Welcome to the finest Philadelphia sports blog ran from within Temple University. This blog's focus is local sports, including Temple sports as well as news and opinions regarding the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Temple Football: A Tale of Two Teams

The Temple Owls are 7-2. They are in first place in the MAC Eastern conference in which they have posted a 4-1 record. They are undefeated at home and are currently in the midst of a three game winning streak. 
Numbers like these may lead one to believe that this is a very successful team, and that fans should be happy and proud of the Owls' effort. While this is true, a look at the Owls' season as a whole so far tells the story of two separate teams that have clashed with each other and ultimately caused the Owls to underachieve.
The Owls started their season 3-0. Their offense struggled at times under starting quarterback Chester Stewart, but the defense often bailed them out in some close games early.
The Owls then went on a 1-2 stretch in which they posted losses to Penn State and Northern Illinois. Stewart threw four interceptions over the two losses and the Temple offense crippled under his lead.
Stewart continued his poor play in week seven against Bowling Green. He was benched after throwing a costly first quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown to give the Falcons an early lead. Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Gerardi took over for Stewart, and after throwing an eighty yard touchdown on the second pass of his collegiate career, led the Owls to a 28-27 comeback win. 

Gerardi has taken every snap for the Owls since, leading them to a 2-0 record in which they have outscored their opponents 72-0. 
It seems the past two weeks has demonstrated how good this team can be when it is firing on all cylinders. While the defense has performed much better, the glaring discrepancy between the first half of this year and the recent string of success is the play at quarterback. 
Gerardi has demonstrated that he can do what is necessary to put his team in a position to win. He has turned the ball over just twice in his three career appearances, posting a quarterback efficiency of 175.1. Stewart, on the other hand, often did as much to put his team in a position to lose as he did to win. Stewart threw five interceptions, lost eight fumbles, and consistently missed wide open receivers downfield  in his seven starts.
So yeah, the Owls are 7-2. They are red hot and are in prime position to win another MAC Conference championship. But when you step back at look at the season as a whole, you can't help but wonder how good they could have been.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flyers Preview

After nine games of the 2010-2011 season, the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves in a similar position to their start last year. They have posted almost identical records, they are using a goalie who won't be starting games at the end of the season, and they have been backed by the strong play of Danny Briere, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter. Whether or not these closely identified starts will result in a similar outcome remains to be seen. Let's take a look at the Flyers' chances of building on last year's magic and returning to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Flyers offense has been somewhat of a disappointment so far this season, as they
rank 15th in the NHL in goals per game, with 2.5. Danny Briere has been an early highlight, as he leads the team with six goals and eight total points. However, Captain Mike Richards has been struggling to find the net. He has managed only one goal while registering a team-low shooting percentage of .05.  Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, and Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers key offensive defenders, have struggled as well. After combining for 129 points last season, the three have only posted five assists so far, and no goals.
But the Flyers' depth at lines is too strong for this offensive mishap to last all season. The second line of Briere, Scotty Hartnell, and Ville Leino has been their most productive as a result of Briere's offensive outbreak and Hartnell's continuation of his strong play in the 2010 postseason. The third line of Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, and Darroll Powe has also deemed itself a threat, with the three players combining for nine goals. 
Look for Richards and up-and-comer James van Riemsdyk to turn it on and make this offense everything it's shaped up to be.

The Flyers defense has also placed in the middle of the road, allowing 2.7 goals against, which is ranked 14th in the NHL. But there are some positives in light of the negatives. The defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle has been a highlight, with the two posting a plus/minus of three and two, respectively. Pronger missed the first two games of the season while recovering from off-season knee surgery and seems to still be working out the kinks, but "near 100%" Chris Pronger is still better than most defenders in the league. Carle has arguably looked the best out of any Flyer so far this year. He leads all defenders in scoring and has demonstrated mental toughness and restraint in committing only one penalty so far this year despite averaging over twenty minutes per game. Newcomer Sean O'Donnell has also been a bright spot, posting a plus/minus of three, which is second best on the team, and demonstrating veteran leadership on defense much like that of Pronger, who also played with him in Anaheim. 
Look for Kimmo Timonen to break out of his slump to bolster an already solid defensive front.

