Entries Tagged as 'dodgers'

Book Review: Campy: the Two Lives of Roy Campanella

campysimonschusterThe last three years have been a major boon for the publication of significant baseball biographies featuring one of baseball’s most neglected positions- the catcher.

The much maligned defensive spot featuring the uniquely named tools of ignorance has come into its own since 2009. For that was the first year that launched a triple crown of baseball backstop biographies with the publication of The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain- the Biography of Thurman Munson by Marty Appel.

In 2010, another all- time Yankee and the subject of numerous books in the past Yogi Berra was covered in a very thorough and excellent biography- Yogi Berra- The Eternal Yankee by Allan Barra.

Now in 2011, completing the baseball biography trilogy of great backstops and not insignificantly the third player from New York, the Brooklyn Dodger great and Hall of Famer Roy Campanella is profiled. Neil Lanctot’s new biography called Campy The Two Lives of Roy Campanella (Simon and Schuster 2011 516 pages) came out in March and is a nice addition to anyone’s baseball shelf.

The two lives of Campanella refers to his life before and after his tragic automobile accident in early 1958 that nearly took his life but did leave him paralyzed, although the book spends relatively little time on that particular aspect of Campy’s life.

Since Campanella appeared to have had several contrasting phases in his life, the two lives might also have referenced his baseball life in the Negro Leagues (while still in high school at that) and his second life in the major leagues for the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers. Perhaps the two lives encompassed Campanella’s status as arguably becoming the most popular black superstar in baseball in the 1950’s after languishing in the shadow of his teammate the great Jackie Robinson for the early part of his career.

Whichever the case, I especially enjoyed Lanctot’s look at Campy’s early years in the Negro League with Baltimore and also his many winters in the Mexican League.

Lanctot also brought to life what to me was relatively unknown aspect of Campanella’s life, his on-going feud later in his career with his long time teammate and former good friend Jackie Robinson . Lanctot discovered that it’s really difficult to know the real Roy Campanella, since he made every effort to avoid any shred of controversy, unlike Jackie Robinson . Campanella’s failure to take a significant stand on race relations Lanctot intimates, may have been at the root of his disagreements with Robinson, although it is also suggested and possible that Jackie may have simply resented some of Campy’s growing popularity, once reserved for Robinson himself.

After Campanella’s tragedy, his upbeat personality and his love of and involvement in the game of baseball kept him in the public’s subconscious until his death in 1993. This three- time MVP should be remembered fondly as not just one of baseball’s all time great catchers but as one of baseball’s all time greats – period! Lanctot succeeds at doing just that.

Lanctot’s book should bring back fond memories for those who still remember those times as well as new insights into Campanella and his impact on the national pastime and Brooklyn baseball in the1940’s and 50’s

Garvey interested in the Dodgers?

Steve Garvey, former squeaky clean (then not so squeaky clean) LA Dodger firstbaseman, is part of an investment group who is looking into acquiring his former team. 

But Frank McCourt, who is still vying for sole ownership, claims:

"There are some great treasures out there that people would love to buy, the Dodgers among them," McCourt spokesman Steve Sugerman said. "But, like the Mona Lisa and the Pacific Ocean, the Dodgers aren’t for sale."

It seems to be a situation that the more one denies the inevitable, the more it may come true.  But will it be Garvey and Co who will end up with the goods?  None other than Mark Cuban has expressed interest in the Dodgers, as well. 

No financial details have been made public. 

Currently, Garvey is serving as member of the board of directors of the Baseball Assistance Team and consults for the Dodgers.

Blue Wine?

Seems former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda has gotten into the wine business.  Witness his Lasorda Wine web site. 

His most recent wine garnered the Living Legend Award from the Senior Resource Association which he received in Vero Beach. 

“Every bottle comes from Italy.  Nobody can make wine better than the Italians.”

White Sox Get a Leftfielder & a Leadoff Man

pierreKenny Williams did exactly what I wanted him to do, now let’s see if it works out, because sometimes when you ask for something, it doesn’t always workout the way you thought it would.  Leadoff man Juan Pierre was traded, along with cash, to the White Sox from the Dodgers for two players to be named later.  Whether this deal is a good one or not depends on which two players Chicago will have to give up to LA.  It’s a no brainer, looks great, a leftfielder, a leadoff man, & cash for basically nothing (nothing, that is, until the players to be named, are indeed, named).  But right now, I’m very happy with my new present from Santa, hope we didn’t have to pay to much on our credit card.

