By JAY LeBLANC
October 3, 2008
Dodgers 10, Cubs 3
Dodgers lead series 2-0
The top three hitters in the Dodgers order - Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin and Manny Ramirez - combined for six hits, seven RBI and four runs scored as L.A. embarrassed the Cubs at Wrigley for the second straight night, this time by a 10-3 score, to take a 2-0 lead as their NLDS series heads back to the West Coast. Chad Billingsley allowed the lone Cubs run on five hits and struck out seven in his 6 2/3 innings of work to earn the victory and send the North Side of Chicago into panic mode.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano pitched fairly well but was let down by his defense in the top of the second as the Dodgers plated five runs. Andre Ethier singled to right to start the inning and advanced to third on another single by the next batter, James Loney. After Big Z fanned Matt Kemp, Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa booted a Blake DeWitt grounder, allowing Ethier to cross the plate. Casey Blake then reached on an error by Derrek Lee to load the bases, and after Billingley fanned for the second out, Furcal surprised the Cubs with a bunt single that scored Loney. Martin then cleared the bases with a double to center field, putting the Dodgers up for good.
The Dodgers added another run when Ramirez took Zambrano deep to center to lead off the fifth, and went up 7-0 when Matt Kemp doubled in Ramirez in the seventh. The Cubs got on the board in the home half of that frame on consecutive doubles by DeRosa and Jim Edmonds, but L.A. answered with a pair of runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Furcal and Ramirez. Casey Blake singled in Juan Pierre with the 10th Dodgers run in the top of the ninth off Cubs closer Kerry Wood. The Cubs pushed a pair of runs across in the bottom of the ninth on a Mark DeRosa two-run double, but Jonathan Broxton came on in relief of Takashi Saito to ensure things wouldn’t get out of hand.
Rich Harden - who went 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA this season - will attempt to extend the Cubs season tomorrow night at 10:05 EST as the series shifts to Dodger Stadium. As the owner of the N.L.’s best record and riding a 100-year championship drought, all the pressure in the world is now squarely on the Cubs’ shoulders. It will be interesting to see if manager Lou Piniella can get them to loosen up now that they’re out of the pressure cooker that is Wrigley Field come playoff time. Hiroki Kuroda, who went 9-10 with a 3.73 ERA in his first big league season after coming over from Japan, will try to help the Dodgers punch their ticket to the NLCS.
Phillies 5, Brewers 2
Phillies lead series 2-0
Shane Victorino provided the offense with a second-inning grand slam and Brett Myers outdueled CC Sabathia as the Phillies topped the Brewers 5-2 at Citizens Bank Park to take a 2-0 lead in the teams’ National League Division Series matchup. Myers allowed two runs on two hits over seven innings to pick up the win, while Sabathia - pitching on three days’ rest for the fourth straight outing - lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed all five Philadelphia runs on six hits and four walks to take the loss.
Things looked good for the Brewers when they got on the board in the top of the first inning. Ray Durham drew a one-out walk and Ryan Braun followed with a double, sending Durham to third. Myers then intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases, but an unintentional free pass to J.J. Hardy pushed Durham in from third to make it 1-0 Milwaukee. Myers ended the threat by getting Corey Hart to ground into a double play. Myers then tossed five scoreless innings before allowing the second Brewers run in his final frame, the seventh.
The Phillies did all of their damage offensively in the second inning. Jayson Werth laced a double with one out and came around to score when Pedro Feliz followed with a two-bagger of his own. After a Carlos Ruiz groundout, Sabathia walked Myers and Rollins to load the bases. Victorino cleared them when he took a 1-2 offering from the big lefty over the left-center field wall to put Phils up for good.
It’s desperation time for Milwaukee as they head back to the familiar confines of Miller Park, where they posted a 49-32 record in the regular season. The Brewers need to win both games at home just to force a Game 5 back in Philly in which Sabathia would likely take the hill once again on short rest. First things first: Dave Bush will take the ball Saturday night in Milwaukee with the Brewers’ season on the line. He’ll be opposed by 16-game winner - and 45-year-old wonder - Jamie Moyer.
Rays 6, White Sox 4
Rays lead series 1-0
Rookie third baseman Evan Longoria slugged solo shots off White Sox starter Javier Vazquez in his first two trips to the plate and James Shields allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings to propel Tampa Bay to a 6-4 victory over the White Sox in the Rays’ first-ever postseason appearance. Longoria, who is a near lock to caputre American League Rookie of the Year honors, became just the second player in major league history to go deep in his first two postseason at bats, joining Gary Gaetti of the 1987 Twins.
Longoria’s first blast, in the second inning, gave the Rays the early lead, but the White Sox jumped ahead 3-1 the following inning on a three-run homer by DeWayne Wise. The Rays responded in the bottom of the third. Jason Bartlett started the inning with a single and came around to score on a triple by Akinori Iwamura, who scored the third Rays run on a sacrifice fly by Willy Aybar. Longoria followed with his second homer to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. The Rays added two more runs in the fifth inning courtesy of RBI singles by Longoria and Carl Crawford.
The White Sox’ best chance to get back in the game came in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases against Shields with one out. However, right-hander Grant Balfour came on and struck out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to preserve Tampa Bay’s 6-3 lead. Lefty J.P. Howell fanned two during a scoreless eighth inning, and Dan Wheeler came on in the ninth to notch the save, and did so after allowing a solo home run to Paul Konerko.
The Rays will look to go up two games to none this afternoon when they send lefty Scott Kazmir to the mound. The White Sox will counter with 15-game winner Mark Buehrle. Counting yesterday’s game, the Rays are now 58-24 at home this season, and Kazmir is 8-2 with a 2.90 ERA at Tropicana Field, so the White Sox have their work cut out for them if they want to avoid heading back to U.S. Cellular Field in a 2-0 hole. The action kicks off at 6:35 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.