This is the big question mark for the Flyers (sound familiar?). Heach coach Peter Laviolette has decided to split time between Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky with Brian Boucher until starter Michael Leighton returns from back surgery, which won't be until late December. The two have managed respectable numbers so far, each posting a goals against average below three and a save percentage around .900, but lack the shut down ability that has been missing from the Flyers regular season for years.
Expect Bobrovsky and Boucher to do a respectable job until Leighton returns, but don't expect an orange and black Vezina trophy this season.

Special Teams
The Flyers' power play has been the biggest problem so far this season. Through the first eight games, the Flyers capitalized on only three of thirty-five power play opportunities. After Peter Laviolette referred to their eighth game against the Columbus Blue Jackets as a "mindless effort," the Flyers responded in game nine against the Buffalo Sabres, scoring three power play goals in five opportunities.
The Flyers penalty kill has done very well so far, posting an 84.6 penalty kill percentage despite a heavily penalized season so far in which the Flyers have committed 46 violations. The Flyers have also demonstrated their ability to score while down a man, as Giroux has registered two short handed goals so far.
This is very typical of Flyers' numbers in the past. Expect much of the same for the rest of the season.

The Verdict
The Flyers' depth at offense combined with their experience on defense should outweigh their questions in goal and on the power play. Expect their offense to post better all around numbers than last year and make another run at the Stanley Cup.

Record: 47-32-3 (3rd in the Eastern Conference)
Result: Lose in Eastern Conference Finals

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Temple News: The Culture of Boys Tennis

The key to any sport is communication, but in tennis, talking about positioning and strategy among doubles players is particularly vital to winning. So how does a team with three Americans, three Russians and two Polish players succeed?
The men’s tennis team is currently in the fall portion of its bi-annual play. The fall session consists of various invitational tournaments that pit singles’ and doubles players against athletes from other schools in the region. The doubles lineup consists of four teams that vary based on each tournament, but it usually combines players of similar nationalities.
“It has nothing to do with them being from another country. It just worked out that way,” coach Steve Mauro said. “I coach tennis players. It has nothing to do with culture or where they’re from.”
“[The cultural aspect] is unique because there are a lot of foreigners on the team,” said junior Kurt Mauro, who is usually paired with an American player of Indian descent. “Everyone’s English is pretty good.”
The team has three Russian players whom Mauro places with each other, as well as with players of other nationalities. When the Russian players compete together, they speak Russian, but coach Mauro and his players say there are no problems with communication.
“I feel very comfortable to play doubles with all players,” senior Andrey Morozov said.
Morozov, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, traveled more than 4,300 miles to attend college in Philadelphia. While it may be unusual for one to travel such a great distance to attend school, Morozov’s explanation was simple.
“I found [Temple] on the Internet,” Morozov said. “I like the school. I like the city. I came to visit, and I liked it a lot.”
The team also hosts a pair of Polish brothers, junior Filip and sophomore Kacper Rams. The Rams brothers, who speak Polish on the court, were born in Katowice, Poland, approximately 4,342 miles from Philadelphia.
“It was a tennis decision,” Filip Rams said. “We came here to play tennis.”
The varying nationalities of players offer the team a unique cultural definition.
Internationally, tennis players from all over the world compete at every level, from collegiate play to professional matches. Four professional Grand Slam events are held in the United States, Great Britain, France and Australia. Aspiring players are now bred to interact internationally and compete against players of different cultures.
Cultural conflicts could represent a problem for some coaches, but Mauro said coaching at Temple is no different than coaching any other team.
“I treat everyone the same way,” coach Mauro said. “It’s a pleasure to work with international students.”
The players’ varying cultures don’t seem to have affected their chemistry. From what coach Mauro and his team said, they all seem to share a general feeling of acceptance, with everyone playing alongside whomever coach Mauro assigns them – and no matter what, they make it work.
“As far as the other teams in the [Atlantic Ten Conference], we have a lot more chemistry,” Kurt Mauro said.
“Our chemistry is good,” Filip Rams agreed. “We haven’t had any problems.”
But the international players have faced communication challenges off the court.  At first, the language barrier affected some players in the classroom.
“Language was the biggest issue in the beginning for me,” Morozov said. “Tests are different. We only had final terms in Russia. Here, we have terms throughout the semester.”
“It’s kind of hard to adjust,” Filip Rams said. “Having classes in a different language is the hardest adjustment.”
But, just as they do on the court, the international students do what’s required to succeed. The team’s average grade point average is 3.4, the highest of any Temple sports team.
“We just try to work together as a team to win,” Kurt Mauro said.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Phillies' Close Call

