Rally revives Dodgers, evens NLCS
Ethier's bases-loaded walk caps comeback in eighth
LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't quite Matt Holliday, but it'll do for now.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley's throwing error gifted the Dodgers a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning -- one scoring on the error, the second on Andre Ethier's bases-loaded walk with two outs -- for a 2-1 must-win victory Friday to even the National League Championship Series at a game apiece.
Mathematically, another lucky win was the difference for the Dodgers between a tied series moving to Philadelphia and an 0-2 hole. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, no NL team has dropped the first two games at home and rallied to win the series.
What is the difference psychologically?
"The biggest difference in the world," said third baseman Casey Blake, who started the winning rally with a leadoff single. "It does so much for our confidence. We're starting over."
Blake had the amazing walk in the winning rally over the Cardinals after Holliday's error, so he knows momentum swings, and the Dodgers were in desperate need of one after 7 1/2 innings Friday, trailing 1-0 with only two cheap hits.
To that point, the game was a duel between Vicente Padilla and Pedro Martinez, two revitalized midseason pickups off the scrap heap pitching against their former clubs. Martinez pitched seven scoreless innings and had the Dodgers wishing he would run out of gas (which he did), while Padilla allowed only a Ryan Howard solo home run over 7 1/3 innings.
The Dodgers followed their unspoken game plan -- get into the Phillies' bullpen -- scoring both runs while the Phils ran through five relievers in the decisive inning. It was their 45th comeback win of the year (third in the postseason). They did it with only five singles, while the Phillies had only four hits.
Did Dodgers manager Joe Torre feel a sense of relief when Martinez left the game?
"You had to. You had to," Torre said. "I marvel. As much as you always hated anybody with a Red Sox uniform on, you always admired how well he did his job. Even though he doesn't have the same velocity he once did, he did a masterful job today."
Chan Ho Park, another former Dodger who pitched an overpowering inning Thursday night, replaced Martinez to open the inning and wasn't as sharp, greeted by Blake's hot single off the glove of third baseman Pedro Feliz.
"I just wanted to get something going," said Blake, who went 0-for-5 in Game 1 and was 0-for-2 before the hit. "To be honest, my confidence wasn't terribly high after last night. At that point, it was a good situation to be in because I couldn't think too much. I just focused on the ball rather than the 20 other things I had been thinking about."
Ronnie Belliard fouled off a bunt attempt and the sacrifice sign was taken off, but Belliard bunted anyway, pushing one perfectly between Park, who initially charged the plate and slipped and fell trying to change directions, and first baseman Howard for a single.
"I got lucky," said Belliard, the late acquisition who had only one sacrifice all year. "They took the sign off, but I know I got to get that guy to second base, so I bunted and put it in a perfect spot."
Russell Martin squared to bunt and Park's first pitch was under his former batterymate's chin, Martin spinning out of the way and into the dirt. Martin worked the count to 3-0 and Park brought it back to 3-2 when Martin sent a double-play ball to Feliz, who got the first out at second.
"We'll take it any way we can get it," said Martin. "We've been fortunate to come from behind all year and we feel like we've got that magic out there."
With Belliard coming at him hard, Utley, who already had a throwing error in Game 1, threw the relay wildly as pinch-runner Juan Pierre scored the tying run from second base with Martin safe at first.
"I know that he might have made a mistake the last two days, but so what?" Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I don't think that's a problem. And if it is, he'll correct it."
Pinch-hitter Jim Thome, carried on the roster for his bat even though his body can't run or play defense, then greeted reliever Scott Eyre by singling Martin to third.
"When you're limited to the role of pinch-hitter, you really want to get that big hit," said Thome.
Rafael Furcal then greeted Ryan Madson with a walk to load the bases.
"Pedro was unbelievable," Furcal said. "But when Blake got that hit, I say, 'It's on now.' We've been doing this all year."
Matt Kemp struck out for the second out. Lefty J.A. Happ came on to face Ethier with shadows reaching across the infield to make seeing the pitch tougher than usual. The at-bat was seven pitches, six of them fastballs as Thome had suggested to Ethier before the at-bat. It started with a fastball outside, then Ethier fouled off three fastballs. He took a changeup outside, then two low fastballs for the walk.
"They were the same exact pitches." Ethier said of the final two balls. "It looked far enough for me to not have to swing. So far enough not to swing and not to take a pass at it and I was confident it was a ball. They were close. I think the last one was a little bit farther than the second one."
Manny Ramirez popped out to leave the bases loaded. Hong-Chih Kuo, who got his only hitter on a double-play bouncer, got the win and Jonathan Broxton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
Philadelphia native Kobe Bryant (wedged between owner Frank McCourt and Tommy Lasorda) made a fourth-inning appearance and donned a Dodgers cap in support of the home team in the owner's box, but they might as well have put him in the batter's box the way the Dodgers couldn't hit Martinez.
Martinez, dealt away after winning 10 games for Lasorda in 1993 as a rookie, hadn't pitched since Sept. 30 and was making his first postseason appearance in five years, but the sight of the Dodgers and Lasorda seemed to bring out the best in him.
And Martinez seemed to bring out the best in the resurrected Padilla, who kept the game close enough for the late rally to matter.
"I mean, those are the types of games when you look back on them, you're talking about guys who can handle pressure and guys who really rise to the occasion," Torre said. "Both Pedro and Vinny today, there was no room for error. Plus it was like 100 degrees out there where they were doing what they were doing. He was something. He was really something."
Coming off seven scoreless innings in the NL Division Series clincher in St. Louis, Padilla allowed his former team only four hits, but one of them was Howard's homer to left-center in the fourth inning.
"I knew I had to keep the game close because the guys were going to come back," Padilla said. "I made a mistake to Howard. I knew it wasn't the right pitch to throw to him, and after I released, I knew I shouldn't have thrown it. It was curve and it stayed up. You can't do that to him or he'll hit it. He does that."
After a one-out Carlos Ruiz walk in the eighth, Padilla left to one of the loudest ovations of the year and acknowledged the crowd with a wave of the cap.
"It's my first time playing in front of a big crowd like this in a game that's more important than I've ever pitched in my life, and I was very emotional," Padilla said.
In the sixth, with Lasorda encouraging the crowd to wave their towels and Bryant trying on a Dodgers rally cap, the Dodgers put the leadoff hitter on when Martinez hit Martin with a 2-2 pitch. But after he was bunted to second by Padilla, Martin was stranded when Furcal and Kemp hit flyouts.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.