Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bullpen falters in 8th as Phillies take a 3-1 lead

Where do I even begin with this?

In what seemed like a near certainty late in Game 4 of the NLCS, the Dodgers went from being a few outs away of tying the series to getting pounded in no time. The Phillies made big swings when they needed to, and took over late for the win, 7-5. It's now 3-1 in favor of the Phillies, who are a game away from the World Series.

It was an up and down battle for the Dodgers from the very first batter of the game, starting with Jimmy Rollins' single. Jayson Werth singled, and Chase Utley doubled home a run. Ryan Howard had an RBI groundout, and while Derek Lowe was tossing a water cooler and ripping up his jersey, the Dodgers were down 2-0.

The bottom of the 1st would bring some noise for the Dodgers, but it would also signify an alarming trend that might have meant more to losing than the bullpen did. James Loney launched a 2-out double that scored Rafael Furcal to get back a run. Actually, it was mere feet from leaving the yard. But, with Manny Ramirez on 3rd and Loney on 2nd, Blake DeWitt lined out to end the inning.

And that would only be the beginning of not coming through in the clutch. In all, 12 men were left on base, and that would bite them in the end.

In fact, with the exception of the 4th and 9th innings, the Dodgers had realistic chances to put up a few runs in each inning. And more often than not, they failed miserably. Yes, they scored 5 runs, which isn't that bad, but it could have been so much better. Time and time again, runners were left stranded as another opportunity was blown.

It all boiled down to the same old problem the Dodgers have had the last couple of months when they lose: anybody not named Manny Ramirez cannot get a big hit.

To be fair, Rafael Furcal played great again, but he's a leadoff hitter and obviously not in an RBI position. The only big hits I can think of (except for Manny, of course), was the double by Loney and a solo shot by Casey Blake in the 6th, which initially gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. Manny is great, but not even he can win the NLCS by himself. He needs help.

Poor Blake DeWitt will have better nights, but last night was one he'd like to soon forget. He left 2 in the 1st on a lineout, 2 in the 3rd on a flyout, and 2 in the 5th on a double play. He was bad, but Russell Martin, hitting cleanup, was worse. In all, he left 8 men on base, including lining into a big double play to end the 6th in which the Dodgers could have extended their 5-3 lead. Oh ya, he was also 0-5.

The focus on this game will undoubtedly be if Joe Torre mishandled the bullpen in the 8th, but I don't know. I mean, if I was told Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, and Jonathan Broxton would be in the game late with a lead of 2, I would have been all for it. I couldn't help but think at the end of the night that their youth finally showed. They're great pitchers, but inexperienced. Maybe the bright lights and big stage finally got to them.

I know people think Broxton should have come on in the 8th with 1 down, but I know that Wade has been fantastic all year. There's always that hindsight being 20/20 thing, so I guess Broxton should have been in. I just think it's unfair to only point at Torre for blowing the game. If the anybody other than Manny could come through in the clutch with runners on, then it would be 2-2 right now.

So now all the Dodgers can do is go out and win 3 straight, which they can do. Is it probable? Eh, not really, but it is possible. Win the next one in LA, take Game 6, and all of the pressure is on Philly for Game 7. It can happen.

Chad Billingsley has a huge start coming up. I can't imagine he's the most popular guy in the clubhouse after his sorry performance from Game 2. Not only did he refuse to retaliate after Brett Myers threw one behind Manny, but then he blamed his poor play on "pitch selection," more or less calling out Martin. He absolutely needs to step up and be the man. There's no other way around it.

No comments: