Defending champs show resilience with Game 3 blowout
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- It has been more than 30 years since a National League team has repeated as World Series champions and many of the current Phillies aren't old enough to have memories of the Big Red Machine that manufactured this accomplishment in Cincinnati.
But as they continue to push their way back toward this year's World Series, the Phillies are providing reason to believe that they are truly a well-oiled machine that has the ability to forget yesterday's struggles and avoid the pitfalls of looking too far into the future.
"We have short memories," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said after the Phillies bounced back from a tough Game 2 loss and claimed a decisive 11-0 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series on Sunday night. "We understand that nothing is taken for granted even when you win."
After the Phillies clinched the NL Division Series against the Rockies, Rollins said if he and his teammates are able to win the World Series again, history might be able to recognize them as the Little Red Machine.
Considering that they are making this journey with Ryan Howard, it's hard to link the word "little" to anything about this year's Phillies club.
Nevertheless, if the goal is completed, history will definitely forever recognize these Phillies as something special. The last NL team to repeat as World Series champions was the 1976 Reds.
Taking this one step further, over the course of the 33 years that have followed, just three other defending NL pennant winners -- the 1978 Dodgers and the 1992 and '96 Braves -- have returned to the World Series.
"It's just a great ballclub that comes to play every day," Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth said. "We play hard and leave everything out on the field."
When the Phillies blew a 1-0 eighth-inning lead against the Dodgers on Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, there was reason to wonder if momentum had shifted. But with a four-run first inning against Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday night, the defending world champions provided even more reason to believe that they've adopted manager Charlie Manuel's philosophy of taking this game one day at a time.
The Phillies' 11-0 victory over the Dodgers was the largest margin of victory in the team's postseason history. The top five victories:
PHI 11, LAD 0
PHI 10, TB 2
PHI 9, LAD 4
PHI 7, LAD 2
PHI 7, LAD 2
"We don't get too high and we don't get too low, and if we get knocked down we can get back up, and we try to keep a level head," Manuel said. "That's kind of who we are."
"I think on the flight back [to Philadelphia] everybody was focused on turning the page," Werth said. "We knew that we had done the job."
While splitting the first two games in Los Angeles, the Phillies had proven capable of completing the task of returning to Philadelphia for the middle three games of this series with home-field advantage. This was the same thing they had done before returning home to win last year's World Series in five games.
"The biggest thing is we love to play baseball," Manuel said. "That's a tribute to our team. That's a tribute to our guys and their attitude and the chemistry and things and kind of how they look at the game. That's very good."
Now that they have taken two of the first three games in this best-of-seven series, the Phillies have the opportunity to feel confident about their hopes of defending their NL pennant. In the history of the NLCS, 20 of the past 29 teams that have held a 2-1 series advantage have advanced to the World Series.
In some ways, history could also benefit the Dodgers, who came back from 2-1 deficits to win the NLCS in 1981 and '88.
"Those guys over there, it looks like it may be a pretty good series with that series shifting back to L.A.," Howard said about the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Angels. "But we're just going to focus on our series and when we get to that point, then we'll worry about whoever else we've got to face."
Living in the moment proved beneficial to the Phillies after the Rockies claimed a two-run lead with the three-run eighth inning they tallied in Game 4 of this year's NLDS at Coors Field.
Instead of worrying about what might happen in the do-or-die Game 5 that would have been played the following night in Philadelphia, the Phillies tallied three runs with two outs in the ninth inning and provided another reason to wonder if they may still possess some of that postseason magic that created last year's euphoric October.
Or maybe, this year's Phillies are like so many of the other recent Philadelphia clubs that have possessed a never-say-die attitude.
"When I faced these guys, I was never comfortable," Phillies right-hander Pedro Martinez said. "I never breathed completely easy until the game was over."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.