Phillies beat Dodgers 3-2 in NLCS opener

October 10, 2008 3:58:20 AM PDT
Pat Burrell, Chase Utley and the Philadelphia Phillies had more than enough power to offset Manny Ramirez in the NL championship series opener. Utley and Burrell homered off tiring Derek Lowe in the sixth inning to back a strong performance by Cole Hamels, and the Phillies were a winner in their return to the NLCS, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Thursday night.

"It feels great but you can't get too caught up in this," Burrell said. "We've got a lot of work to do."

Ramirez put the Dodgers ahead with a long RBI double in the first, just missing a two-run homer. But the Phillies' big bats answered in the sixth, when Burrell hit a go-ahead solo homer after Utley's two-run shot tied it.

Game 2 is Friday in Philadelphia, with Phillies right-hander Brett Myers facing Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley.

A lower back injury nearly sidelined Burrell in the first round against Milwaukee, and he almost got benched after going 0-for-8 in the first three games. But manager Charlie Manuel kept Burrell in the lineup, and Burrell responded with two homers and four RBIs in the clinching win over the Brewers.

Hamels settled down after the first and wound up allowing two runs and six hits, striking out eight.

"I think the guy just geared it up a notch," Burrell said.

Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth, and Brad Lidge finished with a perfect ninth for his third save of the postseason. Lidge is 44-for-44 in save chances this year.

Lowe cruised through the first five innings, allowing just four singles. But the right-hander with the hard sinker couldn't make it out of the sixth.

The speedy Shane Victorino reached second base leading off on shortstop Rafael Furcal's throwing error. Utley ripped the next pitch into the seats in right-center for his first postseason homer in 29 at-bats, tying it at 2.

One out later, Burrell lined a 3-1 pitch into the left-field stands for a 3-2 lead, sending the sellout crowd into frenzy. While Burrell circled the bases, Lowe looked up at the fireworks going off beyond the swinging replica Liberty Bell that hangs beyond the outfield stands and waited for manager Joe Torre to walk to the mound.

Burrell high-fived teammates and got a curtain call from long-suffering fans, who waited 15 years to see the Phillies return to the NLCS.

"Utley is a pretty good hitter," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I don't think the error had anything to do with what happened after that."

Los Angeles took a 1-0 lead in the first off Hamels, who tossed eight shutout innings against Milwaukee in Game 1 of the division series.

Andre Ethier hit a one-out double. With first base open, manager Charlie Manuel chose to let Hamels pitch to Ramirez. The slugger made them pay, hitting an RBI double high off the 19-foot wall just left of straightaway center.

Blake DeWitt's sacrifice fly in the fourth made it 2-0. Matt Kemp led off the inning with a looping ground-rule double down the right-field line. Kemp advanced to third on Casey Blake's grounder to shortstop and scored on DeWitt's fly to center.

Lowe's sinker was so sharp early on that he even got Jayson Werth to ground into his third double-play in 786 plate appearances since joining the Phillies last year.

Lowe was 6-1 with a 1.27 ERA in his last 10 regular-season starts, including an 0.59 ERA in September. He beat Chicago in the opener of the division series as the Dodgers swept the heavily favored Cubs to reach the NLCS for the first time since winning the World Series in 1988.

Right from the start, fans waved their white-and-red "Fightin' Phils" towels and screamed "Beat LA," a chant first made popular by Boston fans as the Philadelphia 76ers were finishing off the Celtics to advance to the 1983 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers went on to beat the Lakers. It's the last championship this title-starved city has celebrated.

Since then, the Phillies have lost twice in the World Series (1983 and '93), and the city's other three major pro teams are 0-5 in the finals of their respective sports.

The Phillies played their first NLCS game since clinching the pennant in Game 6 against Atlanta at old Veterans Stadium on Oct. 13, 1993. They're seeking their second World Series title (first was in 1980) in the franchise's 126-year history.

Both teams entered the series streaking. The Dodgers finished 19-8 to capture the NL West crown and won three in a row over the Cubs. The Phillies went 13-3 down the stretch to win their second straight NL East title and needed four games to get past wild-card Milwaukee.

The teams split eight regular-season meetings, each sweeping a four-game series at home in August.

It's the fourth time in 31 years that the Dodgers and Phillies meet in the NLCS. The Dodgers beat the Phillies in 1977 and 1978, winning both best-of-five series in four games. In '83, the Phillies beat the Dodgers in four games after losing 11 of 12 to Los Angeles and getting shut out five times during the regular season.

Notes: Ramirez was 2-for-4. His 68 postseason RBIs are second only to Bernie Williams, who had 80 in 121 playoff games with the New York Yankees.Myers is 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 12 career games against the Dodgers, including 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA this season. ... Billingsley is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three games against Philadelphia, losing his only start this year. ... Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa, who managed the Phillies and played shortstop for the 1980 championship team, received a nice ovation in pregame introductions. ... Philadelphia's 92 wins in the regular season were eight more than the Dodgers had.


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