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T.J. SIMERS

Down 2-0, they'll still give it their best shot

October 11, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

PHILADELPHIA -- If it felt like an eternity Friday hanging in there with the Dodgers through yet another playoff loss, what must it have been like for Sandy Koufax, who was sitting beside the Screaming Meanie the whole time?

You know the old saying: There's always someone out there who is worse off than you.

Who do you think was sitting next to Frank McCourt?

Sure, the Dodgers are down 2-0, but doing so much better than the Cubs and their fans.

And although they were nothing more than Angryville chum here the last two days, as bad as the Dodgers must feel, they get to leave Philadelphia while all the towel wavers remain stuck here.

As for coming back, "It might be time to do some shots of Crown Royal," said Manny Ramirez, who has been there, done that. "I know this, we'll have the music on Sunday in Dodger Stadium and maybe have some fun."

In 2004, Ramirez's Red Sox were down and out against the Yankees, but just before taking the field in Game 6, Kevin Millar urged each of his teammates to down a shot of whiskey.

Everyone took a swig out of the same cup, the Red Sox coming back to beat the Yankees, the ritual continuing before each World Series game. Jeff Kent drinking out of the same cup as his teammates?

Well, he's never won a World Series, so it'd be interesting to see just how much he wants to win one.

Last year the Red Sox were down 3-1 to Cleveland in the playoffs, Ramirez telling the media, "Why panic? If it doesn't happen, we'll come back next year and try again. It's not the end of the world."

Critics pounced on Ramirez's carefree attitude, but it took the heat off his teammates, and the Red Sox rallied to beat Cleveland and later win the World Series.

Drinks all around, please, for Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake, a combined three for 23 against the Phillies, and seriously in need of loosening up.

And a stiff shot for Chad Billingsley, who is going to have to buck up and come back and pitch again in Game 5.

"I just need to hit the weight room," said Blake, who thought he hit the ball deeper in Game 1 than it went, and who fell a few feet shy of tying it up in Game 2.

Blake changed bats before Game 2 because the ball didn't seem to be coming off his bat as well as he'd like -- going with the "same kind of bats the Phillies' home-run hitters were using," he said.

Down by three, Blake stood in the on-deck circle and told himself, "I'm going deep. It just happens sometimes -- you get that feeling. I told myself to be aggressive and take a hack.

"And I hit it good, right on the barrel. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I thought it had a chance. Just bad aim."

There is one section of the wall here designed to kill off the Dodgers' chances for success, and both Blake and Ramirez hit it. It goes deeper than the rest of the park, Ramirez hitting it in Game 1 and getting only a double. Blake's shot didn't go as far as Ramirez's poke, but a leaping Shane Victorino kept Blake from at least a double.

"I'm tired of hearing this stadium is a bandbox," Blake said.

Ramirez, who is seemingly impervious to pressure, with a hit in 40 of his last 45 postseason games, ripped a three-run homer after the Dodgers fell behind 8-2.

Philadelphia pitcher Brett Myers brushed Ramirez back in the first, and then fired a pitch behind his head. Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan had a few words for Myers, and after Ramirez hit his major league-record 27th postseason home run, he began screaming from the dugout.

At Myers?

"No, I was just screaming 'agh, rah, agh, rah.' I was just so happy I hit it," Ramirez said.

The Phillies, meanwhile, hit everything Billingsley had to throw after he struck out the first two hitters in the second. Billingsley inexplicably just fell apart, near tears afterward and blaming himself for letting his teammates down.

"I just didn't do well out there," he muttered as if he were the only one.

The Dodgers obviously need to regroup, and need at least two wins at home to return here. And that's with Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Lowe and Billingsley pitching the next three games.

You see the problem: The Phillies have already beaten Lowe, hammered Billingsley, and would you want the whole season riding on Kuroda?

"Those guys over there are good," Ramirez said. "But they're also human. They're not a machine. I'm telling you, we can still have some fun."

IT ISN'T just a game here in Angryville, but a violent attitude to determine who is really tougher. Before Game 2, they showed previous playoff highlights between the Dodgers and Phillies to the sound of Edwin Starr singing "War."

They also passed out white towels to the fans with red lettering, which read: "Fightin' Phils."

A couple of weeks ago, the Philadelphia police bomb squad was called to the ballpark to detonate three suspicious packages. Turns out the packages were leftover hot dogs, wrapped in white packing paper and duct tape, and ordinarily shot from a launcher into the crowd by the team mascot, the Phillie Phanatic.

Around here, you can never be too careful.

In fact, if the Phillies win the World Series, it will be interesting to see if the locals burn the place down. And if anyone really tries to stop them.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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