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Double whammy

Homers by Phillies' Victorino and Stairs in eighth turn 5-3 Dodgers lead into crushing 7-5 loss

October 14, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

The towels were no longer waved with the same vigor. The shouts in the stands turned into murmurs.

The paid crowd of 56,800 fans at Dodger Stadium on Monday night immediately understood the implications of the ball that Matt Stairs had just driven halfway up the right-field pavilion.

The Dodgers were pushed to the brink of elimination. Mannywood might be about to close its doors, perhaps forever.

Stairs' two-run home run against closer Jonathan Broxton completed a two-homer, four-run eighth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies, who stormed back from two runs down to claim a 7-5 victory in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and shoved the Dodgers to within a game of the end of their season.

The series, which the Phillies lead, 3-1, will resume Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"Must-win situation," first baseman James Loney said.

"We have nothing to lose now," third baseman Casey Blake said.

The game was the first won by the Phillies at Dodger Stadium this season in six tries.

"This was the biggest game we've won so far," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said.

Blake admitted that he thought the Dodgers were about to head into Game 5 tied at two games apiece, after they took a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning when he hit a solo home run and Juan Pierre doubled and scored on a throwing error by Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Then the unthinkable unfolded. A Dodgers bullpen that was the backbone of the team for most of the season faltered.

Hong-Chih Kuo, who finished a perfect seventh inning by blowing away Chase Utley with a 97-mph fastball, gave up a single to Howard to start the eighth and was pulled from the game by Manager Joe Torre.

Cory Wade, who had been charged with only one run in his first five postseason games, retired Pat Burrell but then gave up a two-run homer to Shane Victorino, a line drive into the Phillies' bullpen in right that tied the score, 5-5. After Wade gave up a two-out single to Carlos Ruiz, he was replaced by Broxton.

The left-handed Stairs, who was acquired by the Phillies from Toronto in a waiver deal on Aug. 30, was sent up to pinch-hit by Manuel. Left-handed batters hit .270 against Broxton in the regular season.

With the count 3-1, Broxton tried to throw a fastball away, but it stayed over the plate.

Home run.

Phillies up, 7-5.

"It kind of took the wind out," Loney said.

"How could it not?" Blake said. "I think the fans were just as shocked as we were."

Brad Lidge closed the game out for the Phillies with his first four-out save of the season.

"It's hard," Broxton said. "I had a lead late in the game and I gave it up."

Actually, the score was tied when Broxton came in.

Dodgers starter Derek Lowe shook his head.

"The bottom line is we're down, 3-1," he said.

Lowe, who pitched Game 1 and came back on three days' rest for this game, had a rough first inning. Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth singled to start the game, Utley doubled in Rollins and Werth scored on a groundout by Howard to put the Phillies up, 2-0.

The Dodgers took a run back in the bottom of the first, when Rafael Furcal bunted for a leadoff hit, moved to second on a groundout to second by Andre Ethier and, after an intentional walk to Manny Ramirez, scored on a double to center by Loney.

The Dodgers went ahead, 3-2, in the fifth, with Furcal again setting the table. He drew a leadoff walk, Ethier singled, and Ramirez's single to left brought in Furcal, who ran through third base coach Larry Bowa's stop sign. Ethier took third, then gave the Dodgers their first lead when he scored on a groundout by Martin.

Lowe, who was charged with two runs and six hits over five innings, was replaced in the sixth by 20-year-old left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Lowe, who had made only 74 pitches, said he wanted to continue pitching, but didn't protest Torre's decision.

Kershaw didn't last long, as Torre pulled him with one out and men on second and third. The man on third, Howard, scored on a wild pitch by Chan Ho Park to tie the score, 3-3.

The damage was limited to that, but could've been worse. Communication problems between second baseman Blake DeWitt and Ethier nearly caused them to lose a fly ball to shallow right field by Pedro Feliz. Ethier had to fall to his knees to make the catch and would've had trouble making a throw home from that position, but Howard was too far down the third base line to tag up and score the go-ahead run.

Ethier made another sliding catch to end the inning, this one in shallow right-center to rob pinch-hitter So Taguchi.

Torre canceled a team workout this morning, opting to give them a day to regroup.

"These guys are fighting their hearts out and I just told them to be back here on Wednesday to be ready to play baseball," he said ". . . I sense we'll be back right here with the right attitude."


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