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Dangling on the hook

Torre leaves Billingsley in too long and Dodgers, down 2-0, are left clinging to slim hopes

October 11, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Chad Billingsley tried to gather himself but couldn't.

The game was unraveling for the Dodgers. Perhaps the season was too.

But Manager Joe Torre didn't move. He didn't call for anyone to warm up in the bullpen during a four-run second inning that included five consecutive two-out hits. He didn't pull Billingsley when he issued an intentional walk to Greg Dobbs to load the bases in the third.

Torre didn't remove his 24-year-old starter until he watched him give up his second hit to pitcher Brett Myers, this one a two-run, third-inning single that blew open Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Friday and sent the Philadelphia Phillies on their way to an 8-5 victory Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The loss sent the Dodgers traveling back to Los Angeles with a two-games-to-none deficit against an emotionally charged team that learned Friday that the mother of Manager Charlie Manuel and the grandmother of center fielder Shane Victorino had died.

Though Billingsley was charged with a career-high eight runs in 2 1/3 innings, Torre denied that he kept him in the game for too long.

"Billingsley has been too much to this club to take him out in a situation where he's done well," Torre said.

The past was also the point of reference for Torre when he addressed his team after the defeat, reminding the players of the numerous obstacles they'd overcome.

"We've worked hard to get here," catcher Russell Martin recalled Torre saying. "Now's not the time to let go."

The Dodgers certainly didn't let go in this game, in which they were down 8-2 by the end of the third inning.

Manny Ramirez, who smiled after a Myers pitch sailed behind his head in the first inning, hit a three-run home run over the left-field wall to get the Dodgers to within 8-5 in the fourth.

The Dodgers came within several feet of tying the score in the seventh, when third baseman Casey Blake forced Victorino to make a leaping catch at the center-field wall with two out and two men on base.

"I thought for sure it had a good chance," Blake said.

But the drive, like the Dodgers themselves, fell short, and now they face long odds in the series. Since 1985, when the league championship series became best-of-seven, only three teams have overcome a two-games-to-none deficit to win.

The Dodgers fell to 0-6 at Citizens Bank Park this season; they were swept here in a four-game series in late August. However, they swept four games from the Phillies at Dodger Stadium earlier that month.

"We were able to beat these guys prior to coming here," said Jeff Kent, a third-inning defensive replacement who played the rest of the game at second base. "We have a knowledge and history of that. We challenged ourselves in Chicago in the playoffs and we challenged ourselves against the Phillies when they came to see us."

Considering the Dodgers' predicament, Kent said the team's youth could be an advantage.

"I think one good thing about our team is that we don't get too far ahead of ourselves," he said. "We're a younger team and sometimes younger teams don't get caught up in history because they don't really have history, which can help."

That lack of history could have hurt Billingsley, who was making his second career postseason start.

"The game started getting a little quick on me," he said. "I tried to step back and gather my thoughts a little bit."

But he couldn't. "I didn't put guys away. I could never stop the bleeding."

He struck out Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth to start the second but gave up a single to Dobbs, who scored on a double by catcher Carlos Ruiz. Myers, a .116 career hitter who hit .069 this season and had driven in one run in the last two years, hit a single to center that scored Ruiz. Jimmy Rollins and Victorino also singled, increasing the Phillies' lead to 4-1.

The Phillies continued to pound Billingsley in the third. After giving up a two-out single to Myers, Billingsley exited with men on the corners, giving way to Chan Ho Park, who gave up a two-run triple to Victorino.

Billingsley, who had the shortest NLCS start by a Dodgers pitcher since Jerry Reuss lasted only two innings in 1985, said he felt his stuff was fine.

"I didn't make great pitch selections today," he said.

Martin, who called the game, smiled and shrugged when relayed Billingsley's comments.

"When you're not throwing the ball like you want to, it's easy to second-guess yourself," Martin said.

Myers threw aggressively inside -- in addition to the pitch behind Ramirez, he knocked down Martin in the first inning with a pitch near his head -- but didn't pitch very well, giving up five runs and six hits in five innings.



Dodgers vs. Philadelphia

Phillies lead best-of-seven series, 2-0;

all times Pacific; all games on Channel 11.

Game 1: at Phillies 3, Dodgers 2

Game 2: at Phillies 8, Dodgers 5

Game 3: Sunday, 5:15 p.m.

Philadelphia (Jamie Moyer, 16-7, 3.71) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda, 9-10, 3.73)

Game 4: Monday, 5:15 p.m.

Philadelphia (Joe Blanton, 4-0, 4.20) at Dodgers (to be announced)

Game 5*: Wednesday at Dodgers, 5:15 p.m.

Game 6*: Friday at Philadelphia, 5:15 p.m.

Game 7*: Oct. 18 at Philadelphia, 5:15 p.m.

*If necessary

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