Here is what the Chicago had to give up: It is reported the White Sox will part ways with reliever Jon Link, whom they acquired from the Padres in the Rob Mackowiak trade (anything you get for Mackowiak is a bonus) and Homewood Flossmore’s own John Ely.  While Link has a pretty good strikeout pitch out of the pen, and might be ready for the majors, Ely is, far & away, the better prospect.  The 6’1″ 23 year old was impressive at AA in 2009, 14-2, 2.87 ERA, with 125 strikeouts in 156′ innings pitched, allowing only 140 hits.  The righthander had an impressive collegiate career at Miami of Ohio University before being selected by Chicago in the 3rd round of the 2007 amateur draft.

1959 Go-Go White Sox

HIST new 150yrp187a.jpgIt’s been fifty years since the White Sox won the AL Pennant in 1959, when Mayor Richard Daley the 1st set off the fire sirens, sending some people into a panic, but not White Sox fans.  I was only three years old, so I don’t remember my team winning the pennant or subsequently being defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series that year, but I have had many sleepless nights wondering why Manager Al Lopez didn’t use Billy Pierce against LA, a question Lopez never answered to his dying day.

But this was a happy time, the Go-Go White Sox featuring Little Luis Aparicio at shortstop, Nellie Fox at second, Sherm Lollar behind the plate, & in centerfield was Jim Landis, talk about strong up the middle defensively, no team was better.  Speed, pitching. & defense made this team go.  Aparicio was the AL leader in stolen bases from 1956-64, stealing his alltime high of 56 in 1959.  It still strikes me as funny, when a friend ran into Luis many years later, and asked, “How many bases would you steal today?”  Luis responded, “Not very many.  I’m very old”.  Pitcher Early Wynn won the AL Cy Young Award that year with a record of 22-10.  Youngster Bob Shaw experienced his best year finishing with an 18-6 mark.  Lefty Billy Pierce had a disappointing record of 14-15, but had won 20 games two of the three previous years, and alot of his losses in 1959 were due to poor run support.  Then there was 9-10 Dick Donovan.  Before good bullpens became a must, the White Sox had a good one, Turk Lown (9-2 15 saves) & Jerry Staley (8-5 14 saves).

The White Sox finished the season with 94 wins, five more than the Cleveland Indians, winning 47 on the road & 47 on the road, their record was 35-15 in one run games, and 12-3 in extra inning ballgames.

In Game #1 of the World Series at Comiskey Park, the Southsiders pounded the Dodgers & Roger Craig, for an 11-0 win behind 5 Ted Kluszewski (a late season pickup) ribbies and the shutout pitching of Early Wynn.

Charlie Neal hit two homers accounting for three runs off Bob Shaw, Chuck Essegian hit a solo shot off Shaw to account for another Dodgers run off Shaw, as the Dodgers won game two 4-3 behind Johnny Podres & Larry Sherry, it looked like it would be another laugher as Podres surrendered two first inning runs, but then came back to work the next five innings without allowing another tally.

The 3rd game was at the Coliseum in LA, over 92,394 fans in attendance.  Dick Donovan was matched up against Don Drysdale.  Drysdale allowed 11 White Sox hits, the Sox stranded 11 runners, had three runners thrown out trying to steal by catcher Johnny Roseboro.  In the 7th inning of a scoreless game pinch hitter Carl Furillo came through with a two out two RBI basehit off reliever Jerry Staley.  Then in the top of the 8th Al Smith hit into a doubleplay with the bases loaded and nobody out off reliever Larry Sherry, the Sox scored their only run on the play.  The Dodgers would add a run in the eighth and hold on for a 3-1 victory.  Even though Donovan didn’t allow a run, where was Billy Pierce?

The Dodgers scored four runs off Early Wynn in the 3rd inning, sending Wynn to the showers Early (allthough my heart is breaking, I couldn’t resist).  Billy Pierce faced only 11 batters over three innings, no runs, keeping the Sox in the game, was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 7th, Chicago scored four in the 7th after two outs to tie up the contest, an RBI single by Big Klu and a three run poke by Lollar.  But then in the bottom of the 8th Gil Hodges hit a monster shot to left off Staley, which turned out to be the game winner, 5-4, and the LA had a 3-1 Series lead.

92,706 fans were on hand for the last game in Los Angeles, looking to win the Championship, if not the Series would return to the Southside of Chicago, which is the baddest part of town (again, my apologies, I crack myself up).  Sandy Koufax was matched up against Bob Shaw.  The Sox scored a 4th inning run to take a 1-0 lead when with runners at the corners and nobody out Sherm Lollar hit into a doubleplay.  Shaw, along with relief help from Donovan, would make it stand up for a 1-0 victory.

