Friday, October 16, 2009

Phillies edge Dodgers to strike first in the NLCS

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
We can all exhale now. In a game that had everyone on the edge of their seat throughout, the Phillies narrowly beat the Dodgers, 8-6, in Game 1 of the NLCS. It was a game filled with momentum swings and could have gone either way until the final pitch.

The game was really about two innings for the Phillies offensively: the 5th and the 8th. The Phillies scored 5 runs in the 5th inning when Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw suddenly forgot how to throw a strike, leading him to walk several batters while also giving up a 3-run homer to Mr. Choochtober, Carlos Ruiz, and a 2-run double to Ryan Howard. The big 5th inning forced Kershaw out of the game and allowed the Dodgers to turn to their bullpen, which is one of their biggest strengths.

The Dodger pen held the Phillies until the 8th, when Raul Ibanez struck. Lefthander George Sherill, whose main purpose is to get the lefty-heavy heart of the Phillie order out, walked a pair of batters before giving up a 3-run homer to Ibanez which allowed the Phillies to stretch their lead out.

On the mound for the Phillies, Cole Hamels was once again a far cry from the ace he was last season. Hamels lasted only 5 and a third innings and gave up 4 runs on 8 hits. The Phillies used 6 other pitchers, most of whom had success. The lone exception was Ryan Madson, who continues to have a poor postseason. Brad Lidge, on the other hand, got the final three outs in the 9th despite walking a batter and giving up a single. It may never be pretty for Lidge again but he is at least getting the job done.

The Phillies have now taken home field advantage from the Dodgers. With a quick turnaround to Game 2 tomorrow, the Phillies have a chance to ride the momentum they got from tonight's win to a commanding early lead. The pitching matchup has to favor the Phillies, with Pedro Martinez taking on Vicente Padilla. You have to like Pedro's chances against the former Phillie washout.

1 win down, 3 more to go until a return trip to the World Series. BEAT LA again!

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