It’s never easy. The Phillies survived an 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking a 1-0 advantage in the National League Championship Series. The pitching was shaky, but home runs by Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez proved to be the difference.
There were hopes that Cole Hamels would return to form, especially against a team that he had so much success against. However, he is a completely different pitcher than the one who posted a sub-2 earned run average during the 2008 postseason. The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead on James Loney’s second inning home run. For awhile, it looked like that was all Clayton Kershaw would need. The 21-year old left-hander shut out the Phillies for four innings, but his 5.23 ERA against them this season showed that it wouldn’t last.
Carlos Ruiz showed why it’s “Choochtober.” Ruiz is batting .348 with 10 RBI, five extra base hits, and eight walks in 18 postseason games. Ruiz’s three run home run gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead. In the same inning, Ryan Howard stroked a double down the right field line, similar to his hit during the final game of the division series. Howard’s 18 postseason runs batted in set a Phillies record. The Phillies took a 5-1 lead, but it didn’t take long for the Dodgers to strike back.
Hamels needed a “shut down inning.” He allowed a few base runners, but was close to escaping the jam. Andre Eithier grounded a dead double play ball, but Chase Utley airmailed the throw to first. The play was not fully Utley’s fault. Jimmy Rollins failed to get the ball out of his glove quickly. A run scored with Manny Ramirez due up. We all remember the troubles “Mannywood” gave the Phillies in last year’s NLCS. He had no trouble causing more problems. Manny smashed a deep fly ball to center field, stared at it for 15 minutes, then rounded the bases for a two-run home run. The lead was cut to one.
Hamels didn’t last much longer. He gave up four runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings. He struck out four and walked one. He now has a 6.97 ERA this postseason.
George Sherill hadn’t allowed a home run to a left-handed batter since June 14, 2008 against Adam LaRoche. The Dodgers acquired Sherill from the Baltimore Orioles for a reason: to get out lefties. Raul Ibanez had a different plan. Ibanez’s three-run shot gave the Phillies an 8-4 lead, and a little more breathing room.
Together, Chad Durbin and J.A Happ picked up Hamels’ pieces. Happ worked through a bases loaded jam without allowing a run to cross. Chan Ho Park, who just returned from a hamstring injury, was excellent in his seventh inning relief appearance. Park retired the three batters he faced and clocked 96 mph on the radar gun. On the other hand, Ryan Madson was atrocious in the eighth inning. He was lucky he did not allow more than two runs.
The ninth inning brought on Brad Lidge. Matt Kemp greeted him with a single. When the lead-off runner reaches base against Lidge, it’s usually a bad sign. However, Casey Blake hit a sharp ground ball to Utley. Utley made a fantastic play on a short hop, and was able to turn the double play. Ronnie Belliard flied out to end the game.
Friday, Pedro Martinez will start against former Phillie Vicente Padilla. A 2-0 series lead would be nice to return to Philadelphia with. Since the League Championship Series was extended to seven games, game one winners are 28-18. 29 doesn’t sound too bad.