Monday, October 13, 2008

Big start carries Dodgers in heated game

The Dodgers rode a big, 5-run 1st inning to easily cruise past the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS, 7-2. The lead for the Phillies is now 2-1, but the biggest news of the game was not the result, but the near brawl that ensued in the 3rd inning.

First, let's backtrack just a bit. In the 1st, Russell Martin was beaned on a pitch from Jamie Moyer in the left leg that would load the bases. Clay Condry eventually relieved and brushed back Martin with a pitch high and tight. That appeared to be the last straw.

With the game comfortably in hand at 6-1 in the 3rd, Hiroki Kuroda sent a message himself by throwing one over the head of Shane "Hit me in the ribs, not the head!" Victorino with 2 down. Nothing happened then except for Victorino's whining, but after he grounded out, more words were exchanged. The benches were emptied, and Manny Ramirez had to be restrained. I say they should have let him go and watched him fight Ryan Howard. Now that would be fun!

Warnings were issued, but nothing happened the rest of the night. Martin was actually beaned again later in the game, but on a breaking ball by Chad Durbin, which did not at all seem intentional. This series has suddenly become very interesting.

As far as the game goes, the Dodgers used a patient approach to tee off of Jamie Moyer, who looked downright pathetic. I know he's had success this year, but you have to wonder how. I can't imagine any hitter would be scared of facing him.

To open the bottom of the 1st, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier singled. Manny came up and singled home Furcal, and runners were on 2nd and 3rd. That's when Martin was beaned for the first time to load 'em up. Nomar Garciaparra, playing for James Loney, struck out looking for 1 down. Casey Blake barely singled into right to score Ethier and keep the bases loaded.

Matt Kemp was up next, and needing a big at-bat after doing pretty much nothing in the first 2 games, promptly K'd looking. But don't fear, Blake DeWitt continued his amazing season by clearing the bases with a triple, and pretty much putting the game away at the same time. The other 2 runs were scored on a solo shot by Raffy in the 2nd and an RBI single by Nomar in the 4th.

The other story (besides the near brawl and DeWitt's triple) was Kuroda's great start. He finished at 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. He ran into some trouble in the 7th when Chase Utley doubled and Howard singled, followed by an RBI bloop single by Pat Burrell. That chased Kuroda, but Cory Wade came on and shut down the Phillies for 2 innings. Just like DeWitt, Wade has come out of nowhere and been huge just when the Dodgers have needed him most.

Back to Kuroda, and it was great to see him look so comfortable in a big situation, just like against the Cubs. It should be noted, however, that if he does start again, it'll be Game 6 in Philadelphia. His ERA is similar from home and the road (3.68 and 3.78, respectively), but his WHIP tells a different story: 1.08 at home, 1.34 on the road. Hopefully with 2 great starts already this October, he can ride his hot streak for a big road start.

Today's game sees Derek Lowe going on three days' rest against Joe Blanton. Losing the first 2 games pretty much gave Joe Torre no choice but to turn to Lowe, which is the right move. Plus, no lefties were used last night, so Hong-Chih Kuo, Joe Beimel, and Clayton Kershaw are all ready to go. Blanton won the clinching game in Milwaukee, so he's not to be taken lightly.

Today's game could very well determine how the rest of the series will go. Can the Dodgers hit well again today, or will the Phillies make a statement to end this thing early?

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