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Power surge stuns L.A.

Furcal's error and home runs by Utley and Burrell off Lowe in the sixth inning turn a 2-0 Dodgers lead into a Game 1 loss.

October 10, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer
  • Philadelphia's Chase Utley, left, is congratulaed by teammate Shane Victorino after tying Thursday night's game against the Dodgers with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. The Phillies won the NLCS opener, 3-2.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley, left, is congratulaed by teammate Shane… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

PHILADELPHIA -- For the first time this October, the Dodgers showered and dressed in silence.

In the middle of a clubhouse that was suddenly devoid of music, Rafael Furcal shook his head.

"This won't be easy to forget," Furcal said. "We lost a game because of it."

The Dodgers shortstop was talking about how he sailed the ball over the head of first baseman James Loney when he tried to throw out Shane Victorino in the sixth inning.

The error started a three-run inning for the Philadelphia Phillies, who erased a two-run deficit on home runs by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell and handed the Dodgers a 3-2 loss in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday in front of 45,839 fans at Citizens Bank Park.

"I told you they're explosive," said Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa, who managed several of these Phillies in his four-year tenure in Philadelphia.

"You can't give them more than three outs. We gave them an out."

The game unraveled in what felt like an instant for the Dodgers and their starter, Derek Lowe, who, like Furcal, pointed the finger of blame at himself.

With no one out and Victorino standing on second, Lowe delivered a first-pitch sinker to Utley that didn't sink and was looped over the right-field wall of the diminutive ballpark.

Tie score.

"I knew he was going to swing," Lowe said.

"Sometimes it's better to just throw a non-competitive pitch. My instincts were right."

Two batters later, Lowe made a similar pitch to Burrell and received a similar punishment.

Manny Ramirez knew where the ball was headed, barely moving as he watched the ball sail into the stands in left, where towel-waving fans celebrated the Phillies taking a 3-2 lead.

Would those have been home runs at Dodger Stadium?

"I would say Utley's, it's not," Lowe said.


"Probably not either," said Lowe, who pitched 5 1/3 innings. "But so what? It doesn't matter. We're playing in the same park, too."

For Lowe, who was 5-0 with a 0.85 earned-run average in his last seven starts, the loss was his first since Aug. 26.

For Furcal, the error was the first he had made since being activated from the 60-day disabled list on Sept. 24. Furcal, who was out for 4 1/2 months because of a back problem that ultimately required surgery, said that because he was conscious of Victorino's speed, he rushed to throw the ball. In doing so, he lost his grip.

"Tomorrow's another day," Furcal said.

There were early signs of promise for the Dodgers, who took a 1-0 lead in the first when a double by Ramirez drove in Andre Ethier from second.

Ramirez nearly hit the 0-and-1 pitch from Phillies starter Cole Hamels for a home run, the ball hitting the plexiglass guard rail above the 409-foot mark on the center field wall.

A couple of feet higher and the ball would've been in the stands. A few feet to the right and it would've landed in the shrubs in dead center for a home run.

"I guess I have to work on my angle," said Ramirez, who was two for four.

"Unfortunately," Ethier said, "he hit the highest and farthest part of the park."

The Dodgers doubled their lead to 2-0 in the fourth, when Matt Kemp doubled, moved to third on a groundout by Casey Blake and scored on a sacrifice fly by Blake DeWitt.

But, Ethier said, "Things can change quickly in this ballpark, as you saw tonight."

And once down, the Dodgers had little chance.

Hamels struck out DeWitt and pinch-hitter Jeff Kent, and forced Furcal to ground out in a 1-2-3 seventh inning.

Ryan Madson gave up a single to Russell Martin but nothing else in the eighth.

Brad Lidge converted his 44th save in 44 chances this season, tossing a perfect ninth that he punctuated by striking out DeWitt.

If there was a promising sign for the Dodgers, it was the way their bullpen performed.

Greg Maddux, in his second relief appearance this postseason, faced the minimum number of batters in the seventh.

Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who missed the Dodgers' division-series sweep of the Chicago Cubs because of elbow problems, retired the side in the eighth and touched 96 mph with his fastball.

Kuo had pitched only twice in the last five weeks.

"I didn't pitch for a month," Kuo said. "I was a little excited."

Only a little?

"A little," he said. "I didn't think too much."





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Update: Take away a no-decision at Pittsburgh a month ago and Chad Billingsley hasn't given up more than two runs in a start since Aug. 25, when gave up three in six innings in a loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank. That was his only loss since July 19 and, tellingly, he walked five in that game. Billingsley has won just three times this season when he walked four or more batters. Brett Myers lost three of his last four regular-season starts before rebounding with seven strong innings against Milwaukee in the division series, giving up two runs and two hits. He's 4-2 against the Dodgers in his career, beating Billingsley in that August game in which he scattered nine hits over seven scoreless innings.

-- Kevin Baxter

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