By JAY LeBLANC
October 5, 2008
Dodgers 3, Cubs 1
Dodgers win series 3-0
The Cubs came into their National League Division Series against the Dodgers with the Senior Circuit’s best record and arguably its best lineup and pitching staff. They left it with their century-long championship drought intact.
Hiroki Kuroda tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings and James Loney provided all the support he’d need with a two-run first inning double as Dodgers finished off a sweep of the Cubs and advanced to their first NLCS since 1988 with a 3-1 victory last night at Dodger Stadium. Chicago entered the series as the heavy favorite but never recovered after Loney’s grand slam put L.A. up for good in Game 1. The Cubs were outscored 20-6 in the series and have now lost nine straight postseason games.
With right-hander Rich Harden taking on L.A.’s Kuroda, it looked like the Cubs would have a pretty good chance of forcing at least a Game 4. But while the Dodgers’ rookie Japanese import pitched like a postseason veteran, Harden picked a bad time to have one of his worst outings of the year. The 27-year-old - who went 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA this season - lasted just 4 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on five hits and three walks. He departed in the fifth after serving up an RBI double to Russell Martin to score the third Dodgers run.
Chicago looked as if it might rally in the seventh. After retiring Mark DeRosa to open the seventh, Kuroda allowed back-to-back singles to Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome. Joe Torre replaced Kuroda with right-hander Cory Wade, who got Alfonso Soriano to fly out to right on the first pitch. The next batter, Mike Fontenot, clobbered a Wade offering to deep center, but Matt Kemp tracked it down to keep the Cubs off the board.
Wade came back out for the eighth and got into some trouble of his own. Derrek Lee opened the inning with a double over the head of left-fielder Manny Ramirez, but Wade responded by fanning Aramis Ramirez and getting Geovany Soto to pop out. Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward then came through with the clutch hit the Cubs so desperately needed as he singled to center to plate Lee with the first Cubs run. Jonathan Broxton came on fanned Mark DeRosa to snuff out the possible rally.
The atmosphere at Dodger Stadium was electric as the Dodgers took the field in the top of the ninth, and Broxton clearly fed off their energy. The big, flame-throwing righty blew away Theriot on three pitches, and then got a clearly overmatched Fukudome to ground out to shortstop Rafael Furcal. Soriano came to the plate representing the Cubs last hope, but Broxton fanned him on three pitches to throw the crowd into a frenzy. Some of the Cubs players watched from the dugout as the underdog Dodgers celebrated their improbable sweep on the infield.
L.A. looked great in this series and will be well-rested for the NLCS, which doesn’t start until Thursday. The Cubs and their fans, on the other hand, will have plenty of time to ponder what might have been.
Brewers 4, Phillies 1
Phillies lead series 2-1
Right-hander Dave Bush allowed one run on five hits in 5 1/3 innings of work and the Brewers bullpen kept the Phillies off the board the rest of the way as Milwaukee kept its season alive with a 4-1 win in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. J.J. Hardy paced the Brewers offense with three hits, an RBI and a run scored, Jason Kendall had two hits and knocked in a run and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun chipped in with run-scoring sacrifies flies.
Milwaukee jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first against Philadelphia starter Jamie Moyer. The 45-year-old lefty issued walks to leadoff man Mike Cameron and Bill Hall before getting Braun to pop out. Fielder lifted a sac fly to right to score Cameron, and Hardy followed with a single to score Hall before Moyer fanned Corey Hart to end the threat. The Brewers added another run in the fifth when Cameron - who was hit by a Moyer pitch and advanced to third on a Hall single - came around to score on a Braun sacrifice fly.
The Phillies tallied their first and only run in the top of the sixth. Jayson Werth opened the frame with a triple to deep right, and after Bush got Chase Utley to pop out, Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum summoned left-hander Mitch Stetter from the bullpen to pitch to Ryan Howard. Stetter got Howard to ground out to third, but Werth was able to scamper home on the play to get the Phillies back within two at 3-1.
The Brewers added an insurance run on a Kendall RBI single in the seventh, but the latter half of this game belonged to the Milwaukee bullpen. Righty Carlos Villanueva relieved Stetter and tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Eric Gagne follwed with a scoreless eighth before giving way to Salomon Torres, who made things interesting by allowing three hits in the ninth but managed to keep Philly off the board and nail down the save.
Milwaukee is still facing elimination, but will take the field at 1:05 EST this afternoon with the knowledge that a win will put ace CC Sabathia back on the mound for a Game 5 showdown with Cole Hamels back in Philadelphia. The Phillies will counter with right-hander Joe Blanton, who went 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA in 13 starts after coming over from the A’s in a midseason deal.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times and mayor of the National Pastime web community. He can be reached at email@example.com.