When Matt Stairs comes to the plate, it's for one reason; the Phillies need a longball. Last night, Stairs may have had longball on his mind, but he took himself out of that all-or-nothing mode and let Jonathan Broxton walk him rather than give into him with a fastball. That patience by Stairs wound up doing just as much as a longball would have done and a lot more than swinging at any of Broxton's offerings would have done as well.
After the game, Charlie Manuel pointed out that Stairs patience wasn't something that was forced upon him. "He was very good. As a matter of fact, I was letting him hit 3-0," admitted the Phillies manager. Of course, depending on who you ask, Broxton simply wasn't going to - or wasn't able to - throw a strike to Stairs and some believe it had something to do with the fact that Stairs went deep on Broxton in last year's NLCS, ironically also in Game Four. Manuel believes that Broxton was going right at him, but just couldn't get the ball over the plate.
"It seemed like he was just having trouble getting it over the plate. He was coming right at him. He wasn't throwing him sliders or change-ups or nothing," said Manuel. "He was throwing him 97, 99. I looked and saw a couple of 98s, 99. He was throwing him hard."
Jimmy Rollins, who drove in the winning run with a two-run double, believed all along that there was no way Broxton was going to pitch to Stairs, especially after last season. "He wasn't going to let Matt Stairs beat him. He pitched around Matt Stairs. He got Chooch [Carlos Ruiz] on deck, good double play guy. Although, he's been hot in a situation that you don't have to give into a guy like Matt Stairs when you have a double play sort of next."
The Phillies have shown above-average patience at the plate against the Dodgers, especially at key points in the game. Thanks to that strategy, Phillies hitters have found themselves in favorable counts throughout the series with the Dodgers and have pushed pitch counts up quickly for Dodgers starting pitchers. In Game One, starter Clayton Kershaw threw 89 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings of work and the Dodgers bullpen threw another 69 pitches the rest of the way. In Game Three, Dodgers pitchers threw 171 pitches and last night, they threw 146 and starter Randy Wolf threw 88 just through 5 1/3 innings of work. Somewhat ironically, Vicente Padilla, who can find himself with a high pitch count rather quickly, threw 95 pitches through 7 1/3 innings and the Dodgers bullpen needed just another 15 pitches to finish off the Phillies. The difference was that Padilla came out throwing strikes, not letting Phillies hitters dictate how he pitched and that forced the Phillies to be less patient.
Jayson Werth averaged 4.5 pitches per plate appearance (p/pa) this season to lead the Phillies in that category. As a team, the Phillies saw 3.87 pitches per plate appearance, keeping in mind that those numbers also include pitchers who will generally drag down the team average. Werth's patience has been a career-long approach that he takes at the plate and is right around his career average of 4.51 p/pa. Stairs is generally pretty patient as well and was second on the club with 4.28 p/pa.
As the Phillies prepare to face Clayton Kershaw again in Game Five, the approach at the plate figures to be more of the same. Stress patience, make the pitcher throw strikes and then get into the Dodgers bullpen as early as possible, hoping to be able to do some damage against the relievers. Of course, for the Dodgers, it will be all-hands-on-deck as they now have to win three straight against the defending World Champions and the first of those games is in Philadelphia.
NLCS Pitching Comparisons