By JAY LeBLANC
October 10, 2008
Phillies 3, Dodgers 2
Phillies lead series 1-0
Cole Hamels overcame a shaky start to toss seven innings of two-run ball and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell homered during a three-run sixth-inning rally as the Phillies beat the visiting Dodgers 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead in the National League Championship Series. Losing pitcher Derek Lowe breezed through the potent Phillies lineup for the first five innings before an error and a pair of gopher balls sent him to the showers in the sixth.
L.A. took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Andre Ethier laced a double to left-center with one out and came around to score when the following hitter, Manny Ramirez, doubled high off the center field wall. Russell Martin followed with a strikeout, but James Loney walked and he and Ramirez advaned to second and third on a passed ball before Hamels got Matt Kemp to fly out to right to end the threat.
The Dodgers pushed another run across in the top of the fourth. Kemp opened the inning by lifting a fly ball down the right field line that landed just fair and then bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Kemp advaned to third on a Casey Blake groundout and came around to score on a Blake DeWitt sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 L.A. That’s the last time the Dodgers would threaten to score against Hamels, who seemed to get stronger as he went along and finished with eight strikeouts.
The Phillies never came close to solving Lowe until the sixth inning, when they rallied for three runs to take a lead they’d never relinquish. Shane Victorino opened the frame with a ground ball to Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who threw wildly to first base, allowing Victorino to not only reach but race to second. On the first pitch of his at bat, Utley blasted a home run to right to tie the game at two. Lowe got Ryan Howard to ground out to first before serving up another bomb, this one to Pat Burrell and to left field, to give Philly its first lead at 3-2. Joe Torre pulled the shell-shocked Lowe and Chan Ho Park put out the fire, but the damage was done.
The bullpens took control after that, as each team managed just a single from the seventh inning on. Brad Lidge put his perfect record in save chances on the line in the ninth and put a scare into the Citizens Bank Park crowd right away by allowing a warning-track fly ball to Kemp. Casey Blake followed with another warning track fly ball - this one to center - for the second out. Representing the Dodgers’ last hope, DeWitt was completely overmatched by Lidge, who fanned him on four pitches to nail down the victory for the Phillies.
The Phillies will try to take a 2-0 lead before getting on the plane to Los Angeles when they send right-hander Brett Myers to the hill this afternoon at 4:35 p.m. EST. Myers went just 10-13 with a 4.55 ERA during the regular season, but went 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA after the All-Star break and beat the Brewers in the Division Series by tossing seven innings of two-run ball. The Dodgers will counter with 16-game winner Chad Billingsley, who allowed one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings while fanning seven to beat the Cubs in Game 2 of the Division Series.
The all-A.L. East American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Rays also kicks off tonight. The visiting Red Sox will send 18-game winner Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill, while Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander James Shields, who famously beaned and then brawled with Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp in June. The Rays went 10-8 against the Red Sox during the regular season, including an 8-1 mark at Tropicana Field. The action starts at 8:37 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.