ST. LOUIS - Pinch-hitter Ben Francisco and closer Ryan Madson made manager Charlie Manuel's moves look smart, and the Philadelphia Phillies held off the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in their NL playoff series.
Francisco batted for pitcher Cole Hamels and broke open a scoreless game with a two-out, three-run homer in the seventh inning.
Madson earned his first multi-inning save of the year. He came in and got Allen Craig to sharply ground into a double play with the bases loaded to escape in the eighth, then worked around Yadier Molina's RBI single in the ninth.
The Phillies, favoured to win it all after a franchise-record 102-win season, can finish off the wild-card Cardinals in Game 4 Wednesday, with Roy Oswalt opposing Edwin Jackson.
Francisco's shot off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was only his second hit in 19 at-bats in the post-season.
"I knew the way the game was going I was probably going to be in there to pinch-hit off a lefty," Francisco said. "Got up there with a runner in scoring position, I was just trying to get a hit up the middle and he left one up and luckily it got out of here."
Hamels struck out eight in six scoreless innings. He's a franchise-best 7-4 in the post-season with a 3.09 earned-run average.
The Cardinals frustrated a season-high crowd of 46,914, stranding 14 runners. They set a National League record with 169 double play balls.
Albert Pujols and Ryan Theriot had four hits apiece for St. Louis, the heavy underdog wild-card winners who had runners in scoring position in six innings. They came up empty despite three hits in the eighth, including a pinch-hit single by Matt Holliday in only his second appearance of the series.
The Cardinals' decision to let Garcia bat with two on and two out in the sixth backfired in a big way. Garcia struck out on Hamels' 117th pitch and wasn't the same in the seventh.
The Phillies, held to three hits to that point, doubled that total in the seventh. Shane Victorino led off with a single and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked with two outs. Francisco, who had been 1 for 9 against Garcia, deposited a 1-0 fastball in the visitor's bullpen in left-centre field.
Francisco was clutch at the end of the year, getting seven hits in his last 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Lefty vs. lefty percentages, even against Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, allowed Garcia to elude trouble until the seventh.
Chase Utley singled with two outs in the sixth, breaking a string of nine straight batters retired by Garcia, and went to second on a wild pitch on an 0-1 delivery to Hunter Pence.
The Cardinals elected for an intentional walk at that point, and the move paid off when Howard, who is 2 for 15 with a homer and an RBI against Garcia counting the playoffs, tapped out weakly to first.
Garcia was at only 74 pitches through six, but needed 26 more in the seventh.
Hamels was up to the task as well, striking out David Freese with two runners on to end the first. The 2008 World Series MVP got Garcia on a groundout with two on to end the fourth, and fanned the pitcher for his biggest out to end the sixth.
NOTES: Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins had two hits and is 7 for 11 in the series. ... Tuesday was Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's 67th birthday. It was also St. Louis pitcher Kyle Lohse's 32nd birthday. ... Garcia threw first-pitch strikes to the first 10 hitters. ... The Cardinals stole three bases in the first four innings. They totalled 57 in the regular season, second-lowest in the majors. ... Placido Polanco singled in the ninth, ending a 0 for 29 slump against St. Louis in the post-season. He was 0 for 17 with Detroit in the 2006 World Series. ... Counting the post-season, Theriot is 10 for 24 against Hamels.