Besides facing the surging San Francisco Giants, the Phillies had other problems this weekend on their flight back from the west coast.
In a story reported on October 25th by CBS in an Eye Witness News Exclusive, the Phillies' airplane nearly collided with another airplane that was coming across a runway at the Philadelphia International Airport on Friday morning. 
The Phillies plane was two and a half miles away from landing when the Air Traffic Controller commanded a second plane to traverse across the very same runway that the Phillies' plane was designed to land on.
“That’s when these airplanes typically have an accident.” said aviation attorney Arthur Wolk. “Every airplane that time of the day at this airport was using the very same runway. That creates a problem; it’s a traffic jam.”
After the ATC advised the Phillies' pilot to switch to a new runway and the pilot refused, the plane circled the runway at 3,000 feet before the space was cleared and they were free to land.

"They dodged a bullet, and we're happy for that, but the explanation really does not make sense to me," said Wolk.
The environment within the cabin is unknown, and it is not exactly clear on how the Phillies reacted.
“Oh yeah, we had to circle, circle back around,” calmly stated Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro.
One has to wonder what kind of effect this had on this past weekend's series, if any. Even if it was no big deal, it brings to mind that ever scary thought of the idea of an entire sports team being wiped out by a plane crash.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where Does the Phillies' Loss Rank?

In a 2008 article, 100 Years and 100 Heartbreaks, Sports Illustrated ranked the 2002 NFC Championship game against the Buccanneers the worst loss in Philadelphia sports history. 
Where does the 2010 NLCS Game 6 loss to the San Francisco Giants rank?
In the lists section of this blog, I put the series loss as the fifth worst in the history of Philadelphia sports.
Post your opinions in the comments section below.

Philadelphia Beginning to Look Like Philadelphia Again

Philadelphia has had an infamous reputation for its sports teams for a very long time. 
Outside the city, we're viewed as nothing less than ruthless bullies; booing players every chance we get and creating a horrific atmosphere for opposing players. Philly fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, fighting Tie Domi in the penalty box, and cheering when Michael Irvin lay motionless on the field are just a few of the moments that have defined our national outlook in the past.
The Fog Bowl remains an eerie reminder
that Philadelphia sports are cursed.
Within the city, our history of disappointing seasons and devastating losses has poisoned our point-of-view and led to a trademark of uncertainty. We dealt with a championship drought from 1983-2008, the longest such drought of any city in the country that has four professional sports teams. Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS (or "Black Friday" as it is now infamously known), the Fog Bowl, and the Eagles recent run of success combined with a failure to win the Super Bowl is only a small sample of this city's sports trauma.
This series of sports tragedies and inappropriate behavior by fans is what we've come to expect of our city. But in 2008, things seemed to take a turn for the better. Phillies fans, in response to an overachieving 2007 team, sold out Citizens Bank Park for an entire season as they watched the Phillies make a magical run to the city's first championship in 25 years. NLCS magic by Matt Stairs and World Series dominance by Cole Hamels made the team look like it was cut from a different mold than that of a typical Philadelphia sports team. 
The Eagles then signed Michael Vick, a quarterback who had just gotten out of jail for dog-fighting charges, in an attempt to give the man a second chance in life. It seemed as though the local and national outlook of Philadelphia sports had been changed for the better.
Susan Finkelstein, who was actually
given World Series tickets by a
local radio show, free of charge.