Duke Snider hit a two run homer off Wynn in the 3rd to give LA a 2-0 lead at Comiskey.  Then the Dodgers exploded in the 4th inning for six more runs off Early & reliever Donovan.  A 4th inning three run big fly off the bat of Kluszewski cut it to an 8-3 game, after a walk to Al Smith, Podres was lifted for reliever Larry Sherry.  Sherry pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief to seal the deal and notch the win in the Series clincher.

Luis Aparicio, .308 average in the Series, only stole one base in the Series, the White Sox stole only 2, getting caught 3 times (I guess speed can go into a slump), while the Dodgers pilfered 5 bases.  Ted Kluszewski hit three home runs, drove in ten (5 in game #1), and batted .391.  Nellie Fox batted .375.  While Bob Shaw was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA, working 14 innings.  Early Wynn didn’t seem to have it after the first game, finishing with a 1-1 record, and a 5.54 ERA.  Billy Pierce didn’t allow a run, working only four innings in relief.

Reliever Larry Sherry was the star of the World Series for the Dodgers, working 12 2/3 innings, 0.71 ERA, with two wins, & 2 saves.  Don Drysdale scattered 11 hits over 7 innings in his only start, allowing only one run, picking up a win.  Charlie Neal was on fire in the series, hitting two home runs, while batting .370 & knocking in six.  Gil Hodges hit a red hot .391.  Pinch hitter Chuck Essegian, who’d only homered once in the regular season, hit two pinch home runs in the World Series.

Even though losing the World Series to the Dodgers was tough to take, it was a bittersweet moment in Chicago White Sox history, because at least the White Sox won the Pennant.

2009 National League All Stars

mark-reynoldsThe Sporting News announced its National League All Stars as determined by 31 major league general managers and assistant GMs.  St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols (also named Player of the Year), Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun were on the ballots of all 14 NL team executives who voted.

C Yadier Molina has shown that catching is much more than just offensive numbers, he is regarded as the best defensive catcher in the game.  Besides his work behind the plate, Yadier seems to have found his stroke, batting .293 for the Redbirds.

1B Albert Pujols is simply the best, as reaffirmed by him being named Player of the Year.  This year, once again, he posted Albert Pujols type numbers, leading the league with 47 homers & 122 runs, while batting .327 with a .443 OBP (best), while hitting 45 doubles, and driving in 135, leading St. Louis into the postseason.

2B Chase Utley is the quiet Phillie who just goes about his job in the field & at the plate.  Chase hit 31 home runs, and was seven (93) RBIs shy of driving in at least 100 runs for the 5th straight season, he scored 112 times (over 100 four straight campaigns), and stole 23 bases without getting caught, while batting .282.

3B Mark Reynolds is synonymous with strikeouts, but there’s alot more to his game than just whiffs.  Sure Mark broke his strikeout record he set last year (204) with this year’s mark of 223, but he also hit 44 homers, drove in 102, while stealing 24 bases for Arizona.

SS Hanley Ramirez had the highest batting average in the league, hitting .342, with 24 longballs, to go along with 42 doubles, driving in 106, 101 runs scored, and stealing 27 bases for the Fish.

OF Ryan Braun surprisingly this slugger had more hits than anybody in the NL, with 203, he also had 114 RBIs & 113 runs scored, amassing 32 homers, 39 doubles, & 6 triples, he also stole 20 bags.

OF Matt Kemp is a pure athlete and a true five tool player.  The Dodgers centerfielder batted .297 with 34 steals, 26 home runs, knocking in 101.

OF Jayson Werth This gentle giant seems to have found a home in RF for Philadelphia, and he certainly can turn a baseball & a ballgame around in a hurry.  36 longballs, 99 RBIs, & 98 runs scored, all while playing excellent defense in the field.

SP Tim Lincecum The Freak was it at again, repeating as NL Pitcher of the Year, where does that little guy get all that power?  He was 15-7 with an ERA of just 2.48, striking out a league best 261 batters in 225′ innings, allowing only 168 hits.

RP Ryan Franklin The 36 year old journeyman relief pitcher came out of nowhere to takeover as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals, saving 38 games, with a 1.92 ERA.  His 17 saves the year before was his career high.

