The Dodgers have shifted the pressure onto the shoulders of the Phillies, heading into Game Four on Monday night.
With the Phillies taking the first two games of the series in Philadelphia, a Game Three loss would have most likely spelled doom for L.A. The regular-season trend held true, though, as the home team won for the 11th time.
The Dodgers reignited the fire that was their offense in the NLDS against the Cubs and also found their arms again, with Hiroki Kuroda coming up big for Los Angeles, pitching six innings before running into trouble in the top of the seventh. Kuroda allowed just five hits, three of which came in that seventh inning, and two earned runs to go along with three strikeouts and only one walk.
Corey Wade made another impressive postseason appearance, coming in with runners on first and second with no outs in the seventh. Wade struck out Jayson Werth and got Pedro Feliz to pop out before pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs grounded out to Rafael Furcal to end the inning.
Wade also pitched the eighth, retiring Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley in order after allowing a leadoff single by backup Phillies catcher Chris Coste.
Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for the Dodgers, allowing a hit and striking out one batter in the ninth.
The game got off to an early start, with the Dodgers batting around in the bottom of the first inning. Jamie Moyer failed to get an out until Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers' fifth batter, struck out looking.
Furcal and Andre Ethier led off the game for L.A. with singles, and Manny Ramirez followed with a single of his own that drove in Furcal for the game’s first score. Russell Martin was hit in the knee by a Moyer changeup in the next at-bat, to juice the bases for Garciaparra.
After he struck out, Casey Blake stepped up and singled to right to drive home Ethier. Matt Kemp struck out after Blake’s single, and rookie Blake DeWitt went down 0-2. Just as it looked like Moyer was on the verge of getting out of the inning without any major damage, however, DeWitt belted a line drive down the right-field line, clearing the bases and putting the Dodgers up 5-0.
Although the Phillies were able to get a run back in the top of the second, Furcal answered in the bottom half with a home run. After Moyer retired Ethier on a pop fly to right, he was yanked by Charlie Manuel, and Clay Condrey took the mound for the Phillies, walking Manny. That’s when things started to get hairy at Chavez Ravine.
Martin, who had been hit in the knee in his first at-bat, was buzzed by Condrey up near the head, causing Martin to glare at Condrey before regaining his footing in the batter’s box and angrily hacking at a ball that turned into an inning-ending double play. Martin slammed his helmet after the play and went on to throw a couple of punches at a water cooler in the dugout.
In the bottom of the third, Kuroda continued his dominance over the Phillies batters, retiring Geoff Jenkins and striking out Rollins to bring Victorino to the plate. Kuroda threw a fastball over the head of Victorino; an obvious retaliation for the two suspect pitches delivered to Martin earlier in the game.
Victorino was not quite thrilled by the gesture and proceeded to yell at Kuroda angrily and motion to him that, in essence, it’s one thing if you are going to throw at me, but don’t throw at my head.
The situation was diluted by the umpire and Martin, who kept Victorino from heading out to the mound to further discuss the situation with Kuroda. Victorino wound up grounding out to first to end the inning, and as Kuroda was jogging to first base to cover for Garciaparra who had made the scoop, the two began jawing at each other.
After Garciaparra stepped on the bag, Victorino turned to Kuroda, and the two exchanged a few more choice words, which had to be somewhat comical considering Kuroda’s lack of knowledge of the English language. Tempers flared and both benches cleared. Perhaps most notable was Manny, who came sprinting to first base from left field to get in the action.
No punches were thrown, although Manny might have changed that if it weren’t for the mob of Dodgers coaches and players who were holding him back. The suspense was boiling over so much so that former Phillies player Larry Bowa, now third-base coach for the Dodgers, and Davey Lopes, former Dodgers player and now Phillies first-base coach got into a heated shouting match that rivaled that of any between the players.
The scuffle did not provide any momentum for the Phillies, and the Dodgers maintained their dominance for the rest of the game.
This shift in momentum reads more than one may think for this series. Just when many thought the Dodgers may have run out of gas, they have shown they still have more to offer before they are finished for the year. The bats were alive at the Ravine, and the arms backed them up; the winning formula for postseason baseball.
A loss would have spelled doom for L.A., and the Dodgers fans let their team know that was not what they wanted to see, coming out in record numbers and cheering wildly as though it was the first game of the series.
The pressure is on Philadelphia now and they will have to take one game at Dodger Stadium if they want to head back to Philly with any sort of confidence.
The way the MLB Playoffs are set up, the team with home-field advantage really doesn’t feel the advantage because they have to travel for a three-game set in the middle of the series. In the case of the Dodgers-Phillies regular-season series, the home team won every game. This means that the Phillies could head back home down 3-2 in the series, causing them to be in a must-win situation for both Game Six and Game Seven.
Derek Lowe will take the mound for the Dodgers in Game Four and Joe Blanton will pitch for the Phillies. Lowe is going on three-days rest for L.A., a move that works out well for the Dodgers, considering the schedule for the rest of the series.
With Lowe going Monday night, they will be able to pitch Billingsley and Kuroda on regular rest in Games Five and Six and will be able to start Lowe again in Game Seven on regular rest should the series reach that point.
A win tonight by the Dodgers would even the series back at 2-2, putting enormous importance on Game Five, the last game of the series in Los Angeles.
We will see if Manny and the Dodgers can continue to take care of business at home and regain control of their destiny in the playoffs.