PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies have seen it too often this season, watching their bullpen collapse and the other team rallying for an unlikely win. Moments before midnight Monday, they were the ones jumping up and down after Jimmy Rollins' two-out, two-run double gave them a thrilling 5-4 victory.
And now they're one more win from an even bigger celebration, a return to the World Series.
Rollins was the star, but Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton certainly played a key role, walking pinch-hitter Matt Stairs (who hit a huge homer off him in Game 4 of last year's NLCS) on four pitches with one out, then hitting Carlos Ruiz on the next pitch. After pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs lined out, Broxton left a 1-and-1 fastball over the plate, and Rollins drove it into the rightfield gap, rocking Citizens Bank Park on another cool night.
"Obviously we have a lot of talent, and not just the experience of last year, but the type of guys we have on our team really believe in themselves and are borderline extremely cocky that they're going to come back every single time no matter what the score is, no matter who's pitching," said Phillies closer Brad Lidge, his voice hoarse from the celebration.
"It's a lot of fun to watch. They really don't ever feel like they're out of a game. They always feel like they can get it done. I think in the postseason our intensity and our focus goes up and we kind of feed off each other and we're able to do some pretty special things."
"It's just belief. We belief in ourselves. We believe in our ability,'' Rollins said. "You have to play 27 outs. We've been on the other end of that a number of times this year. So just because you have two outs, things can still happen."
The Phillies now have a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven NL Championship, and thus three tries — the first on Wednesday at home after today's scheduled but unnecessary off day — for the final win they need.
"We can't be trying to figure out percentages because that wouldn't work in our behalf," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We have to go out there and play baseball and win one ballgame. That's what we need to do."
The Dodgers bullpen had been one of the best in the game and, after a strong start by Randy Wolf, Torre had it set up how he wanted, going from Hong-Chih Kuo to George Sherrill to Broxton, who came on to get the last out of the eighth, hitting 100 mph on his first pitch. But Broxton, an All-Star who was 36-of-42 in saves during the season, and two-for-two in the postseason (including 10 appearances where he got at least four outs) couldn't finish the job.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive,'' Broxton said. "Try to make him beat me on my best pitch.''
"It's obviously a tough one to get past but, you know, that's our job," Torre said. "It's one of those things. They're a very tough lineup to go through. You try to be careful. He almost dug himself out of that last inning."
Rollins had something of a disappointing season and hadn't done that much overall in the playoffs, but he had two big hits off Rockies closer Huston Street then an even bigger one Monday with the game on the line.
Rollins said he was ready for Broxton, and the challenge of his fastball. "He threw it right where I was looking," Rollins said. "Right before he threw it, I said, 'Hit a ball to the right-centerfield gap.' "
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was hardly surprised Rollins stepped up.
"He likes that," Manuel said. "He likes the moment. He wants to be there, he can control his adrenaline, he can handle the moment. … This guy, he's always wanting to be up there at the big moment in the game."
The game was close throughout, the Phillies taking a 2-0 led in the first on red-hot Ryan Howard's two-out homer, the Dodgers tying in the fourth then building a 4-2 lead by the sixth, the Phillies responding to make it 4-3 when Shane Victorino tripled and Chase Utley singled him in, and their bullpen keeping it that way until the ninth-inning dramatics.
"We always talk about how it takes 27 outs to close out the game, and you stay there until it's over,'' Manuel said. "Like Yogi said. And that's what happens.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.