Phor What it’s Werth, Phillies Return to World Series

werthAfter Andre Ethier hit a first inning home run off Cole Hamels in the 1st inning, the Phillies were given notice, LA was here to play.  But just like a heavyweight fighter, going toe to toe Jayson Werth blasted a three run opposite field monster blast in the first inning off Vicente Padilla, replying to the challenge, by saying, we’re ready, bring it on.

In the 2nd James Loney leading off knocked one over the rightfield wall to bring it to a one run ballgame.  Before Philadelphia batted in the bottom of the frame, Craig Sager commented how pitching coach Rick Honeycutt instructed Padilla to stay on top of his pitches, the first batter for the Phighting Phils Pedro Feliz hit one out to right, extending it back to a 2 run lead.

The Phillies pushed their lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the 4th scoring two runs.  A leadoff single to left by Werth, followed by a run scoring double to right by Raul Ibanez, and that was all for Padilla.  Ramon Troncoso was brought in to pitch for the Dodgers, getting Feliz to ground to 3rd, Ibanez stays at 2nd, Carlos Ruiz walks, and Hamels sacrifices both runners up on a 3-2 bunt.  Troncoso then hits JRoll & Shane Victorino with pitches, the 2nd one with the bases loaded, driving in a run.

Cole Hamels was getting cold, not pitching for 27 minutes, although two runs were added to the lead.  Pinch hitter Orlando Hudson ripped a one out homer off Hamels inside the leftfield foul pole to cut it to a 6-4 game in the top of the 5th, and when Rafael Furcal doubled to left, that was all for Cole, no win for him tonite in the clinching game.  Ronnie Belliard worked reliever J.A. Happ for a walk, then retired Ethier, and that was all for Happ, as Chad Durbin was called on to face Manny Ramirez.  Durbin jammed Manny, Ramirez hit a soft comebacker, and the Phillies were out of the jam, three pitchers worked the 5th, Charlie Manuel threw the book out the window, and took control of the ballgame.  I’ve given the West Virginian stuff, but he showed his stuff.

In the bottom of the 6th off Clayton Kershaw, Jimmy Rollins was hit by a pitch for the second consecutive at bat, and Victorino took the youngster deep for a two run blast, 8-3 after six.  Hong-Chih Kuo was brought on to pitch the 7th, Werth caught up with a low fastball and drove it over the wall for his 2nd homer of the ballgame, 9-3 Phils.

LA had some fight left, Belliard & Ethier opened with 8th inning base knocks, off Chan Ho Park.  Into the mix came Ryan Madson to face Manny, Ramirez walked, Matt Kemp played peggy move up, moving everybody up one with a single.  Pitching coach Rich Dubee came out to settle down Madson, as Loney stepped in.  Whatever Dubee said seemed to work as Ryan got Loney on a popout, struckout Russell Martin, and got Casey Blake to ground into a force play short to second, with Jim Thome waiting to bat in the ondeck circle.  Question, Joe Torre, why not pinch hit Thome for Martin?  If Thome gets one, it’s a 9-8 game, pressure on, anything can happen.  Instead 9-4 into the bottom of the eighth.

Ronald Belisario works the bottom of the 8th, getting the 1st two hitters before JRoll singles & Victorino doubles off a Phan’s hand, reaching over the rail in right, the umpires didn’t allow Rollins to score, although they could have, Charlie Manuel thought Jimmy should’ve been allowed to score, came out to discuss it, Chip Caray & the Chipettes thought Charlie was arguing the non-homer call, they need to get their heads into the game.  Phillies up 10-4, three outs to go, and then no more TBS, I’m sure that’s what fans across the country were thinking.

Closer Brad Lidge works a perfect 9th, looks sharp, Ryan Howard is the NLCS MVP, the Phillies are going back to the World Series, trying to repeat, this Philadelphia Phillies team looks like a tight group, out there having fun, playing a little baseball.

Phillies Let the Good Times JRoll

JimmyRollins.hit-751600First inning of game #4 BIG Ryan Howard boomed a two run blast over the wall in right, catching up to a fastball & turning it around in a hurry, so much for the lefty lefty matchup, and I thought, “here we go again”.

Things remain the same until the top of the 4th when LA ties the score off Joe Blanton, a walk to Matt Kemp sandwiched between two outs started things off, Manny Ramirez lined a single to left sending Kemp to 3rd, James Loney then singled to right scoring Kemp, Ronnie Belliard draws a base on balls, Russell Martin gets a sharp single to left scoring Manny, then out number three on a Casey Blake groundout to end the scoring, but it’s a brand new ballgame.

