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T.J. SIMERS

In closing, the Dodgers are set up for an unhappy finish

Meanwhile, the Phillies have momentum, home-field advantage for the clincher, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

October 20, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM PHILADELPHIA — Bow-WOW!

I thought we were past this, but now we've got the Choking Dogs showing us a new trick, rolling over and playing dead.

The Phillies have the momentum, the home-field advantage for the clincher, last year's World Series MVP Cole Hamels on the mound, and Cliff Lee ready to go next if needed.

OK, so things are looking a bit bleak.

"They'll show up," Manager Joe Torre countered, and if he's talking about George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton, forget it, the Dodgers are goners.

The Dodgers had only one chance to win this series, get the most from their second-rate starters, stay close and then mow down the Phillies in the late innings with Sherrill and Broxton.

But in Game 1, Sherrill gagged. Called on to keep the Dodgers in a game they still had the chance to steal, he surrendered three runs and this series started with the Choking Dogs wilting under pressure.

Maybe it's in the breeding, the Dodgers getting Sherrill from a loser like Baltimore.

Sherrill's next appearance came in Game 4 on Monday night, the Dodgers ahead by a run and all he had to do was make the eighth inning uneventful.

But you know, you learn something about people, spending time in a clubhouse. Sherrill has been a loner since arriving here, an outcast really by his own choosing, and when things got their toughest for the Dodgers, he was a man on an island again -- and come to think of it, that's probably where he belongs today.

He got in trouble in the eighth, so Torre had to go to Broxton to bail him out, the Dodgers' winning formula not accounting for that -- Broxton a skittish pup with his own problems, as any seasoned Dodgers fan knows.

And the rest was a disaster, the difference between success and defeat how teams handle trying times, and the Dodgers cracking two years in a row.

Torre likes to talk about his resilient Dodgers and how they always seem unaffected, and maybe that explains how well they bounced back from an 11-0 blowout a night earlier.

Good for Manny Ramirez and what appeared to be a game-saving catch, good for a gritty Randy Wolf, and good for Matt Kemp ending the Dodgers' 23-inning run without an extra-base hit with a home run.

But it wasn't good enough, the Choking Dogs lacking the closing punch that separates champions from teams no one ultimately remembers.

"We can't be trying to figure out percentages because that wouldn't work on our behalf," Torre said, and this is a series that should be standing 2-2 and the percentages in the favor of the Dodgers, who have the home-field advantage.

Halloween, as well as the two days that follow, would have been World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 played in Dodger Stadium.

You get this far with the best record in the National League, the home-field advantage and now everyone in the country has good reason to be ticked.

As you know, Fox will be broadcasting the World Series and it likes to put the camera on the face of every single fan sitting in the stands, these fans as ugly as any in the country.

Nowhere in America are people more angry than those living here. During Game 3 they had their humorless furry mascot put on boxing gloves and take on someone who was supposed to be an L.A. fan, sunglasses, cellphone and all.

The furry mascot punched him out, much to the delight of the folks here who love a dash of violence with their sports entertainment.

During Game 4 the furry mascot took a small Dodgers blue helmet, placed it on the ground and then pulverized it, much to the delight of the locals. Same tired skits, by the way, they employed a year ago.

But this is considered entertainment here, the only bright spot if they draw the Yankees now, getting a look in the mirror at fans who might remind them of themselves.

The Dodgers had it in their grasp to make a difference, but now it will take a miracle -- and you know what I mean when I tell you Vicente Padilla, Clayton Kershaw and maybe Wolf again will have to be perfect.

"They still have to win four," Torre said, but the Dodgers seem really intent on making it much easier for the Phillies.

Rafael Furcal continued to play as if he's found a home with the Choking Dogs, hitting .125 in this series. Casey Blake is a scrunch better at .133, and while the Dodgers had the lead they needed in the late innings, they don't appear be in the Phillies' class.

"We always talk about it takes 27 outs to close out the game, and you stay there until it's over," Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel said. "Like Yogi said, that's what happens."

Now if anyone should be quoting Yogi, it should be Torre, his Yankees friend, but what's to say after a team has done everything but win?

"It's obviously a tough one to get past," Torre said, "but you know, that's our job."

It was also Sherrill's job to sail through the eighth, Broxton's to nail the victory down, and why the Dodgers played 162 games -- to get to this moment.

But then the dogs choked.

Now it seems it's just time to bow-OUT.

--

TORRE HAS plans tonight to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert. It was either that or watch the Yankees and Angels, and there doesn't seem like much of a reason at this point to do that.

IF YOU followed pitch tracker, or whatever they call it, on TBS, home plate umpire Ted Barrett will spend his off day visiting an eye doctor.

--

TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from Bob Tucker:

"On the Dodgers' website there is a 'Vote for Dodgers All-Time 9' poll. There is a pitcher conspicuously missing on the ballot -- Sandy Koufax. What do you make of that?"

He probably should not have sat with Jamie McCourt.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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