Saturday, October 11, 2008

Back to LA down 0-2

Game 2 of the NLCS saw something very similar to Game 1: an early lead for the Dodgers. This time, it was an RBI groundout by Blake DeWitt that scored Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers were feeling good.

2 innings and 8 runs given up later, and it's another dud in Philly.

The Phillies rode the wave of 6, 2-out RBI's en route to an 8-5 win and a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. It all started in the bottom of the 2nd, and right after Chad Billingsley struck out both Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth. What seemed like an innocent single by Greg Dobbs started a string of 5 straight hits, including an RBI by Brett Myers, that gave the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Want to know what else is funny about that inning? Ryan Howard K'd to end it. So Burrell, Werth, and Howard all K'd, yet everyone else got on base. Weird.

The 3rd inning started with the Dodgers trying to claw back, as both Russell Martin and Ethier walked. With 2 down, James Loney singled up the middle to cut the lead in half at 4-2. Matt Kemp reached on an error at 3rd by Dobbs, and the bases were juiced. Too bad DeWitt looked overmatched and struck out swinging to end the threat.

I don't know what it was about Billingsley, but he was just awful. The bases were quickly loaded in the bottom of the 3rd after only 3 batters, but they did get a forceout at home for 1 down. Brett Freakin' Myers then doubled down the right field line to score 2, and the game was pretty much over from that point. Shane Victorino added a 2-run triple for good measure. The never ending inning saw 4 pitchers total in Billingsley, Chan Ho Park, Joe Beimel, and James McDonald.

At that point, with the Dodgers down 8-2 and the game taking forever, I felt like I was watching an American League game. So much for the National League being about pitching and faster games. Not yesterday.

I know the Dodgers of earlier in the year would've rolled over and played dead, but these guys have 1 extra special ingredient these days - Manny Ramirez. And it was Manny, after taking a strange pitch that sailed behind him in the 1st inning, that launched a 3-run shot that just got out in left to make the score 8-5. And it was even sweeter watching him talking trash to Myers from the dugout.

I guess the hitters from both teams ran out of gas at that point, because from the bottom of the 4th on there was no scoring. Starting in the 6th, the Phillies used their strong bullpen of Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge to finish it off. Lidge was his usual up-and-down self, walking Manny and Loney, but K'ing Ethier, Kemp, and Nomar Garciaparra on some nasty changeups.

Like I said before, Billingsley was both awful during the game, and after it. During it, he went 2.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Obviously he was hurt in the 2nd when he couldn't get his team off the field with 2 outs. After the game, he blamed his poor outing on "pitch selection," which would seem to imply that Martin called a lousy game. Look, I can understand being pissed about getting pounded, but blaming Martin made him look very selfish. If you don't like the pitch, can't you just shake it off? Let's hope that was just the frustration of losing talking.

Giving up 8 runs in 2 innings is not exactly a blueprint for success in the postseason, but I'll be somewhat positive and look for what went right. McDonald was simply fantastic out of the 'pen, pitching 3.1 innings of shutout ball, K'ing 5. You could see what sort of nasty stuff he has, so look out for him in the future. Damn, his changeup was sick.

And then we saw the Manny Ramirez factor. His presence alone just turns this whole team around. The 3-run shot got them back in the game, and each time he's up, you can just sense that something big could happen.

So now it's off to LA for Games 3-5. Hiroki Kuroda gets the call against Jamie Moyer. Moyer gets by on people thinking that he's too old, pitching too slow, and is too easy to hit around. Because of those reasons, he continually fools hitters and gets outs. The Dodgers can hit him, but can't fall into the trap that every at-bat will be a home run.

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