Conventional wisdom would hold that the Phillies have all the pressure in the world on their shoulders when they take the field for Game Five on Friday.
They were the team anointed as the best in the National League all the way back in December, they were the best team in the National League in the regular season and that combination means that you're the team everyone is expecting to win in the first round of the playoffs. Roy Oswalt sees it another way.
"I see it the other way," Oswalt said. "They are coming into our house trying to beat us. We came here and split with them. They've got to come back and beat us in our house."
One might wonder if Oswalt is really the guy to go to with questions about facing pressure in light of the way he handed back a lead on Wednesday, but he's got a point. The whole idea of home field advantage boils down to being the team with last licks in a win-or-go-home game in the playoffs. No matter all the things that had to go wrong to get the Phillies to this point, they are still at home and they still have Roy Halladay on the mound.
That's more of an argument about which team you think is going to win than it is an argument about pressure, though. There's no doubt that the Phillies are favored to win the game, but that just adds to the mounting pressure.
The Phillies hardly looks like a team that's playing all loose and pressure-free right now. The offense is incapable of anything but the smallest bursts and the team has now seen two of their starters hand back leads on the way to losses. The Cardinals have a lot to do with that, obviously, but the impression still remains one of a team that's uncomfortable on the field right now.
Whether they'd admit it or not, the Phillies players have to know the kinds of judgments and questions they will face if they lose on Friday. They know that people will call them chokers and that all of their regular season accomplishment won't be worth a bucket of warm spit because they couldn't even get out of the first round of the playoffs.
The Cardinals might have had more pressure on them in Game Four because they were at home, but even that's debatable. They want to win, but the idea that there's any kind of similar pressure is a hard sell. The fact that they made the playoffs was beyond what anyone thought possible in the middle of September, so making it to a Game Five against a team most people though was bound for the World Series is gravy.
Put simply, if the Cardinals lose on Friday, they still had a nice season. If the Phillies lose, their season is a failure. That's a recipe for pressure, no matter how Oswalt chooses to slice it.