The Los Angeles Dodgers were one out away from tying the NL championship series at two games apiece. Instead, Jimmy Rollins’(notes) clutch hit has the Philadelphia Phillies on the verge of clinching their second straight pennant.
Defending champion Philadelphia looks to carry the momentum from a thrilling comeback win and earn a trip back to the World Series on Wednesday night in Game 5 against a Dodgers team trying to send the NLCS back to Los Angeles.
The Phillies trailed by one run with two outs in the ninth inning Monday, before Rollins lined a two-run double off All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton(notes) to give them a 5-4 victory and a 3-1 NLCS lead.
“This is big,” Rollins said. “The pressure’s all on them.”
The rally started with one out in the ninth when Broxton walked pinch-hitter Matt Stairs(notes) on four straight pitches. Stairs had hit a two-run homer off Broxton in Game 4 of last year’s NLCS at Dodger Stadium.
Broxton hit Carlos Ruiz(notes) with a pitch after Stairs’ walk, but pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs(notes) looped a soft liner to third for the second out. Rollins then ripped a 99 mph fastball to right-center, putting Philadelphia in position to make back-to-back World Series appearances for the first time in franchise history.
“We understand we still have a job to do,” said Rollins, who had been 3 for 18 in the series prior to his game-winning hit. “We look forward to trying to close it out.”
Although Los Angeles needs to win three straight games to make the World Series - a feat it couldn’t accomplish last year when the Phillies eliminated the Dodgers in five games - manager Joe Torre doesn’t believe his team is in an awful position.
“The unique part about our situation, we win one game and we go home,” Torre told the Dodgers’ official Web site. “That to me is a momentum switch, and the fact that Philadelphia has to come with us.”
Hamels also earned the win in Thursday’s series opener, but he wasn’t at his best, allowing four runs and eight hits - including two homers - in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-6 victory.
Hamels has already yielded eight runs in 10 1-3 innings in two postseason starts this season - one more run than he gave up in 35 innings over five starts last fall en route to NLCS and World Series MVP honors. Despite that fall-off in production, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel continues to express confidence in his left-hander.
“Any time you hand him the ball, I think he’s capable of going out there and shutting the other team out,” Manuel told the Phillies’ official Web site.
Hamels has usually been capable of shutting down the Dodgers.
Despite the subpar outing in the opener of this series, Hamels is 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA in seven career starts against Los Angeles, including three in the playoffs.
The Phillies first baseman hit a two-run double Monday that gave him eight straight postseason games with at least one RBI, tying Lou Gehrig’s major league record set in the 1928 and 1932 World Series with the New York Yankees.
Howard is 5 for 13 (.385) with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .529 on-base percentage in this series and has driven in 14 runs this postseason.
“I’m just going to go up there and keep throwing my bat at the ball,” said Howard, who has reached base safely in 17 straight playoff games.
Los Angeles’ only victory of the series came in Game 2 - a 2-1 win. Padilla allowed Howard’s homer and three other hits in 7 1-3 innings, but didn’t get the decision.
Padilla, who pitched for the Phillies from 2000-05, hasn’t lost since signing with the Dodgers on Aug. 19 after being released by Texas.
The right-hander gave up four hits in seven shutout innings of a 5-1 NLDS-clinching win over St. Louis, and went 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven regular-season starts for Los Angeles. Including postseason, the Dodgers have won eight of Padilla’s nine starts.
Padilla will need to be tremendous if Los Angeles’ lineup continues to fizzle.
The Dodgers, who finished fourth in the NL with 780 runs in the regular season, have tallied 12 in this series while leaving 25 men on base and going 6 for 30 with runners in scoring position.
“We’re not going to give up,” Ramirez said. “All we can control is go out and give 100 percent. That’s what we’ve been doing. The Phillies have just been playing better.”