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Dodgers love field trip

BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Chicago's defense is terrible and L.A. takes advantage for a 2-0 lead in series. Billingsley is impressive and Ramirez homers again.

October 03, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Do you believe in curses?

How else do you explain what happened Thursday night at Wrigley Field, where the National League's best defensive team suddenly turned into the worst?

The Dodgers turned two errors by the Chicago Cubs into five second-inning runs that broke open Game 2 of their NL division series, as a horrified crowd of 42,136 fans watched Mark DeRosa on his knees trying in vain to shuffle the ball to second base and Derrek Lee circle 360 degrees to find a ball that eluded his grasp.

Behind 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball by Chad Billingsley, the second long home run in as many days by Manny Ramirez and errors by every player in the Cubs' infield, the Dodgers cruised to a 10-3 victory and took a 2-0 in the best-of-five series, a lead no NL team has ever blown in a division series.

The Cubs, who have never won a playoff game west of Chicago, will have to win twice in Los Angeles to have a chance to prevent their World Series drought from extending to 101 years.

"I don't think you can win 97 games playing that way," Cubs Manager Lou Piniella said. "It wasn't good baseball. In fact, the last two days, they've probably been the two worst games we've played all year from a walking and errors standpoint."

The Dodgers turned three of the Cubs' errors into five runs, capitalizing on the home team's inability to catch and throw the ball much the way they capitalized on starter Ryan Dempster's seven walks the previous day.

"That's the name of the game right now," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said. "Whatever things happen, you have to be able to take advantage."

By doing so, the Dodgers quieted a crowd at Wrigley Field that started the game on its feet and roared with Carlos Zambrano when he struck out Ramirez and pumped his fist to end the first inning.

The Cubs' season started to unravel in the second with a single by Ethier to left. James Loney slapped the ball toward short on a hit-and-run. Shortstop Ryan Theriot was breaking toward second base and tried to barehand the ball, which deflected into left field.

Matt Kemp struck out with men on the corners to bring up Blake DeWitt, who hit what looked like an inning-ending double play ball to DeRosa. But the second baseman couldn't hold onto it and his flip to Theriot at second was wide of the bag. Ethier scored and the Dodgers were up, 1-0.

"I knew when I hit it that if he made the play, it'd be tough to beat out," DeWitt said. "I just put my head down and ran. When I looked up, everyone was safe."

On the next at-bat, Casey Blake hit a ball to Lee, who also couldn't hold on, and the bases were loaded.

A drag bunt single by Rafael Furcal pushed across Loney to double the Dodgers' lead and a double by Russell Martin to the gap in left-center cleared the bases.

The game, if not the series, looked over.

"I think that was basically the back-breaker," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.

Of the five runs charged to Zambrano that inning, only one was earned. This was nothing like the kind of defense that the Cubs had played in compiling the NL's best record, as they gave up fewer unearned runs than any team in the league during the regular season.

There were more odd moments for the Cubs. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez made a fielding error in the fourth and later that inning, catcher Geovany Soto snapped his wrist awkwardly and threw the ball directly into the ground while trying to return it to Zambrano.

Manny Ramirez hit a bomb over the batter's eye in center field to extend the margin to 6-0. He drew a walk that spelled the end of Zambrano's night in the seventh and scored on a double to right by Kemp.

The Dodgers tagged on two more runs in the eighth, Blake scoring on a single by Furcal, who, in turn, scored from second when Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol elected to pitch to Ramirez with first base empty and gave up a single.

Juan Pierre, who reached base on a throwing error by Theriot, scored the Dodgers' final run in the ninth.

The 10 runs were more than enough for Billingsley to earn a victory in his first career postseason start.

Alfonso Soriano led off the bottom of the first with a single and reached second on a wild pitch, but Billingsley retired the next three hitters.

"That's been Chad the whole year," Martin said. "He gets in jams and finds his way out of them."

Billingsley gave up only one hit from the start of the second inning to the sixth.

Takashi Saito entered the game in the ninth with a 10-1 lead but gave up two runs and three hits without recording an out. That forced Torre to call Jonathan Broxton out of the bullpen to get the last three outs.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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