Jonathan Broxton walked 2008 nemesis Matt Stairs with one out in the ninth.
Then he hit Carlos Ruiz and the Bank mob came to life after sitting on its towels most of the game. With Eric Bruntlett running for Stairs, Greg Dobbs lined softly to third.
And then. And then . . .
Jimmy Rollins unfurled the biggest and most dramatic hit of his brilliant career, a screaming double up the alley in right-center to score the tying and winning runs and set a city back on fire.
Now the home celebration remains in play . . . And maybe Charlie Manuel will get his 6 days to populate another roster and jury-rig another pitching rotation.
OK, they still might fly to LA in the wee hours up, 3-2. The champagne would be on ice in their Dodger Stadium clubhouse. The National League pennant would be decided in actual baseball weather. But ground zero has been moved to the Bank.
Sunday night, Manuel's batting order loomed in front of Joe Torre's battered pitchers like muggers darting from alley shadows. And it erupted for an 11-0 victory, the Dodgers' worst-ever postseason loss.
Rollins . . . Victorino . . . Utley . . . Howard . . . Werth . . .
Say them loud enough and it's almost like begging for mercy.
And after Jayson Werth slams another tape-measure shot, you run into . . .
The Killer Z's . . .
Pitchers waiting to exhale after negotiating the top and heart of the order soon learn that on the other side of the Himalayas, the Alps are waiting. Last night, however, the Himalayas were reduced to the Poconos by Randy Wolf and the Dodgers' power-arm bullpen. The Alps became the hills of Roxborough.
In Game 1, a truncated 8-6 Phillies victory, Raul Ibanez and Ruiz buzzed Torre's No. 1 starter, Clayton Kershaw, and setup man deluxe George Sherrill for a pair of three-run homers. "Chooch'' touched the unraveling Kershaw in a bust-out fifth inning. Raul nailed the suddenly imprecise Sherrill in the eighth.
The Killer Z's combined for 55 homers and 218 RBI in the regular season. Feliz drove in an amazing 82 runs while batting mostly from the No. 7 spot.
Manuel used the whole alphabet in the 11-0 County Fair butt-whipping the Phillies inflicted on the Dodgers in Game 3 of a coast-to-coast tournament where the first-pitch temperature spread between Game 2 there and Game 3 here was a mere 47 degrees.
It appeared the Phils were still wearing their spiked jackboots last night when Ryan Howard fired a first-inning tracer into the seats in right off former teammate Wolf, giving Blanton a 2-0 lead.
After Sunday night's destructo, I cautioned a Daily News colleague that the history of the postseason competitions between these franchises did not include high-scoring encore victories.
In 1977, the Phils won Game 1 in LA, 7-5, then lost Game 2, 7-1. Black Friday's Game 3 set the stage for Steve Carlton's 4-1 loss to Tommy John in the rain.
In 1978, the Phils were swept at home, then crushed the Dodgers, 9-4, in Chavez Ravine. But Garry Maddox misplayed two balls in center, the second a bobble of a ground single by Bill Russell that scored Ron Cey and produced a walkoff pennant winner.
When the 1983 Wheeze Kids finally beat the Dodgers in an LCS it came after they went 1-11 in the season series, split two games in LA, then scored a pair of 7-2 victories for manager Paul Owens, who made history as GM by firing manager Pat Corrales in July with his team tied for first place.
So it was no surprise when that early lead turned into two heavyweights in the center of the ring, a Thrilla in South Philla . . . a clinching and grabbing battle of bullpens.
Torre went to the same bullpen back end - Sherrill and Broxton - that failed him in Game 1. And it failed him again. Shockingly.
This time the Dodgers had let in the cat, locked the doors, set the home-invasion alarm and turned off all the lights. Who knew the burglar was already in the house?
The defining moment appeared to have come when Sherrill pounded a letter-high fastball past Howard for the second out in the eighth with Shane Victorino on second and Chase Utley on first.
For the first time in a magnificent series, Atlas shrugged.
An inning later he was pounding Rollins in a dog pile in the vicinity of third base.
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