Strong play in tight games has helped the Los Angeles Dodgers keep the majors’ best record. That’s how the Philadelphia Phillies made a title run last year, but the late innings are now perhaps their biggest problem.
Los Angeles (38-19) improved to 10-1 in one-run games with an emotional 4-3 win over Philadelphia (32-21) on Friday night, snapping the Phillies’ longest winning streak since a nine-game run in 2006. Philadelphia third baseman Pedro Feliz(notes) made a fielding error with two outs, loading the bases before Andre Ethier(notes) hit a two-run double off Lidge.
Los Angeles, four games ahead of the Phillies for the best record in baseball, is certainly a candidate to make another playoff push after losing to eventual World Series winner Philadelphia in last season’s NL championship series. The Dodgers’ outstanding play in close games bodes well for their chances if they make the postseason.
“These guys, they never surprise me,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. “As long as there are 27 outs in a game we’re going to try to play every one of them.”
Lidge’s dominance late in games last year helped the Phillies win the second championship in franchise history, going 41 for 41 in save opportunities during the regular season and 7 for 7 in the postseason. He did not allow a run while saving all three of his chances versus Los Angeles in the NLCS.
Lidge, though, is coming off his fifth blown save in 18 attempts this year. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in three appearances this season versus the Dodgers.
“He’s a slider guy who likes to keep his pitches down, so that’s going to take something out of his game - with the bases loaded and two outs,” Ethier said. “You look for something else, and that is what I got.”
Los Angeles had been slumping at the plate but took advantage of Lidge’s problems after being held to one run in the first six innings Friday, losing 3-0 the previous day in this series’ opener and beating Arizona 1-0 on Wednesday night.
The Dodgers will now face Joe Blanton(notes) (4-3, 5.86), who has won three straight starts while posting a 3.79 ERA. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings as Philadelphia beat San Diego 5-3 on Monday night.
Blanton is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against Los Angeles, including Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS when he surrendered three runs in five innings before the Phillies rallied for a 7-5 win.
The Dodgers will counter with Hiroki Kuroda(notes) (1-1, 2.53 ERA), who is coming off his first appearance since an opening-day victory at San Diego. He gave up two runs and three hits in five innings during the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to Arizona on Monday night.
The 34-year-old right-hander was activated from the disabled list earlier that day after missing two months with an oblique strain.
Kuroda beat the Phillies in Game 3 of last season’s NLCS, surrendering two runs and five hits in six innings as the Dodgers won 7-2. Including that victory, he’s 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts versus Philadelphia.
The Phillies went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position Friday after averaging 5.8 runs during their seven-game win streak.
Philadelphia’s Raul Ibanez(notes) managed to increase his NL-leading RBI total to 54 on a grounder in the third inning. The left fielder is batting .366 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in his last 16 road games.