The Philadelphia Phillies were able to make the most of the few mistakes made by the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL championship series opener. They now try to hold home-field advantage at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night when the teams meet in Game 2.
It can be argued the Dodgers made only three total gaffes - a throwing error by shortstop Rafael Furcal and two bad pitches by starter Derek Lowe. But the timing could not have been worse as all three miscues came in a four-batter span in the sixth inning, when Shane Victorino reached on Furcal’s error before Chase Utley and Pat Burrell each homered to rally the Phillies to a 3-2 victory Thursday.
“It feels great, but you can’t get too caught up in this,” said Burrell, who is 5-for-7 with three homers in his last two preseason games after going 0-for-7 in the first three. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Philadelphia improved to 3-0 at home this postseason as it took another step toward its first NL pennant since 1993. The Phillies have good reason to be confident behind Game 2 starter Brett Myers (1-0, 2.57 ERA), who has compiled an 8-5 record and 2.98 ERA in 15 overall starts at Citizens Bank Park this year.
He stifled the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 of the NL division series, yielding two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 victory, but also provided a key at-bat in a five-run second-inning rally for the Phillies, fouling off three pitches against CC Sabathia with two strikes for a hard-earned walk two hitters before Victorino’s grand slam. One of Myers’ home victories was a nine-hitter versus Dodgers scheduled starter Chad Billingsley on Aug. 25, and Myers is confident he will be comfortable in front of his home fans.
“I like pitching in front of our fans,” said Myers, who is 4-2 with a save and a 2.61 ERA in 11 starts and 12 lifetime appearances against the Dodgers. “It’s fun when they’re behind you and stuff. And it’s just more comfortable when you’re home and everything like that. It’s kind of like you have a routine.”
The biggest challenge facing Myers will be slowing Manny Ramirez, who narrowly missed staking the Dodgers to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, settling for an RBI double off the top of the center-field fence in the deepest part of the ballpark and going 2-for-4. Ramirez - now 7-for-14 with two homers and four RBIs in four playoff games - is only 3-for-19 (.158) lifetime versus Myers but has eight RBIs.
“He’s a very smart hitter,” Myers said of Ramirez. “And you have to kind of change your patterns each time. So he’s a tough out. And you just sometimes have to get lucky and sometimes just make good pitches.”
Dodgers manager Joe Torre - a playoff fixture during his tenure with the New York Yankees prior to arriving in Los Angeles this year - is confident his team will bounce back and create an opportunity to return to the West Coast with a split.
“This ball club has come to play every day,” he noted. “(Friday) will be the first game we’re going after somebody after we lose. And I think I’ll get a sense (Friday) if I feel anything different but my sense is I won’t. I think if you have to plug somebody else in, you’ll do it.
“This is not the time of year you worry about hurting people’s feelings. And I think we’re all on board as far as players understanding that also.”
Billingsley (1-0, 1.35) is charged with the task of helping the Dodgers leave Philadelphia with a split. The right-hander pitched well after being staked to a 5-0 lead in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs on Oct. 2, limiting them to one run while striking out seven in 6 2-3 innings of a 10-3 victory.
It was the first postseason start for the 24-year-old Billingsley, who pitched two scoreless innings in two relief appearances in 2006, and he hopes to continue using a simple approach.
“I just approached the last start as like any other start, try not to do too much and stay within myself,” said Billingsley, who went 7-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 17 starts and 19 overall road appearances in 2008. “You just want to keep those first couple of guys off the bases when you have Chase and Ryan (Howard) coming to the lineup.”
Billingsley has not had too much success with either Utley, who’s 2-for-5 with two walks against him, or Howard - 2-for-6 with a solo homer and three walks lifetime versus the right-hander. He allowed three runs and seven hits while walking five in six innings of that 5-0 defeat versus Myers, falling to 1-1 in three starts against Philadelphia.
Howard, who went 0-for-4 on Thursday, is 2-for-15 (.133) with five walks and five strikeouts this postseason, including 0-for-8 with four walks and four strikeouts in three home games.
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