© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
DENVER -- The stage is theirs, and only theirs.
On Monday at 6:07 p.m. ET, the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies will meet in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, and it will be the only baseball game left in the first round of the 2009 postseason.
The drama from the American League ended Sunday when the Angels knocked off the Boston Red Sox in three straight games and the Yankees swept the Twins. On the other side of the NL bracket, the Dodgers already punched their ticket to the NL Championship Series two days before the Rockies and Phillies stepped on the diamond at Coors Field for Game 3.
But judging from the epic, Division Series-record 4 hour, 6 minute Game 3 that the Phillies won, 6-5, in record-tying cold (35 degrees at first pitch, 25 by the end of the game), a manic Monday wouldn't be a major surprise.
The Phillies' victory in Sunday night's war of attrition puts them in the perfect place to wrap up this series in four games. They have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five set and lefty Cliff Lee going for them on four days of rest, thanks to Saturday's snowout. Lee dominated the Rockies in Game 1 in Philadelphia, going all the way in a 5-1 win.
"It's huge," said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who drove in the winning run in Game 3 with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly. "Being down 2-1, especially here on the road, would have made it that much tougher. But now we have the opportunity to win it tomorrow, and we have to take advantage of that."
They can also take advantage of a few positive signs that popped up in Sunday's game.
In the dead cold, the Phillies' offense began to heat up at the top of the order. Jimmy Rollins had struggled in the first three games, but he singled sharply to lead off the ninth inning against Colorado closer Huston Street and eventually scored on Howard's flyout.
No. 3 hitter Chase Utley, who didn't have an RBI in the series, took care of that right away, blasting his first home run of these playoffs over the wall in left-center field in the first inning, and he added two more hits.
"We know how to play and a lot of times people like to talk about our offense because we hit a lot of home runs," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "And that's true, but at the same time ... we are playing situational baseball and we are moving the runners and we are creating, manufacturing runs by our speed and by executing on offense."
And even Brad Lidge is getting in on the action.
Lidge, the team's on-again, off-again closer, was on Sunday, shutting the door on the Rockies for his first save since Sept. 20 and maybe getting a shot of confidence that can carry him through the rest of the playoffs.
"It felt great," Lidge said. "I really feel like maybe the last week or so I had a couple of outings at home and I felt real comfortable, real good. I kind of was starting to get that feeling again that things were going to go right.
"When the postseason starts, it's a completely new slate. And I get out there and I feel real good in the postseason and in general right now. So hopefully we'll keep doing the job as a whole that we did with the bullpen tonight."
Meanwhile, the Rockies know what they have to do, and it starts with putting better at-bats together against Lee, who was throwing a shutout for 8 2/3 innings in Game 1 before finally giving up a run in the ninth.
"Everyone should remember how he pitched them" Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins said of Lee. "Hopefully he's not as on as he was the last time. It's not easy, but I like our chances."
Atkins, getting the starts at third because he's a right-handed hitter and the Phillies are throwing lefties at Colorado in every game, hit a career-low .226 this year but came alive in Game 3, singling, doubling and driving in two runs.
And budding star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez continued to own Phillies pitchers. The 23-year-old leadoff man singled in the first, homered in the fourth, doubled in the seventh, and walked and stole second base in the ninth.
"We got beat," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "But what I'm proud of as far as the club is concerned is we left it all out there."
Game 4 starter Ubaldo Jimenez will have to perform better than he did in Game 1, when he cruised through four shutout innings before allowing the Phillies to score two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. He said he's ready for the task.
"The first thing is, never take anything for granted, just try to be the same every time," Jimenez said. "Like I did in the first four innings ... I was so good, and then suddenly, I just lost everything. [I have to just try] to stay focused the whole game and just keep going and challenge hitters."
If the Rockies can take consolation in one fact, it's that they have been written off before. They were 18-28 in late May and saw their manager, Clint Hurdle, dismissed, before bench coach Tracy took over the helm and led the team to a 74-42 record the rest of the way and the NL Wild Card berth.
"Without a doubt, we've done a great job when we've been down," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.
"We've been resilient."