Even though his team appeared clearly overmatched in the pitching department, Fregosi said defense would be the difference. "If we catch and throw the ball, we'll win," he said.
The Phillies made some costly errors and still outlasted the Atlanta Braves -- by outpitching them, four games to two.
Fregosi didn't repeat his prediction before the World Series. But Game 1 undoubtedly served as an indication of what the Phillies manager was talking about before the NLCS.
The Phillies were out-defensed, not necessarily beaten, 8-5, by the Toronto Blue Jays. Their tormentor was second baseman
Roberto Alomar, who made his first error in 24
postseason games, but still was undeniably the game's fielding star.
And it was a play on which Alomar almost got another error, in the sixth inning, that may have been the turning point. He had robbed Len Dykstra of a hit the inning before, saving a run and cutting off a big inning, but it was on a single up the middle by Mariano Duncan that Alomar's reputation, and advance scouting reports, kept the Phillies from taking the lead.
"Everybody is aware of how Robbie throws behind runners," said Paul Molitor, the Blue Jays' veteran designated hitter. "[Kevin] Stocker slipped because of that 'backdoor' play Robbie likes to make."
Stocker had rounded third when he was alerted that Alomar had made a diving stop of Duncan's single. He lost his balance and immediately dived back to third base.
What Stockton hadn't realized is that when Alomar came up to throw, the ball slipped from his hand and went 20 feet farther into center field. But it was too late to recover. Stockton was helpless, lying on the ground.
"When that happened," Molitor said, "it really helped us." Instead of taking the lead, the Phillies lost it on John Olerud's homer in the bottom half of the inning. The Blue Jays never looked back.
"The first one [the play on Dykstra] was the tougher one," said Alomar. "But the second one . . . that was a key play for us."
The Phillies never will know how big the play was on Dykstra. It came at the start of the fifth inning, and preceded a triple by Duncan and a walk to John Kruk. There is a good possibility it might have forced Blue Jays starter Juan Guzman out of the game three outs earlier, rather than at the end of the inning.
Dykstra hit a looping line drive that went directly over the outstretched glove of Olerud at first base. The ball hung in the air long enough for Alomar to make a skidding catch in shallow right.
The two plays by Alomar saved a minimum of two runs, and on the flip side of the defensive coin, the Phillies lost one by lack of execution. Left fielder Milt Thompson collided with Dykstra on a long fly by Devon White that went for a three-base error.