The Dodgers take the lead when Kemp rips a two out solo homer off Blanton in the 5th.  LA adds to their lead in the 6th when Pedro Feliz commits a throwing error allowing Manny to reach base, after Loney pops out, Belliard pops one up just out of the reach of Jimmy Rollins & Raul Ibanez for a single, Martin strikes out looking, Blake serves a soft single to right scoring Ramirez & Belliard to 3rd, Wolf flies out after Blake steals second, Los Angeles leads by two into the bottom of six.

With one out in the bottom of the 6th Shane Victorino pulls a hard grounder down into the leftfield corner, when Manny airmails the relay throw over the cutoff man’s head Shane flies into 3B with a triple, Chase Utley rips a single to right scoring Victorino, coaches visit, Howard walks, wonder what the coach told Wolf?, pitching change as Ronald Belisario is called on to replace Randy Wolf, facing Jayson Werth.  A graphic shows Phillies 1st batters are 0-8 with 3 walks versus LA’s bullpen, here is the crazy talk from Chip Caray, “0 for 8 are the Philadelphia hitters against the first batter faced by these Dodger pensmen”, swear to God, that’s what he said.  Now 0 for 10, as Belisario retires Werth on a FC & Hong-Chih Kuo gets Ibanez on a fly to left, Phillies narrow the gap to one after 6.

That’s the way things remained heading into the bottom of the 8th, with two on & 2 out, Jonathan Broxton was called on to replace George Sherrill to get Werth to fly to right to end the threat.  With one out in the top of the 9th Rafael Furcal rips a line drive base knock, knocking Scott Eyre out of the game, closer Brad Lidge was brought into the game, Charlie Manuel was thinking (gotta stop ’em here), Furcal steals 2nd & Kemp strikes out, Lidge wild pitches Furcal to thirdbase, but lefthanded batter Andre Ethier (luckily Charlie Manuel must’ve fallen asleep, not replacing his righthanded pitcher with a southpaw to get the lefthanded hitting Ethier, he K’d to send the game to the bottom of the 9th.

Broxton was sitting in the Dodger dugout while LA batted in the top of the 9th, the adrenalin draining from his system as today’s closers are used to going one inning.  With one out Matt Stairs was sent up to pinch hit for Pedro Feliz, Stairs homered off Jonathan in the regular season, the relief pitcher was scared shitless & walked Matt, Eric Bruntlett was put in as a pinch runner, Carlos Ruiz was nailed on the elbow with a pitch, tying run on 2nd & winning run on 1st, pinch hitter Greg Dobbs popped out, leaving it all up to JRoll who lined a 1-1 fastball into the right-centerfield gap, driving home the tying & winning runs, Phillies win the game 5-4, and take a 3-1 series lead.  In order for the Dodgers to advance they will need to win three straight, highly unlikely.

Weekend’s Best & Weekend’s Worst in One Game

CLIFF LEEESPN’s Dan Patrick has a feature where he asks for the weekend’s best & the weekend’s worst performances.  The third game between the Phillies & the Dodgers last night featured both for me.  There are only four teams left in baseball, the top four, pretty evenly matched, and you get an 11-0 outcome, unbelievable!  Late in the game Chip Caray & the Chipettes (Buck Martinez & Ron “You don’t have to call me Darling” Darling) came up with their version of stupid when they were talking about how it’s easier to lose one like this, rather than a tough loss.  Where does that kind of logic come from?

Cliff Lee was dominant from the beginning to the end, no runs, three hits, no walks, and striking out ten.  Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda, wasn’t, he was out of there after going just 1 1/3 innings, surrendering 6 runs on 6 hit, it was like the Phillies were still taking batting practice, on the plus side he didn’t walk anybody, he was wild in the strike zone, not locating his pitches in the strike zone.  BIG Ryan Howard ripped a two run triple into the rightfield corner in the 1st & Jayson Werth launched a monster blast deep over the centerfield wall to make it four zip after one.  When the game was over, in the 2nd inning, Joe Torre brought in a series of relievers, one looked worse than the next, two walks off Scott Elbert in 1/3 of an inning, Chad Billingsley allowed 2 runs on 2 hits & 2 walks in 3 1/3 innings, Ramon Troncoso walked 2 in 2 innings, and served up some 8th inning BP to Shane Victorino, who nailed him for a three run bomb, the game would’ve been over if there a 10 run slaughter rule (LA would’ve only lost 9-0 if they’d simply forfeited.

