It was jubilation early and jitters late as the Phillies beat the Dodgers 8-5 to take a two games to none lead in the National League Championship Series.
Brett Myers was the story today--not with his arm, but with his bat. As the FOX bobbleheads told us again and again, the high-strung right-hander's three hits in the game nearly matched his 2008 regular season total of four. But they were big hits: a two-out second-inning single to drive in Carlos Ruiz and give the Phils a 2-1 lead, and a two-run single in the third to stretch the advantage to 6-2. Both times, Myers came around to score, driven in by Shane Victorino. The Myers/Victorino combo worked in NLCS Game Two much as it did in the first round, with the Flyin' Hawaiian delivering a two-run triple in the third to push the advantage to 8-2.
After batting around in both the second and third innings and chasing Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley--who, after striking out four of the first six Phillies hitters, fell apart as quickly and completely as I've ever seen--the Phils looked like they might put this one away early. But Myers, perhaps tired from running the bases, gave back half the lead in the fourth inning when Rafael Furcal reached on a strikeout/wild pitch, Russell Martin singled, and Manny Ramirez muscled a fastball just over the wall in left field. Myers scuffled through the fifth inning without further damage, and was done after 102 pitches.
Both bullpens were electric, the Dodgers holding the Phillies right where they were behind young pitchers James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw (whose 18 pitches probably took him out of the running for a Game Four start), and Corey Wade. The Phils made things a bit more interesting: Chad Durbin pitched around one hit in the sixth, and J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson each allowed a baserunner in the seventh before the inning ended on a fantastic Victorino catch against the wall in center off the bat of Casey Blake. Madson--shaking off the near-disaster and continuing to show the form that's turned him from digestive threat to setup ace--mowed down the Dodgers in the eighth on a weak grounder and two strikeouts. But Brad Lidge walked two in the ninth before striking out Matt Kemp and Nomar Garciaparra with a barrage of vicious sliders to close it out. Thirty-one years and change after the infamous Black Friday, there would be no repeat.
For manager Charlie Manuel, the win was a welcome balm after very sad news: earlier today, Manuel lost his beloved mother, June, at the age of 87. We at TGP wish Manuel and his family all the best.
The Phils look to put a stranglehold on the series Sunday night in Game Three, as Jamie Moyer faces off against Hiroki Kuroda.