2009 told a different story. 
The Phillies returned to the World Series with high hopes of a championship repeat, but inappropriate fan behavior came up again in the local and national sports media. Phillies fan Susan Finkelstein posted a Craigslist ad that stated "DESPERATE BLONDE NEEDS WS TIX." She then allegedly arranged a meeting with a man who turned out to be an undercover cop, who she offered sexual favors in exchange for tickets to the 2009 World Series between the Phillies and Yankees. 
The Phillies also added to their history of devastating losses in 2009. The Phillies entered Game 4 of the World Series down 2-1 in the series. After a Pedro Feliz home run tied the game in the 8th, Brad Lidge came in the ninth to keep the game tied to give the Phillies' offense a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning. The Yankees were down to their last strike of the inning before Johnny Damon lined a single to centerfield. Damon then stole second base, and when no one was covering third base, promptly scampered to third. With a runner on third, Lidge veered away from his slider and Alex Rodriguez's double gave the Yankees the lead and the game. The Yanks went on the win the series in Game 6. 
2010 told much of the same story.
Phillies fans made the national media again this season, when in April, an intoxicated fan intentionally vomited on a police officer during a dispute at a game and when in May a fan ran onto the field during a game against the Cardinals and was tasered by Phillies security personnel. Everything the 2008 year had built was slowly being destroyed.

Ryan Howard, who made the
final out of the 2010 NLCS. 
2010 was also a year of heartbreaking Philadelphia sports losses.
The Flyers made a magical run to the Stanley Cup finals, which included making the playoffs on the final game of the regular season against the Rangers and overcoming a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in the postseason. But they suffered a demoralizing loss in overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals when Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane's pass over the middle somehow snuck through the five hole of Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton.
The Phillies 2010 playoff run added to the shocking loss department. The Phillies were heavily favored in the National League, with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels composing a seemingly unbeatable starting rotation. But the Phillies lineup was missing throughout the playoffs, and after beating the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, the Phils lost a heartbreaking Game 6 of the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants, ending their postseason run and making Philadelphia sports fans across the region say, "Not again."
Make no mistake about it, we are currently living in the Golden Age of Philadelphia sports. The Eagles compete every year, the Flyers have an established young core, and the Phillies will continue to be favored in the National League for the next several years. But when you watch sports in Philadelphia, you know that things can never be THAT great. It is a Golden Age, yes, but in Philadelphia, that means something completely different.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What's My Destiny, Momma?

The Phillies were facing elimination. They scored early, were backed by some solid starting pitching, added some insurance runs late, and forced a Game 6. This describes two recent Game 5's, the win by the Phillies Thursday night in San Francisco, and the win at home against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.
The Phillies of now find themselves in a familiar situation. Following the Game 5 win, this series is marked with a sense of optimism that was evident last year in the World Series, when every Phillies fan in the city KNEW that Pedro Martinez was going to beat the Yankees in Game 6. And if that happened, everyone KNEW Cliff Lee would pitch Game 7 on four days rest and clinch the series. Phillies fans were spoiled by the magic of the 2008 championship team and could not fathom the equally magical run of 2009 coming to an end. It seemed as though the Phillies' destiny was to beat the Yankees in the World Series, and everything was going to fall into place no matter what. 
It didn't turn out that way. Pedro Martinez got rocked, Hideki Matsui made enemies, and the Yanks won the series in Game 6. 
So going into the upcoming Game 6, the Phillies who were on the team last year HAVE to be thinking about the similarities to last year's Game 6, and the effort necessary to make a difference in the outcome. However, this year's Game 6 will be very, very different from last year's.
First of all, the game will be played in Citizen's Bank Park. Roy Oswalt is scheduled to start and has not lost at home as a Phillie this year. Oswalt executed a brilliant winning performance at home against this same Giants team in Game 2 of the series just five days ago. Cole Hamels, who is lined up to start Game 7, could get his first start at home this postseason. Hamels has never lost a series clinching game in his career in the postseason.
Thursday night's game also shined a light on the resilience of this team that has been hiding throughout the majority of this postseason. For the entire NLCS up to Game 5, the team that scored first went on to win the game. The Giants struck in the first inning off of Roy Halladay, scoring a run off of Buster Posey's fielder's choice groundout to Chase Utley. But the Phillies battled back. They took advantage of Giants' mistakes in the third inning, in which Tim Lincecum hit a batter, Aubrey Huff made an error, and Posey made a bad play on Halladay's bunt attempt. Although the Phils scored three runs, the third inning could have blown the game open even wider, but the Phillies stranded two runners on base with less than two outs. However, they managed to give Halladay a lead and some breathing room in which he always performs at a much higher level.