Not to second guess Joe Torre, but he did decide to go with Scott Elbert & the injured Hiroki Kuroda (although his interpreter Kenji said he was okay, maybe he got it wrong) over veterans Jon Garland & Jeff Weaver.  Dodgers pitchers(?) have walked 7 Phillies in two of the three games so far, they’d be down in the series 3-0 if it weren’t for Charlie Manuel pulling Pedro Martinez in game two after 87 pitches.  Cliff Lee demonstrated that you don’t need to throw the ball hard to win, change speeds, spot your pitches in the strike zone, he made it look easy.

I’m not saying LA would’ve won this ballgame, whomever they started, but now the talking heads are wondering whether Billingsley earned(?) a start in place of Kuroda next time, Chad was touched for 2 runs in 3 1/3, remember that?, better than Hiroki, but still, do you think that type of performance will beat Lee?, highly doubtful.  Perhaps if Torre had kept Garland & Weaver active, moving Clayton Kershaw to the bullpen, similar to what the Yankees have done with Joba Chamberlain, the Angels have done with Ervin Santana, & the Phillies have done with J.A. Happ this postseason.  The postseason is not for the young or the faint of heart.

So now the Dodgers will attempt to regain home field advantage with veteran lefthander Randy Wolf pitching against his old team, with Joe Blanton toeing the rubber for the Phighting Phils.  As many of you know I play in a dice baseball league featuring the board game APBA, have done so for 35 years, in the game when you’re beating somebody badly, rolling hit after hit number, your opponent is saying, “get it out of your system”.  But this isn’t a dice baseball league, this is real life, their hitters seem spot on, although I did hear somebody ask the question, will Philadelphia need some of these runs tomorrow?  Well tomorrow is here today, we shall see what we shall see, can’t wait.

Dodgers Enjoy Walk-In LA

pedroGame two was a snappy contest, whereby the patience of LA won out in the end.  Both teams were accustom to the ending which occurred, the Phillies bullpen often times implodes, while the Dodgers had more come from behind victories than anyone in the league.  It didn’t necessarily have to end this way, but holding to the script, it did.

Pedro Martinez was on the hill for Philadelphia, returning to where he started his career at Dodgers Stadium with LA at the age of 20 in 1992, since then he’d hit the highs, winning the Cy Young Award three times, capturing the ERA title four times, and is the tops in career active winning percentage at .687.  But this wasn’t that Pedro who joined the Phillies in midseason, he’d been castoff by the Mets after going 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA for New York last season.  Nobody would give him the money he’d earned based on his career numbers, until he signed with Philadelphia.  Immediately he showed he still had some gas left in that 37 year old arm, and oh, what a heart!  Martinez was 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in nine starts during the regular season, but this is the postseason, where the great ones shine.

Opposing Pedro was a pitcher whom the Texas Rangers cut loose during the year, even though they were in the race for postseason, and needed pitching.  Although Vicente Padilla came up as a relief pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was a starter with the Phillies where he first showed off his gritty style as a winning pitcher, not as good as Pedro, but a .536 winning percentage none the less.  It was pointed out Vicente has more career HBPs (99) than victories (98), a fact which did not endear him to Ranger batters, who did not appreciate getting hit in retaliation.  Although he’s mellowed in this area lately, Pedro was known as a headhunter in his day, nailing 141 batsmen, all be it in over 2,800 innings.  Both pitchers are examples of, if you want to win, you’ve got to pitch inside.  The Dodgers gladly signed the Nicaraguan righthander, who moved right into the starting rotation, going 4-0 with a 3.28 ERA in seven LA starts.

In the top of the 3rd Carlos Ruiz lined a leadoff single to centerfield, Pedro popped up a bunt attempt, and James Loney intentionally dropped it and threw to Ronnie Belliard covering first, Belliard stepped on first, then tagged Ruiz, who was still on the bag.  The announcers correctly stated the umpires ruled Loney had intentionally dropped the attempted sacrifice and the batter Martinez was ruled out, Ruiz did not have to run.  However because Belliard stepped on firstbase first, removing the force, Ruiz was okay to remain at firstbase.  Nothing much happened as a result of this ruling, although Ruiz did steal secondbase when Rafael Furcal dropped the throw, should’ve been an error, in my opinion, he was stranded there when Shane Victorino popped out, after Padilla had gotten Jimmy Rollins to fly to right.

