- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | When Doug Mientkiewicz and Manny Ramirez were with the Boston Red Sox during their historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees during the 2004 American League Championship Series, they decided early on that looseness was going to be a sustaining glue to any comeback.

Sometimes that comes out in strange ways.

“We made a pact where it was like, ‘We’re going to bring something we’re going to ship home every game,’ ” Mientkiewicz said. “We kind of did it as a joke. By [the World Series in] St. Louis, we ran out of stuff to pack to send home. We had suitcases everywhere. It was kind of a joking reminder to be like, ‘You know what? Remember, it’s still a game.’ ”

Don’t get the joke? That’s not important.

What matters is whether it keeps their mind off the crushing pressure at hand. It’s how the Red Sox beat the Yankees in 2004, and it’s what Mientkiewicz, Ramirez and a number of other Los Angeles Dodgers players who have been through similar situations are facing in 2009.

The Dodgers are down 3-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, and on Wednesday night they could watch the Phillies celebrate a five-game victory over them for the second year in a row. They are in that predicament because of a 5-4 loss Monday night, which ended when closer Jonathan Broxton gave up a two-run double to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth inning, setting off a raucous celebration at Citizens Bank Park and stripping the Dodgers of a chance to tie the series.

To send the series back to Los Angeles, they have to beat the Phillies at home, where Philadelphia has won 10 of its past 11 playoff games. And a day before Game 5, looseness again was the theme of the day.

Many players lounged around watching “Anchorman” before the team’s workout. Ramirez admitted he didn’t see the Phillies’ comeback because he already had been taken out of the game and was in the shower, and manager Joe Torre said it didn’t bother him that Ramirez didn’t watch the end of the game.

And the Dodgers remained confident they had enough players who had been on both sides of big comebacks to know how to handle this one.

“They stole one from us at our place, so we steal one back and send it home,” said third baseman Casey Blake, who was with the Cleveland Indians in 2007 when they blew a 3-1 lead to the Red Sox in the ALCS. “That’s all you can ask for.”

The Dodgers will be in an “all hands on deck” situation Wednesday, Torre said, using starters like Clayton Kershaw or Hiroki Kuroda out of the bullpen rather than saving them for future games. Other than that, he isn’t planning any changes.

“I don’t want to let them think that just because we lost this tough game last night that all of a sudden I’m just going to make changes,” Torre said. “You know, I’ll take my chances with the same cast of characters tomorrow as I had last night. We went through this all year, and we were pretty darned good.”

Like Ramirez, Mientkiewicz and Blake, Torre has some experience with big comebacks, too: He was on the other side of the 2004 series while managing the Yankees. It’s a comeback Mientkiewicz still makes him watch when it’s replayed on MLB Network. And it’s one the Dodgers are confident they can draw on again.

“You start worrying about the outcome, you don’t get to this point,” Mientkiewicz said. “The teams that focus on the daily grind of getting that baseball game won, win.”

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