There in a pinch: Big Ben Francisco delivers for Phils

The trade that originally brought Cliff Lee to the Phillies in 2009 once again paid dividends. But this time it had nothing to do with Lee’s left arm.

Ben Francisco, the other guy acquired in the six-player trade with Cleveland two years ago, broke open a scoreless game with a two-out, pinch-hit, three-run homer in the seventh inning. It was Francisco’s first home run since May 25. His only previous pinch-hit homer was in 2007 with Cleveland.

But, with two outs and Shane Victorino at second, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa ordered an intentional walk to Carlos Ruiz, who had been 1-for-10 in the NLDS. Up came Francisco, who was 1-for-18 in his postseason career.

Make that 2-for-19, as Francisco deposited a 1-0 fastball into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field.

“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 [Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia] left one up and luckily it got out of here.”

Francisco, who entered 2011 as the starting right fielder, hit .266 with four home runs in 107 plate appearances in April before he went into a tailspin and wound up on the bench. He entered the postseason on somewhat of a roll. He had seven hits in his final 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Favored by many around the league to win it all after a franchise-record 102-win season, the Phillies can finish off the wild-card Cardinals in Game 4 today with Roy Oswalt opposing Edwin Jackson.

Three things we saw at the park

Up next: Game 4, today at St. Louis, 6:07 p.m.

PHL leads series, 2-1

1. Along came Polly. Placido Polanco singled yesterday in the ninth inning, ending an 0-for-29 slump against St. Louis in the postseason. He was 0-for-17 with Detroit in the 2006 World Series. Before yesterday’s game, Phils skipper Charlie Manuel said he thought an old sports hernia injury was still bothering his starting third baseman. “He gets real tight and sore, and I think it definitely bothers him,” Manuel said.

2. All aboard the Cole train. Cole Hamels — the only one of the Phillies’ Phab Four starting pitchers with a World Series championship ring (and World Series, NLCS MVP awards to boot) — tossed six shutout innings before being lifted for pinch-hitter Ben Fransisco in the seventh inning. The left-hander struck out eight Cardinals, while scattering just five hits, only two of which went for extra bases. He threw 117 total pitches (72 for strikes).

3. Heart of the matter. The Phillies’ No. 3, 4, and 5 hitters (Hunter Pence, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino) finished the game a combined 1-for-11. Howard, a St. Louis native, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is now batting just .182 in the NLDS. The Cardinals pitched around Pence to get to Howard in the sixth, and the first baseman grounded out. bruce wells

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