If the Dodgers had dropped game two today, they would have headed into Philadelphia down two games and facing Cliff Lee, who has looked spectacular this postseason, looking very much like the Cy Young winner that he was last season. Dodgers have not done well against left-handed starters on the road this season, so today was a must win.
A lot of people, including me, thought that Phillies' pitcher and future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez would get worn down by the California sunshine and heat, that he would be lucky if he even saw the sixth inning. Nothing could have been further from the truth; Martinez was dominant today.
If Philadelphia can take a silver lining from today's loss, it is that Pedro Martinez pitched like, well, Pedro Martinez. He shut the Dodgers down, made Manny Ramirez look foolish, and gave up next to nothing.
However, as mentioned in an earlier article, Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla really turned a corner in his career. He went from a bad teammate in Texas, to looking like the next coming of Curt Schilling.
Outside of one mistake breaking ball to Ryan Howard, Padilla took care of the same Phillies' lineup that scored eight runs last night. I believe the Dodgers have found their playoff ace in the 32-year-old Padilla. Four hits, 7.1 innings, and one earned run. Once again, a masterful performance.
Let's hope that the Dodgers can get a few more starts from Padilla in the next few weeks. After last night's performance and today's game, Padilla has supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher for the Dodgers.
Some other observations from this game:
1. I did not like Russell Martin swinging away in that eighth inning with runners on with two outs. Why? Because Martin is a ground ball double play waiting to happen. If Chase Utley didn't rush that turn throw to first base, it would have been two outs, man on third, Dodgers still scoreless.
In that situation, I would have wanted Jim Thome to face Chan Ho Park. I would have made Charlie Manuel to make a tough decision. Pull Park for a lefty (probably Scott Eyre, who did face Thome a batter later) or allow Park, game one's unsung hero, to face Thome.
Brad Ausmus could have come in and caught the ninth inning. And given how badly Martin has blocked breaking balls in game one, it would have been an easy decision.
After Thome, I would have pinch hit Orlando Hudson, a switch hitter who was going to come in for defense in the ninth anyway, to hit in the pitcher's spot. But as I said, it ended up working out thanks to Utley.
2. The Dodgers should consider sitting Manny Ramirez for Juan Pierre in one of the games in Philadelphia, perhaps for game four. I thought that Manny just can't catch up to a high octane fastball. I was wrong. Manny cannot catch up to even an 88 mph fastball inside.
On top of that, he is pressing. Best example was jumping on the first pitch that Chad Durbin threw to him in the eighth, popping up and leaving the bases loaded. Pierre has been the one of the most valuable players for the Dodgers this season and is not a liability in the field (not that Manny has played a bad left field thus far). It should be something the Torre should consider.
3. The Dodger bullpen today was as good as advertised. Hong Chih Kuo got, in my mind, the most important play of the game when he coaxed a double play ball from Ben Francisco. Jonathan Broxton got three up and three down like he has done so many times this year.
The Phillie bullpen was an issue coming into the series and they ruined a great outing by Pedro Martinez today. But they should not get all the blame. After all, Park did force a double play ball that Utley could not turn and there is no defense for a perfect bunt by Ron Belliard.
4. Andre Ethier is clutch. He could have pressed and try to be a hero against J.A. Happ but he was patient, waiting for his pitch. Ethier drew the game winning walk and gave the Dodgers the lead.
For the Dodgers, this is nothing new. Ethier led the league in walk off hits and is among the league leaders in late game RBIs. While it was not a booming shot into the right field pavilion or a double into the left center gap, the walk was still good enough to win.
5. Bruce Dreckman is much, much better than Randy Marsh. Dreckman did a great job today calling strikes, allowing both starting pitchers to get into a good flow and rhythm as the game went on. It was like night and day compared to yesterday (no pun intended).
Not only that, Dreckman was consistent and neither side had any complaints about any strike or ball calls. We can only hope that the remaining home plate umpires (Sam Holbrook for game three) can keep this going.
Tied 1-1, now it's a series. Let's hope the Dodgers can wear on Cliff Lee and Hiroki Kuroda can pitch like he did last time he faced Philly in the postseason (sans brushback).
Next game: Game Three on Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, Cliff Lee vs. Hiroki Kuroda, 8:00 pm Eastern.