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10/20/09 3:02 AM ET

Phillies firm believers in comeback magic

Manuel has players committed to fighting until final out

PHILADELPHIA -- The preacher's son has been delivering the same sermon to the Phillies so often most of them have memorized it, especially the punch line: "It takes 27 outs to close out a baseball game."

Charlie Manuel, the Phillies' homespun manager and son of a minister, has this eerie ability to deliver his message in such a way it not only has impact, but sinks in.

So, to Charlie and his multi-talented players, Monday night's incredible 5-4 walk-off victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers was uncanny reality.

Charlie hums "The Impossible Dream" and his players chime in with the lyrics. In short, they believe as long as there's one strike -- just one strike -- remaining in a game a miracle is possible.

And Monday night, not even the Big Dodger in the Sky could keep this one from happening.

The Phillies were getting beat by the Dodgers, 4-3, down to their last out in the ninth inning and many in the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park were heading to the parking lots.

In the crowded press box, weary journalists were booking Thursday flights to Los Angeles because that's where the National League Championship Series would return Friday for a necessary Game 6 after the Dodgers got the last out and evened the best-of-seven tournament at two games apiece.

But with the count 1-1 on Jimmy Rollins, runners on first and second and two out, the gritty shortstop sent a Jonathan Broxton fastball screaming to the gap in right-center and the Phillies owned an amazing 5-4 triumph.

"We always talk about it takes 27 outs to close out the game," Manuel kept saying. "I tell them to stay there until it's over."

I don't think the Phillies celebrated winning their Division Series over Colorado earlier this month with the enthusiasm this comeback produced. Rollins was mobbed by his teammates, who piled on top, refusing to let their hero come up for air.

With the Phillies' victory in Game 4, an NLCS stands at 3-1 for the 13th time since it became a best-of-seven series in 1985. Ten of the previous 12 teams went on to win the NLCS, with only the 2003 Marlins and 1996 Braves rallying from the 3-1 deficit to win three straight and take the series.
Year Team up 3-1 Opponent Final
2008 Phillies Dodgers 4-1
2005 Astros Cardinals 4-2
2003 Cubs Marlins 4-3
2002 Giants Cardinals 4-1
2001 D-backs Braves 4-1
2000 Mets Cardinals 4-1
1999 Braves Mets 4-2
1998 Padres Braves 4-2
1996 Cardinals Braves 4-3
1992 Braves Pirates 4-3
1990 Reds Pirates 4-2
1989 Giants Cubs 4-1
Teams in bold won the series.

The Phillies can wrap up a return to the World Series they won in 2008 if they can polish off the Dodgers when this series resumes here Wednesday after a day off. If the Dodgers have enough life left in them to keep that from happening, the Phillies must jet across the country.

It's one thing to preach that there's always a chance for success before the last out, but I wonder what makes the players believe that.

The Phillies bombed Los Angeles on Sunday night, 11-0, but typical of a long-running pattern in baseball, they had trouble scratching for hits and runs Monday. At one stage, former teammate Randy Wolf retired 12 batters in a row after Ryan Howard's two-run, first-inning homer.

In short, as the game progressed, the outlook for a Philadelphia victory wasn't good. The Dodgers, with their superb bullpen, were 78-3 entering the ninth inning with a lead during the regular season.

Last year in the NLCS, it was the Dodgers' Broxton who blew a lead as pinch-hitter Matt Stairs blasted a two-run homer in Game 4 to propel a 7-5 Philadelphia victory.

For Rollins, the double was maybe the most important of his career.

"I really haven't thought about that," he said after a brief closed-door session with his teammates who celebrated his gigantic hit. "But it doesn't get any bigger, I guess, at this moment in the LCS. Last game we had played, last at-bat I had, victory for the Phillies. So it would probably have to be at the top by far."

Reliever Brad Lidge, who got his first victory of 2009, talked about the talent in the lineup.

"But besides that, I think -- 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."

NL Championship Series
Gm. 1 PHI 8, LAD 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 LAD 2, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 PHI 11, LAD 0 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 PHI 5, LAD 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 10, LAD 4 Wrap Video

I'm certain Broxton was thinking about 2008 when he walked Stairs with one out and then hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch. After pinch-hitter Gregg Dobbs lined out, it was Rollins' turn. Eric Bruntlett was the pinch-runner for Stairs.

"With Jimmy up there, we knew Broxton throws hard -- I think I saw a pitch hit 101 [mph] -- and Jimmy would be looking for a fastball," said Howard.

"We were down by a run and this game could have changed the momentum. If they win, we're 2-2 and have to go back to L.A. They would feel like they have life."

I asked Howard how difficult it is to have the mindset Manuel preaches.

"It's not hard at all," he said. "That's how we're made up. That's how our team is -- the way we've carried ourselves all year. I can't say it enough. It's not over until it's over, until they get that 27th out."

Shane Victorino says playing until the last out "is definitely something we believe in and that's not a cliche. We never give up. There are 27 outs in this game and you keep playing until that 27th out is made. Obviously, we did that tonight. What better guy [Rollins] for it to happen to. He couldn't have come up in a bigger time."

The Phillies can wrap up a return to the World Series on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. They'll have 27 outs to do it and it goes without saying they'll use all of them.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.