To say the tension was at an all-time high last night during Game Three of the NLCS would be a huge understatement. The Dodgers, in a must-win game, came out fired up and ready, in more than one way.
The Dodgers knew they had to come out aggressive versus Jamie Moyer and boy did they. Only a few pitches in and the Dodgers had two runs on the board. A hit-by-pitch and wwo outs later, rookie Blake Dewitt stepped up and drilled a three run triple into the right field corner. Five runs were more than enough for the Dodgers, and it almost felt like the Phillies knew they were destined to lose Game Three.
Whether you are a Phillies fan or Dodgers fan you had to be happy for one thing, baseball last night was played how it should be played—passionate, hard, and intense.
The intensity began in Game Two when Phillies pitcher Brett Myers threw a fastball behind Manny Ramirez's back and head. Manny obviously didn't like it too much but he really said nothing during the at-bat.
Later in the game, Manny took advantage of the short porch in left and hit a three-run home run to cut the lead to 8-5. As Manny walked back into the dugout he peered out to Myers on the mound and began yelling something in anger. Once the inning was over the Dodger's first base coach said something to Myers as they crossed paths. Myers gestured to the Dodgers that it slipped.
Sorry Myers I am not buying it. The first pitch of an at-bat to Manny Ramirez and you throw a fastball two feet behind him level with his head and claim it slipped? Come on, we all know it didn't slip, man up to it.
I have no issues whatsoever with what the Phillies did. However, they knew that in time one of their players were going to get hit or have a message sent to them. This happened in Game Three. Ironically, the Phillies were the ones who threw inside on the Dodgers again. Russell Martin, who was unintentionally hit by a Moyer 1-2 pitch in the first inning was definitely thrown at in his second at-bat. This fired up the Dodgers again and unfortunately for the Phillies, the Dodgers responded with five first inning runs.
Sure enough, a few innings later the Dodgers retaliated with a statement pitch of their own. The Dodgers' Game Three starter Huroki Kuroda threw a first pitch fastball over the head of Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino.
I understand Victorino being upset because the ball was high but like he said after the game he knew it was going to come they were just awaiting the moment, which really makes Myers look like an idiot for lying and saying the ball slipped from his fingers.
I am a die hard Dodgers fan and honestly I have no issues with the Phillies throwing behind the Dodgers or making statements as long as they know it will come back to them. I think Victorino overreacted slightly because that pitch was nowhere near his head—just like Myers' pitch was a couple of feet behind Manny, that pitch was nearly two feet above his head. I understand the tension and I love the passion both teams were showing.
To me, this is how baseball should be played. Players playing their hearts out, pitchers making statements, and teammates sticking up for teammates. Playoff baseball should be intense, the players should hate each other between the lines, and after the game good sportsmanship should always happen.
Not only did the Dodgers make a statement back to the Phillies, they also took Game Three—and for the moment, the momentum.
As I said in my Game Two analysis, Rafael Furcal ignites this Dodgers' offense and when he plays well, the whole team tends to play well behind him. Furcal began yesterday's game with a single and then a homerun. He needs to stay hot if the Dodgers are going to win the series.
Keys for Game Four
1. Matt Kemp had two hits yesterday but both came in meaningless situations. I have been very unimpressed with his approach at the plate and he needs to be more aggressive early in the count on fastballs rather than chasing or watching breaking balls for third strikes.
2. Andre Ethier had a single in the first inning, that was it. He will most likely be in the number two spot again and hopefully he can get himself going.
3. Russell Martin is pressing. He was extremely emotional last night and has been woeful at the plate in recent games. He needs to go the other way on those outside pitches instead of trying to pull them. The Dodgers will need some big hits from Martin probably tonight and the rest of the series
4. Keep Jimmy Rollins off the base paths. One thing the Dodgers' pitchers have done very effectively is shutting down "J-Roll". He has struggled severely and if the Dodgers can keep him down they have a much better shot at shutting down Philly's offense.
5. Minimize Utley and Howard's impact. Sooner or later Howard and Utley are going to have big games and hit one twenty rows deep. The key is to make sure the bases are clear when it happens. Pitch Utley up and in. Pitch Howard low and away.
6. Score more than three runs in the first three innings. It is hard for most teams to come back.
7. Play energetic and passionate like Game Three all of the time!
I expect another exciting game tonight and although I don't think anyone will get hit or thrown at tonight, but I hope both teams come out fired up. It will be interesting to see what Derek Lowe comes out with and how the Dodgers hit or don't hit Joe Blanton. Can't wait until Game Four!