This pitching matchup of Halladay v. Lincecum differed from that of Game 1, in which Halladay actually out pitched Lincecum but the Giants were able to capitalize better on their opportunities and win the game. In Game 5, Lincecum looked much sharper than Halladay, who walked the leadoff batter in the game and seemed to struggle with control throughout the outing.
Yet, the Phillies remained resilient. They took advantage of their opportunities in the third inning and that proved to be the difference in the game.
Now, heading into Game 6, the Phillies have a wonderful opportunity to even the series and force a Game 7 in which no one in their right mind could favor the Giants to win. And the Phillies have put themselves in this position due to to their opportunistic play in Game 5.
There was a wonderful stat posted by Fox in the middle of the Game 5 broadcast; the Phillies have swept fifteen three game series this year, the most in the majors. But following the devastating loss in Game 4, the Phillies have approached these final three games as each one being a one game series in which they need to sweep. It is this mentality, combined with the resilience that came alive in Game 5, that has sparked the optimism of this city once again and led many to question yet again the destiny of this team.
Will the Phillies sweep the final two games at home and advance to the World Series? If they succeed in doing so, does that mean they are destined to win it?
I guess we'll just have to figure that our for ourselves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Ten Greatest Moments in Phillies Postseason History

10. Victorino's Grand Slam
-The Phillies were matched up against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS after already securing a 1-0 series lead. After tying the score, 1-1, in the second, the Phillies loaded the bases against CC Sabathia after Brett Myers worked an exciting, 9 pitch walk. Shane Victorino, the little center fielder that could vs  the 6'7, 290 lb Sabathia. How did Victorino greet him? With a two-out grand slam into the porch in left that sent Sabathia to the bench and was the benchmark beginning to the Phils' World Series run.

9. "Get me to the plate, boys."
-In Game 4 of the 2009 NLDS, the Colorado Rockies scored three runs in the top of the eight inning to take a 4-2 lead on the Phillies. As the Phillies began to rally in the bottom of the eighth, legend has it that first baseman Ryan Howard paced back and forth in the dugout, bat in hand, and uttered, "get me to the plate, boys." Howard then hit a two out, two RBI double to tie the game in the eighth before Jayson Werth's RBI single in the ninth won the game and clinched the series for the Fightin's.

8. Ruiz's Infield Single
-After the Tampa Bay Rays had tied the score 4-4 in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, one of the most exciting innings in Phillies history began with a walk by none other than Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved up to third on a throwing error. Rays manager Joe Maddon elected to intentionally walk two batters in a row to load the bases with no outs and put a force out at home plate. Carlos Ruiz stepped up three batters later and loped a little dribbler up the third base line that Rays third baseman Evan Longoria couldn't handle and it gave the Phils a walkoff win along with a 2-1 series lead.

7. In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs
-Perennial journeyman Matt Stairs forever etched his name in Phillies postseason lore when he sent Johnathan Broxton's 2-1 fastball deep into the seats in right to give the Phils the lead in the eighth inning of the 2008 NLCS Game 4. Victorino set the historics up by tying the game with a two run home run earlier in the inning. The win gave the Phils an insurmountable 3-1 series lead and Johnathan Broxton a year's worth of nightmares.

6. Rollins' Double
-In what has to be the most exciting play on this list, Jimmy Rollins lined a two-out, two run, walkoff double into the gap in right center field  in Game 4 of the 2009 NLCS that gave the Phils a 3-1 series lead. Johnathan Broxton was the goat again this time, as the nightmares from last year must have haunted him as he lead the inning off with a walk to none other than Matt Stairs himself.

5. Unser's Double
-The other famous double in Phillies history came in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 1980 World Series. The Kansas City Royals led the game 3-2 going into the ninth, but the Phillies persisted. Mike Schmidt led the inning off with a single, which brought up Del Unser. Following up his heroics in the NLCS, Unser lined a double to right, which scored Schmidt and tied the game. Manny Trillo singled in Unser to take the lead and the Phils won the game 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead.

