Dodgers having way with Phils' bullpen
Ethier's bases-loaded walk caps Game 2 comeback
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers knew they could hit the Phillies' bullpen. They knew it before the National League Championship Series started. They proved it in Game 1, despite an 8-6 loss. They took advantage of it in Game 2, rallying for a 2-1 win.
Come Sunday, when the two clubs square off at Citizens Bank Park in Game 3, hitting the Phillies' 'pen may well be the easy part. The tough part will be getting to it in the first place. Philadelphia sends Cliff Lee to the mound in Game 3, after Lee pitched a total of 16 1/3 innings in his two Division Series starts. Los Angeles must make Lee work, must stay patient, in order to see the soft underbelly of the Phillies' bullpen.
The Rockies weren't able to do that, so Philadelphia won both games Lee started -- including a complete game in Game 1 of the NLDS. The Dodgers must show the kind of approach they managed against Cole Hamels in Game 1 of the NLCS, rather than the short at-bats they had against Pedro Martinez in Game 2.
Martinez needed only 87 pitches to get through seven innings, and another pitcher likely wouldn't have been pulled for the eighth. But when Martinez came out of the game, everything changed. It's the simplest equation in this series: the sooner the Dodgers get to the Philadelphia bullpen, the better their chances are.
In two games so far, Phillies relievers have pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits. They have walked four against two strikeouts. On Thursday, relief struggles weren't enough to give the Dodgers a win, but on Friday they were.
Veteran Casey Blake, who singled to start the winning rally, said the Dodgers were "very happy" to see Martinez out of the game. Philadelphia went through five relievers in the eighth inning alone as Charlie Manuel searched for the best matchup time after time.
Blake began the inning by singling to the left side off the glove of third baseman Pedro Feliz. Ronnie Belliard tried to sacrifice pinch-runner Juan Pierre over, but instead found himself with a single thanks ironically to a poor bunt. Belliard's bunt shot further than expected, to the right side of the mound into no-man's land, and everyone was safe.
Chase Utley's error on a potential double-play ball gave the Dodgers the tying run, and after a single and a walk loaded the bases, Andre Ethier drew a walk for the go-ahead run. The Phillies gave the Dodgers opening after opening, but the Dodgers still had to take advantage, and they did.
Moreover, they know they can do it again, if they can just get Lee out of the game.
"Each night their starters have been pretty good," Blake said. "So to get to that bullpen and know ... it doesn't matter who it is, we're going to compete against him. Their bullpen is very good. To get the win against them is a good job on our part."
Closer Brad Lidge has been perhaps the biggest story of the season for the Phillies, but Lidge isn't the only Phillie who's had difficulty. Manuel still does not appear to have settled on a consistent plan for deploying his relievers. With a deep and potent lineup, that presents an advantage for the Dodgers.
Not that the Phils are conceding anything.
"I look at our team, and we've been resilient about the last three years," Manuel said. "We play day-to-day, and I know this was a tough loss, and it's a big loss in a way, but at the same time our team -- we've bounced back before, and we'll bounce back again. I've got all the faith in the world in our team. It's going to be a good series."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.