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Up against it

Bill Plaschke : LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Pitchers need to send Phillies some unforgettable messages

October 12, 2008|Bill Plaschke

The fifth pitch, Russell Martin was knocked down by a Brett Myers fastball.

The eighth pitch, Manny Ramirez was tilted backward by another Myers fastball.

The ninth pitch, Ramirez was greeted with a Myers fastball that sailed three feet behind his head, braids included.

Nine pitches, three messages, and the Philadelphia Phillies couldn't have been more clear if they had painted it across Joe Torre's brow.

We don't fear you. We won't bend for you. What are you going to do about it?

After nearly four hours Friday, with their hitters waiting and their coaches wondering, Dodgers pitchers meekly submitted an answer.

Nothing.

They would do nothing about the missiles that nearly decapitated their veteran leader and their young cornerstone.

They would do nothing about a night's worth of inside hardballs that made some unsettled Dodgers hitters look as if they were trying to stand in a canoe.

While the Dodgers rarely seemed comfortable in the batters box, the Phillies could have hauled a La-Z-Boy up there -- three hits by a pitcher, two runs scored by a weakling catcher, nine guys up in one inning, 10 guys the next, nobody moving, everybody swinging.

With an 8-5 victory, the Phillies not only owned Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, they also owned home plate, they owned the Dodgers' heads, and they soon could own their season.

Only one way to buy it back.

Beginning today in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, somebody in that cheery, fraternity mixer of a home clubhouse needs to get mad.

Somebody needs to pitch inside. Somebody needs to get tight.It could be chilly, it could be windy, but somebody needs to make a Phillies hitter sweat.

This is not about headhunting, it's about win hunting.

This is not only about earning the respect of the Phillies hitters, it's about earning respect in your own room.

While Dodgers hitters won't talk openly about it, they were not pleased that Chad Billingsley did not throw inside Friday, and are quietly hoping that Hiroki Kuroda is listening to their vibe.

They've seen enough Phillies fastballs sailing under their noses. They want somebody else to squirm.

"They kept pitching us hard and inside all night," Matt Kemp said Friday night, shaking his head.

Asked whether Dodgers pitchers should retaliate, he sighed and said, "It is what it is. But if we played the game like they played the last two games, we'd be all right."

There is some thought that most Dodgers pitchers are too inexperienced to understand the mental value of working both sides of the plate.

Then again, maybe they're just not good enough at it yet.

"I tried, I really tried," Billingsley said. "But every time I went inside, I just couldn't get it far enough in there. It was my fault."

How important was that Myers pitch behind Ramirez' head?

When Ramirez was asked about it, he actually complimented the nutty, gritty Phillies pitcher.

"I want to have a guy like that on my team," he said.

Hint, hint.

How angry should Dodgers pitchers have been about that pitch?

Mariano Duncan spent several moments screaming at Myers from the coaching box, and wishes he had more company.

"He was going to get somebody hurt, it was absolutely ridiculous, you've got to do something about that stuff," said Duncan, who has two World Series rings. "Teammates have to protect each other. Coaches can't do it. It has to be teammates."

Hint, hint.

Martin agreed that something has to change, but he wouldn't say what.

"We're going to have to make some adjustments, that's for sure," he said.

This isn't the first time this has happened. In early August, Ramirez was hit in the head in the first inning by Matt Cain in San Francisco.

Once again, Billingsley was the Dodgers pitcher. Once again, there was no sort of retaliation. Once again, the Dodgers lost.

"You don't want to hurt someone, but you do have to send a message," Duncan said.

Torre learned much about pitching from his former St. Louis Cardinals teammate, Bob Gibson, who was renowned for keeping hitters honest inside.

"Yes, I would like to see our guys work both sides of the plate," Torre said.

But he said he is clear about how that directive is framed.

"I don't want to send the message that we have to knock guys down," he said. "This is just about the art of pitching."

Enough of the Still Life.

Time for a little Impressionism.

--

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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