Chip & the Chipettes were at it in the bottom of three, with one out & Russell Martin on first, Padilla bunts him over, Martin gets a good read and makes it to 2nd easily as Pedro throws to first.  The talking heads comment about how, if Martinez had pounced on it & whirled to secondbase, he might’ve had a shot at a force play.  This guy knows how to win, stay away from silly mistakes which could end up beating you, and really on your good stuff.  Chase Utley fielded an easy bouncer off Furcal’s bat for out number three.

The BIG MAN, Ryan Howard caught a hanger from Padilla and mashed it deep over the leftfield wall in the 4th to put Phillie up 1-0.  I don’t remember so many hitters taking balls the other way out of the park, back in the day, don’t get me wrong, there were some shots, but they were generally pulled or hit straight away, I wonder why that is.

Matt Kemp opened things up in the bottom of the frame with a line single to center.  With lefthanded hitting Andre Ethier at the dish, it looked like a perfect opportunity as Howard was holding Kemp, leaving a big hole between 1st & 2nd, and Martinez was not fully concentrating on the batter, with the speedy baserunner aboard.  Moments later Ruiz gunned down Kemp trying to steal and that was the end of that.

Joe Torre was asked what he was looking for from his starter Padilla.  Joe said, “I’m looking for him to match Pedro, just keep us within striking distance, Martinez is tough to beat, but maybe we can make him work & outlast him”.  More prophetic words were never spoken, as Vicente looked tough, other than Howard’s BIG FLY.

Chip Caray, trying to fill airtime, tells about how Ryan Howard came into camp this spring in great shape, and has worked tirelessly with coach Sam Perlozzo on his defense at firstbase.  Then Chip says, Ryan cutdown on his errors from 19 to 14, which isn’t really that much of an improvement.  Well actually Chip, you are wrong, five fewer errors, from 19 to 14 is quite a drastic percentage decrease, except when you look at range factor, total chances, & assists, and you see that Howard was down in all three categories (fielding percentage went from .988 to .990, not much difference there, so wonder why Caray would bring it up, perhaps to hear himself talk).  Did I mention Chip wouldn’t be a pimple on his grandfather’s behind?

Other than Pedro nailing Russell Martin with a pitch to leadoff the bottom of the 6th (he was stranded at 2nd after Padilla’s bunt moved him up) and Ryan Howard singling in the top of the 7th (he was quickly erased on a Jayson Werth 6-4-3 DP), the pitchers dominated in the 5th, 6th, & 7th, as the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Boys from the City of Brotherly Love through seven.

87 pitches was all Pedro threw while dominating LA over seven innings of work, it looked like the 5’11” 175 pound righthander could’ve gone twelve, he looked shocked when informed in the dugout that his day was done, like, what?, don’t we want to win?  Greg Dobbs was sent up to bat for Martinez with one out and Ruiz on first, lefty Hong-Chih Kuo was brought on to face the lefthanded pinch-hitter, Phillie skipper Charlie Manuel, not to be outdone, sent up the righthanded hitting Ben Francisco, who promptly hit into an inning ending 6-4-3 doubleplay, deja vu all over again.

Now this is where the real game begins, this is what Joe Torre & his Dodgers were waiting for.  On the other side of the diamond, Charlie Manuel had to be saying to himself, “Oh shit.  Now we have to go to the bullpen, and we have no bullpen”.  As Chan Ho Park was summoned into the game, Craig Sager was miked up, he commented about how he’d talked to Park about pitching on two consecutive days, after not pitching for a month because of a hamstring, and that Chan Ho said, he had great command.  It surely didn’t seem that way, as Park only threw 7 of 12 pitches for strikes in his 1/3 inning of work, allowing two basehits, and two earned runs, but this didn’t stop the booth talking heads from repeating Sager’s statement about how Chan Ho had great command, idiots.

The shadows were perfect for the Dodgers batters to be overpowered in the 8th, Pedro had them all game long even without no stinking shadows, and where was Ryan Madson, the normal 8th inning setup man for Phillie, afraid to use him after he’d allowed two runs in game one?  Casey Blake singled off his counterpart at thirdbase Pedro Feliz’ glove, for a leadoff single, Feliz was guarding the line against a double & the ball was hit to his left, the light standard was casting a shadow by thirdbase, which also might have factored into the basehit.  Juan Pierre was put into the game as a pinch runner, Pierre was wearing his spikes, so the game didn’t have to be delayed while he went into the clubhouse to put them on, ala first game Dodger pinch runner Randy Wolf.

