Every postseason series, even the ones you win, seems to have at least one game that turns out to be a three-plus hour kick in the taint. That was today for the Phillies: after Pedro Martinez put on an absolute pitching clinic for seven innings and left with a 1-0 lead, the eighth inning turned into a nightmare of errors and misplays, pitching changes, and a crushing bases-loaded walk that forced in the decisive run as the Dodgers evened the series with a 2-1 win.
Early on, it was all about the pitchers. Former Phillie Vicente Padilla continued his unlikely renaissance--and, with free agency on the horizon, probably made himself a few extra million dollars--with an utterly superb performance: 7.1 innings, four hits, one run, one walk, six strikeouts. Utilizing both the vicious mid-90s fastball with movement that was his trademark with Philadelphia and a nasty curveball that mostly flummoxed Phils hitters, Padilla cruised all day. He made one mistake, on the curve, to Ryan Howard in the fourth; the Phils slugger crushed it for an opposite-field home run and a 1-0 advantage.
Martinez did the rest. Pitching for just the second time in a month, the future Hall of Famer kept the Dodgers hitters off balance all afternoon: their only two hits were a soft single to center by Russell Martin in the third and a Matt Kemp infield single off Martinez's glove in the fourth. In the seventh, his last inning, Martinez induced a weak Andre Ethier groundout and struck out longtime Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez before James Loney flied out to deep center field. At 87 pitches, Martinez was done.
That didn't work out well. Chan Ho Park, who turned in maybe the best of a few great relief performances in Game One, began an eighth inning a lot of us will see in our nightmares if the Phils go on the lose this series. With the late-afternoon shadows crossing home plate and creeping past the foul line on the left side, Casey Blake ripped a single off the glove of Pedro Feliz, who had been guarding the line. Rafael Belliard followed with a bunt, which Park--shades of Scott Eyre in Game Three of the Rockies series--fell down trying to field: LA had men on first and second with none out. With Martin squaring to bunt, Park fell behind 3-0; he got the count back full, then induced what looked like an absolute dead double play ball to Feliz. He fired to Chase Utley at second for the force on Belliard, but with the catcher running, Utley threw the ball well wide of Howard at first. Pinch-runner Juan Pierre came around to score, and the game was tied with a man on first.
The horror show was just beginning. Jim Thome came on to pinch-hit for pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo; Charlie Manuel called on Scott Eyre to face the lefty slugger. But Thome dumped a pitch into right field for a single to put men at first and third with one out. Exit Eyre; enter Ryan Madson. Madson walked Rafael Furcal, loading the bases, but got ahead of Kemp with fastballs and struck him out with a changeup. With lefty Andre Ethier due, Manuel again took the walk to the mound, and waved in rookie lefty J.A. Happ. Happ got ahead of Ethier 1-2, but couldn't put him away--and on a full-count pitch, threw a fastball just low to walk in the run. Chad Durbin, the fifth pitcher of the inning, came on to pop up Ramirez, but the damage was done as the Phils could not rally against Jonathan Broxton in the ninth.
So the good news: the big win in Game One gave the Phils home-field advantage as the series shifts to Philadelphia for three games starting Sunday. The bad news: they were five outs from winning this game and putting a stranglehold on the series before Utley's error and the poor control from Madson and Happ squandered the edge. The worse news might be that they face Hiroki Kuroda in Game Three, whose career numbers against the Phillies should chill the blood: in 19 regular season innings facing the Phils, he's allowed six hits, five walks, and two runs, and he beat them in Game Three of last year's NLCS. On the plus side, ace Cliff Lee takes the ball for the Phils; he's won his lone career start against the Dodgers, and certainly doesn't seem fazed by the October spotlight.