Phils rally late, take 3-1 NLCS lead

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By JAY LeBLANC
October 14, 2008

Phillies 7, Dodgers 5
Phillies lead series 3-1

The Dodgers led by two entering the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series last night, but Shane Victorino tied the score with a two-run blast and Matt Stairs slugged a two-run shot of his own three batters later to lift the visiting Phillies to a 7-5 win and a 3-1 series lead. Brad Lidge got the final four outs to seal the win for the Phillies, who will send ace Cole Hamels to the mound Wednesday night as they look to make their first trip to the World Series since 1993.

The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Dodgers starter Derek Lowe in the top of the first. Consecutive singles by leadoff man Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth put runners on first and third for Chase Utley. The All-Star second baseman doubled to right to drive Rollins home with the first run of the ballgame and push Werth to third. Werth came home when the next batter, Ryan Howard, grounded out to second. Pat Burrell then drew a walk to put runners on first and third, but Lowe got Victorino to ground into a double play to limit the damage.

L.A. got a run back in the bottom of the frame against Phillies starter Joe Blanton. Rafael Furcal led off with a bunt single and advanced to second on an Andre Ethier groundout. Blanton issued an intentional pass to Manny Ramirez to put runners on first and second, and then fanned Russell Martin for the second out. James Loney followed with a double to center that drove Furcal home to make it 2-1 Phillies. Blake DeWitt came up with runners on second and third and two outs, but lined out to first to end the threat.

Things calmed down until the bottom of the fifth, when the Dodgers took the lead. Furcal walked to open the frame and advaned to second on an Ethier single. Ramirez followed with a single to center that scored Furcal to tie the game at two apiece, and he and Ethier advanced to second and third respectively on the throw. Ethier then scored on a Martin groundout to make it 3-2 Dodgers. Blanton issued an intentional walk to Loney and then got DeWitt to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The Phillies tied the game in the top of the sixth. Ryan Howard led off the frame by drawing a walk from new Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Burrell followed with a single to center, and Victorino then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with one out. Chan Ho Park relieved Kershaw and got pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz to fly out to right for the second out. With Carlos Ruiz at the plate, the Dodgers righty uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Howard to score the tying run, with Burrell moving up to third. Ruiz walked to put runners on first and third, but Park preserved the tie by getting So Taguchi to fly out.

L.A. reclaimed the lead when Casey Blake led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot off Phillies reliever Chad Durbin. The right-hander then allowed a double to Juan Pierre and walked pinch-hitter Matt Kemp, prompting Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to lift him in favor of lefty Scott Eyre. Furcal tried to move the runners up with a sacrifice bunt, but Ryan Howard fielded it and threw wildly, allowing Furcal to reach and Pierre to score to make it 5-3 L.A. After Ethier lined out for the first out of the inning, Eyre intentionally walked Manny Ramirez to load the bases and was then replaced by righty Ryan Madson. Martin followed with a line drive to second, which Utley snared before stepping on the bag to double off Furcal and end the threat.

The score stayed at 5-3 until the top of the eighth. Howard opened the inning with a single off Dodgers lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, who was then replaced by right-hander Cory Wade. Wade got Burrell to pop out to second for the first out, but then served up Victorino’s game-tying two-run blast. Pedro Feliz lined out for the second out, but Ruiz extended the inning with a single to left-center. Joe Torre summoned closer Jonathan Broxton from the bullpen to preserve the tie, but Stairs - pinch-hitting for Madson - had other ideas. The veteran slugger worked a 3-1 count before launching a two-run shot to right to put Philly up 7-5.

The Dodgers’ attempts to rally in the bottom of the frame fell flat. The speedy Furcal drew a walk from Phillies lefty J.C. Romero to open the inning, but Ether promptly grounded into a double play. With an off-day scheduled for today, Manuel called on Lidge for the four-out save. The flame-throwing righty served up a double to Ramirez to renew hopes for a rally. Martin then fanned but reached on a wild pitch, putting runners on first and third with two outs. However, Lidge got Loney to fly out to end the inning, and then worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the 7-5 win.

Now in the driver’s seat, the Phillies will send ace Hamels to the mound Wednesday night. The left-hander earned the win in Game 1 by tossing seven innings of two-run ball and fanning eight. The Dodgers will counter with righty Chad Billingsley, who won 16 games during the regular season but was torched for seven earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings to take the loss in Game 2.

 

Rays 9, Red Sox 1
Rays lead series 2-1

B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena each homered and Matt Garza tossed six innings of one-run ball as the Rays trounced the Red Sox 9-1 at Fenway Park yesterday afternoon to take a 2-1 lead in the American League Championship Series. Jon Lester, who pitched brilliantly in his two starts against the Angels in the American League Division Series, allowed four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings to take the loss.

The Rays got on the board in the top of the second. Longoria walked to open the frame and after Lester fanned Carl Crawford for the first out, Willy Aybar singled to put runners on first and second. Both runners moved up on a passed ball by Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, and Longoria came home on a groundout by Dioner Navarro to make it 1-0 Tampa Bay. Lester then fanned Baldelli to limit the damage to a single run.

Tampa Bay broke the game open the next inning. Jason Bartlett led off with a single and advanced to third on an Akinori Iwamura double. Upton followed with a three-run blast over the Green Monster to put the Rays up 4-0. Lester fanned Pena for the inning’s first out, but then served up another jack, this one to Longoria, to make it 5-0 Tampa Bay. He got Crawford on strikes and got Aybar to fly out to center, but the Rays had a lead they’d never relinquish.

The Red Sox got on the board in the seventh. Varitek walked to open the frame and advanced to third on an Alex Cora single that ended Garza’s outing after six-plus stellar innings. Jacoby Ellsbury lifted a sac fly to right off Rays reliever J.P. Howell that scored Varitek, but Dustin Pedroia then grounded into a double play that put to rest any chance of a Sox rally. Tampa Bay’s Baldelli smacked a three-run homer in the eighth and Pena added a solo shot in the ninth to account for the 9-1 final.

The Sox, now trailing 2-1, will send knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield to the mound tonight. The longest-tenured Red Sox player, Wakefield went 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA during the regular season and has yet to appear during the postsesason. Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander Andy Sonnanstine, who earned the win in the decisive Game 4 of the ALDS against the White Sox with 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. EST.

 

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.

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Jay LeBlanc

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