Ronnie Belliard stepped up, looking to advance Juan to second with a bunt, the first pitch from Park was so far inside that it almost hit him.  Talking head Buck Martinez commented, how he’s never going to get the bunt down with that technique, he needs to get the bat out in front of homeplate.  Belliard bunted the very next pitch, pushing it past a hard charging pitcher, and out of the reach of a not really improved fielding firstbaseman for an infield single.  The next batter Russell Martin hit a tailor made doubleplay grounder to Feliz, but when Chase Utley, using the bag to shield himself from a hard sliding Belliard, threw off the wrong foot, the ball sailed over BIG Ryan Howard, and allowed Juan Pierre to score from secondbase to tie the game at one.

All of that great pitching from Pedro was for naught, but the game was still there for anybody to win.  That’s when Joe Torre sent up his new secret weapon, Jim Thome to pinch hit.  564 home runs in 19 major league seasons is what the lefthanded slugger brings to the table as he steps into the batter’s box.  The quick witted Charlie Manuel, don’t laugh, knows Thome bats lefthanded, so he calls for his southpaw reliever Scott Eyre.  Just as the ever alert Buck Martinez, what a dolt, says, Thome is 0-7 career against Eyre, and he has no chance, Thome lines a single to rightfield sending Martin to third, I don’t know how they do that.  But I do know this, this wasn’t the same Jim Thome I’ve come to know and love from his days with the White Sox, that Thome was a slugger, who went up to the plate with one thing on his mind, hit it as far as possible, either a homer, a walk, or a strikeout, this Thome was a batter with a purpose, who got the job done, Juan Castro, who also was wearing his spikes, came on to run at first for Jim.

Finally setup man Ryan Madson is called into the game to face Furcal, the infield pulled in to cutoff the go ahead run, Madson loses the pesty Rafael to fill the bags, bringing up Matt Kemp.  Ryan is not a strikeout pitcher, but Kemp swings at one in the dirt, trying to hold up, and strikes himself out for the second out.

Now the best hitter in the Dodgers lineup steps to the plate, Andre Ethier, get back there Manny, I wasn’t talking about you.  Again, can’t slip one past Charlie Manuel, who notices Ethier bats from the leftside, so he makes the ill-fated call (don’t do it Charlie) to bring on rookie of the year candidate, portsider, J.A. Happ.  Happ gets ahead of Andre, but then trys to get him to go fishing, and ends up walking in the go ahead run when the batter lays off a 3-2 pitch that missed low.  Chad Durbin is brought on to get Manny to pop out to end the inning, but not before the damage was done as LA pushes across two runs to take a 2-1 lead heading into the 9th with their closer Jonathan Broxton in there, trying to nail it down.

I must ask the question, I know Brad Lidge was shaky all season long, but if he’s the best you’ve got in your bullpen when the game is on the line, when you’re trying to “save” the ballgame, then where was he?  We’ve gotten away from what a save truly is, it’s not just a bargaining chip to be used when negotiating a reliever’s next contract, it’s meant to indicate that a pitcher actually was saving the game, keeping the other team from winning.  I know Lidge would’ve been brought on to face LA in the 9th if Philadelphia had maintained their lead, but he was needed in the 8th, before the go ahead run was on the board.  I know Happ is good, but he’s a rookie, and as Joe Torre learned with his youngster Clayton Kershaw in the first game, the playoffs are not the place for a youngster to cut his teeth.  It might not be fair to jump on Manuel, as Utley’s error on a DP grounder opened the floodgates, but Ryan Madson the 8th inning setup man should’ve been in there from the beginning to work the eighth, if he was crazy enough to bat for Pedro, he could’ve gone twelve.

Speaking of twelve, twelve pitches later from Broxton, and the Phillies were done, 1-2-3, with BIG Ryan Howard standing in the ondeck circle.  The two teams played it out perfectly, just like Joe Torre drew it up.  The two teams leave LA with one win apiece, but the Phillies have stolen the home field advantage, as they head back across the country to the Keystone State.

Before the telecast was over buffoon Craig Sager had a couple of on field interviews.  First he talked with the hero of the game, Andre Ethier, who drove in the go ahead run without hitting the baseball, sometimes patience truly is the better part of valor.  Sager asked Ethier how he was able to not swing, Andre credited batting coach Don Mattingly.  Then Craig tried to be witty by saying something about this almost being a walkoff walk.  When Sager asked catcher Russell Martin about Dodgers starting pitcher Vincent Padilla, rather than Vicente, I had enough, and turned off the TV.  Where is that mute button anyway?