4. 1980 NLCS Game 5
-In one of the greatest games of one of the greatest series in the history of the postseason, the Phillies rallied from being down three runs in the eighth inning against Nolan Ryan. After loading the bases, Ryan gave up a game-tying single to Unser, who later scored on a Manny Trillo triple that gave the Phils the lead in a five run eighth. After the Astros tied the game in the ninth, Gary Maddox's two out, RBI single in the 10th proved to be the game winner and series clincher and sent the Phillies to the World Series.

3. Roy Halladay's No-Hitter
-Roy Halladay, who had been waiting his whole career to pitch in the postseason, threw the second no-hitter in postseason history in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first no hitter since Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Time will tell how big of an impact this historic event has on the Phillies' run this year.

2. 1980 World Series Game 6
-The Phillies won their first championship in franchise history after defeating the Kansas City Royals, 4-1. Tug McGraw's leap off the mound is the most iconic image of Phillies postseason history, as he recorded Willie Wilson's record breaking fourteenth strikeout of the series. 

1. 2008 World Series Game 5, Part 2
-Game 5 of the 2008 World Series is one of the most interesting and controversial games in postseason history. The game was suspended due to weather after the top half of the sixth inning with the score tied at 2-2. Many fans were outraged at Commissioner Bud Selig's decision, claiming the game should not have been started at all. The game resumed two days later with pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins leading part 2 off with a double and eventually scoring to give the Phils a 3-2 lead. Pedro Feliz's RBI single in the 7th proved to be the game winner as the Phillies reversed the curse of Philadelphia and recorded the second World Series championship in franchise history.

Phillies Should Take a Page out of the '08-'09 Playbook

I'm back folks. Sorry for the delay, college really does make you lazy. But i have been driven from my slumber due to the unsettling nature of the usually always settled nature of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies began this postseason by taking care of business as usual. They took advantage of the Cincinnati Reds' misplay and rallied behind excellent starting pitching to complete the first postseason series sweep in franchise history. It seemed like a fitting start to an inevitably historic finale. 
Almost all of the ESPN experts picked the Phils to win the National League, the city had rallied behind the team as usual, and round one of the playoffs went off without a hitch. Everyone seemed to think that the Phillies' destiny had already been written. Everyone, that is, except the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants believe in a destiny of their own, and are proving to the country that they deserved more respect than they were given coming into this postseason. For all that has been made up of the Phillies Big 3 starting pitchers (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels) the Giants starter's (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Johnathan Sanchez) ERA was actually better than the Phillies during the month of September. This is a team that is, if not better, at least equal to the Phillies in starting pitching.
The large discrepancy between these two teams is the hitting. The Phillies scored almost one hundred runs more in the regular season than the Giants did, and no one in the San Francisco lineup this year batted above .300, hit 30 home runs, or had 100 RBI's.
In fact, in the postseason this year, the Giants haven't scored more than 3 runs in any of their wins. The Phillies are averaging about 4 runs a game this postseason, which tells you everything you need to know about this series. If the Phillies do what they do on a regular basis, they will win. 
But the Phillies haven't been doing that. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley have failed to deliver in clutch situations throughout the series and Raul Ibanez has been a ghost. Ryan Howard has seemingly lost his ability to hit postseason home runs and Jayson Werth continues to look like a hero at the plate in one game, and a confused bystander at the plate in the next.

In game three of the NLCS, Matt Cain consistently threw fastballs for strikes right by the Phillies hitters.
"When he throws that fastball, it just freezes you," said Jimmy Rollins, who was mic'ed for sound for Fox.
Where is the hunger in the offense that has defined the past two postseason runs? The lineup in game three was not the same aggressive lineup that won the World Series for the Phils in 2008 when our starting rotation consisted of Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton. With our Big 3 assembled now, our lineup only has to be nearly as good as it was two years ago, but it has failed to accomplish even that feat. 
Game four matches Blanton up against Madison Baumgarner, a young left-hander who the Phillies have never faced before. This is the marquee matchup of the series. If Blanton is able to pull out a victory, the Phillies will have Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels lined up to win a three game series. Given the Phillies history of supplying run support for weaker pitchers, i think it is safe to say that they will extract some of the offensive aggressiveness that has allowed them to be successful for the past two years.
If they fail, the Giants will be ready to capitalize, and the Phillies will be wondering what happened.