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BILL PLASCHKE

Destiny calls, Dodgers collect and charge Phillies

L.A. takes advantage of another playoff opportunity and makes runs happen.

October 17, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Destiny is not always about a fireworks show. Destiny is sometimes about a fight.

It's not always about the big swing, but sometimes the straining bunt, the hard slide, the dugout chat.

It's not always about a walk-off homer, but sometimes simply a walk.

And so the Dodgers celebrated Friday afternoon with loud clubhouse rap music and goofy smiles of relief, having stained their shirts and wrenched their souls and turned another playoff gift into another playoff victory.

A week ago at Dodger Stadium, one out from victory, the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday lost a fly ball and the division series.

On Friday, it was deja bloop, six outs from a Philadelphia Phillies victory when their second baseman lost the ball, a reliever lost the strike zone, and their manager lost his mind.

Amid the rubble the Dodgers found their first National League Championship Series win, two runs in the eighth inning giving them a 2-1 victory to even the series at one game apiece.

Two series, two handouts, two wins, almost makes you believe in . . .

"Nope, I don't believe in destiny, no way," said Mark Loretta. "You can get breaks in this game, but a lot of times teams don't do anything with them."

He looked around a cluttered, raucous clubhouse where Manny Ramirez worked a TV microphone, Rafael Furcal helped reporters climb over equipment bags, and even poor, forgotten Jim Thome was holding court on a table.

"I don't care what anybody gives you, to win in this game you have to make things happen," Loretta said. "We make things happen."

Indeed they do, standing firm while everything around them is crumbling, ignoring the giant distractions of a sweltering Dodger Stadium for three hours Thursday to focus on the important things.

They ignored the craziness in the owners' box, where noted Angels fan Kobe Bryant acted cool, that mayor dude acted silly, and the McCourts acted blissfully oblivious.

They ignored the return of nearly unhittable Pedro Martinez, a former favorite son exacting one last ounce of revenge on the team that traded him.

They ignored a home run by Ryan Howard, a disappearance by the middle of their order, the fact that they were suddenly six outs from being down a usually insurmountable two games to none.

"We play 27 outs here," Russell Martin said. "We believe, you play 27 outs and see what happens."

With Vicente Padilla having another out-of-body experience with nearly eight splendid innings, the Dodgers hung around and hung around and, finally, just like the Cardinals before them and the bell that hangs near them, the Phillies cracked.

It began in the eighth inning when Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel inexplicably batted for Martinez even though Martinez had given up only two hits in 87 pitches.

"He was gone," Manuel said afterward. "I mean, I think he was spent."

Gone? Spent? This same guy who threw 130 pitches against the Mets on Sept. 13?

"I was just attacking the strike zone really well," Martinez said.

With the baffling Martinez being replaced by the baffled Phillies bullpen, the Dodgers were thrilled.

"We got Pedro out of there, and the momentum changed," Matt Kemp said.

It changed when Casey Blake, batting .167 this postseason, greeted Chan Ho Park with a line drive off third baseman Pedro Feliz's glove and into left field.

Changed when Ronnie Belliard, with only one sacrifice bunt all season, came to the plate, failed to get down a bunt on the first pitch, but kept trying.

"They took the bunt sign off, but I was going to do it anyway, I had to get him to second base," Belliard said.

He pushed the second pitch back underneath Park's glove, and suddenly the Dodgers had two unlikely runners on base.

"In my short time here, it's been clear that this team never panics," Thome said.

Even when they panic, they don't panic, as Martin seemed to kill the rally with a grounder to third baseman Feliz, who threw to second baseman Utley to start what looked to be a double play.

Except Utley threw it five stories high, bouncing the ball against the Phillies' dugout, allowing pinch-runner Juan Pierre, who was at second base, to score the tying run.

Belliard, who joined Loretta in connecting on a big hit in that rally against the Cardinals, this time made a big hit with his cleats, sliding high into Utley and perhaps contributing to the bad throw.

"Yeah, I got in his way," Belliard said.

Moments later, Andre Ethier came to the plate with two out, bases loaded, and an earful from Thome.

The veteran grabbed Ethier as he was leaving the dugout and told him how reliever J.A. Happ had pitched him the previous night when he had drawn a walk.

Said Ethier: "It's always great to hear what a pitcher is going to try to do."

Whatever he said, it worked, as Ethier fell behind, 1 and 2, then patiently watched three consecutive balls to draw the walk that drove in the eventual winning run.

"Just like when you were a kid," Ethier said. "You swing at the good ones and lay off the bad ones."

The little things. The fighting things.

The destiny things.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillPlaschke

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