Game 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?