With reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee going for the Phillies against certified Phillie-killer Hiroki Kuroda for the Dodgers, Game Three of the National League Championship Series figured to be another taut pitching duel. Happily for the Phils, it didn't work out that way: a lineup that had been stifled by Vicente Padilla two days earlier banged out as many hits against Kuroda--six--in his inning and a third tonight as they'd managed against him in 19 regular season innings over the last two years. The six runs they tallied in the first two innings alone proved to be five more than Lee would need, as the star lefty continued a dominant postseason with eight overpowering innings. He now has a 2-0 record and 0.74 ERA in three playoff starts.
The Phils' offensive assault began with one out in the home first, when Shane Victorino singled to right. He stole second, and advanced to third on Chase Utley's hard-hit single to right as third-base coach Sam Perlozzo threw up a late stop sign. Ryan Howard followed with a two-run triple down the line, setting a record by driving in a run in his seventh straight game this postseason. Jayson Werth then sent the Citizens Bank Park crowd into delirium with a laser-shot home run to dead center field, stretching the lead to 4-0.
Any prospect that Kuroda would settle down disappeared when Carlos Ruiz led off the second with a double to the gap. After Lee sacrificed him to third, Jimmy Rollins doubled down the line to knock in the run as Joe Torre pulled his struggling starter. Lefty Scott Elbert followed by walking Victorino and Utley; Howard jumped on the first pitch, but dribbled it toward first where James Loney took it to the bag for an out as Rollins scored. The Phils later added two runs in the fifth, on a Pedro Feliz triple and Ruiz single, and finished the rout with three in the eighth on a Victorino homer.
Lee took the lead and did what aces do: pound the strike zone and squeeze all hope out of the opponent. Spotting his low-90s fastball, sweeping curve and deceptive change at will, he didn't allow a Dodgers hitter to get as far as second base until Ronnie Belliard got there in the 7th. Lee finished that inning by striking out Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp; an inning later, he notched strikeouts nine, on Loney looking, and ten, on a Russell Martin swing and miss. Lee added a single in the bottom of the eighth and scored on Victorino's homer before giving way to Chad Durbin for the ninth. In his eight innings, Lee allowed three singles and no walks.
Phillies pitchers have held the Dodgers to eight hits over the last two games, including just five in 15 innings against Pedro Martinez and Lee. Joe Blanton looks to keep the train rolling tomorrow night in his first start of the postseason, facing former Phillie Randy Wolf.