...Enter Ben Francisco. With one mighty wallop, Francisco entered into the Phillies folklore.
The thing about postseason baseball is that, at any moment, you might see something totally implausible, totally illogical and mind-numbingly exciting while being simultaneously terrifying.
The allure of the short series is that you can never really take a breath or relax, because you might just miss something completely extraordinary.
That was the case on Tuesday, when the Phillies visited St. Louis for Game 3 of the National League Division Series. After both teams traded come-from-behind victories in the first two games that featured a lot of offense, the crucial third game would be just the opposite, with both lineups failing to put together any offense for the first two-thirds of the contest.
And like their win in the series opener, they really relied on one hitter, and one bigger hit, to get over the hump for a 3-2 win on their way to a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five series.
While Cole Hamels was locked into a pitchers duel with Cards' lefty Jaime Garcia, it was looking more and more like a war of attrition, as neither club was able to get any runs across the plate through the first six frames.
In fact, it wasn't until the top of the seventh that either team had a leadoff hitter reach base, when Shane Victorino singled to center to lead off the Phillies' half of the inning. After a wild pitch moved him to second, the Phillies were primed to score the first run of the game, but it would not be easy, as both John Mayberry, Jr. and Placido Polanco were retired without so much as moving Victorino to third.
It was, at this point, that the Phillies got the break that they needed: with two away, Tony La Russa opted to walk Carlos Ruiz -- despite him having just one hit in the series -- to face Ben Francisco, who was pinch-hitting for Hamels. The right-handed hitter, who struggled in the regular season after a hot start, made the most of his second appearance in the postseason, as he lifted a 1-1 offering from Garcia high and deep into the St. Louis sky, where it found some real estate just beyond the left-center field wall.
Not only did his longball break a scoreless tie and give the Phillies enough offense to give them the win, but it also broke a 13-inning scoring drought for the Phils, who last saw a runner cross home in the bottom of the second inning in Game 2.
If you want to see the last time that Fransisco homered, you'd have to go all the way back to May 25, when he was still getting penciled into the starting lineup on a daily basis. Since then, he's come to the plate 124 times, without so much as a long ball.
But that's what happens in the playoffs; the ones you'd least expect to have an impact will come up with the biggest plays. Whether it was the light-hitting Ryan Theriot's 4-for-5 night for the Cardinals, or Francisco's clutch blast for the Phillies, there really is something about the allure of the bright lights in October.