Phils take ‘Stairs’ to upend Dodgers
Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:51 pm
By: By JOHN NADEL, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Pinch hitter Matt Stairs swung for the fences, as he always does. The result was a towering drive that landed more than halfway up the right field pavilion at Dodger Stadium.
And with that, the Philadelphia Phillies had all the offense they would need to move within one win of the World Series.
Stairs connected off Jonathan Broxton with two outs and a runner on base Monday night, capping a four-run eighth and lifting the Phillies to a 7-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and a 3-1 lead in the NL championship series.
Shane Victorino, who ducked a pitch thrown over his head the previous day, hit a two-run homer off Cory Wade earlier in the inning to tie the game. Broxton relieved Wade after a two-out single by Carlos Ruiz and tried to sneak a 3-1 fastball past the 40-year-old Stairs.
It didn’t work.
“It’s definitely the top pinch-hit home run of my career,” Stairs said.
Lefty ace Cole Hamels, who won the series opener, can pitch the Phillies to their first World Series since 1993 in Game 5 on Wednesday night. He’ll be opposed by Game 2 loser Chad Billingsley.
Broxton allowed only two homers in 69 innings during the regular season. This one was a no-doubter the moment it left Stairs’ bat.
“I fell behind in the count and made a mistake over the plate and he cashed in,” said Broxton, the seventh Dodgers pitcher. “He’s a home run hitter. You’ve got to wipe it out and get ready to play them again.”
Stairs has played for 11 teams in his career. Philadelphia picked him up from Toronto on Aug. 30.
“My whole career, even back in the early days, my approach was try to hit the ball out of the ballpark,” he said. “And it’s something I enjoyed doing. In batting practice, I try to hit every ball out of the ballpark. I’m not going to lie, it’s fun. I try to hit home runs and that’s it. I’m not going to hit a single and steal second base. So I think the biggest thing is to get up there, swing hard and elevate.”
Brad Lidge got his first four-out save for the Phillies, remaining perfect this season. It was the first time the visiting team has won a game in 12 meetings between the clubs this year.
“This was the biggest game we’ve won so far,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “But the next one is even bigger. That’s kind of how we look at it.”
After squandering a pair of leads, Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have a tough task ahead. Only 11 teams in major league history have come back from 3-1 deficits to win a best-of-seven postseason series — two in the NLCS.
There were no brushback pitches or other trouble Monday night, unlike Game 3 when the benches and bullpens emptied in the third inning, moments after Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda threw a pitch over Victorino’s head in retaliation for Philadelphia’s high-and-tight pitches earlier in the series.
Victorino was one of seven people fined Monday for their conduct during the near-scuffle.
“My emotions obviously kind of got to me last night,” Victorino said. “But going into today’s game you turn the page and you forget about it. It was just going out there, trying to get a win and getting one step closer to the World Series. But it’s still far from over.”
It was appropriate the Phillies used the long ball to win. They hit an NL-leading 214 homers during the regular season and have nine in eight playoff games, good for 17 of their 35 runs.
Lidge, the Phillies’ sixth pitcher, earned his fifth postseason save in five chances — but it wasn’t easy.
A perfect 41-for-41 in save opportunities during the regular season, Lidge entered a game in the eighth in a save situation for the first time this year when he came in with two outs and nobody on. Ramirez greeted him with a double, and Russell Martin struck out but reached first on a wild pitch before James Loney flied out.
Lidge retired the side in order in the ninth, making the Phillies 85-0 when leading after eight innings this year, including six wins in the postseason.
“We didn’t need to talk about it because I knew that at some point, this would happen,” Lidge said of pitching in the eighth. “I’ve been ready for it all year. I’ve warmed up in the eighth inning before, but our bullpen’s been so good in the eighth inning and done the job, I haven’t had to do it this year. But I’ve done it a ton in the past.”
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he wouldn’t have handled his bullpen any differently.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” he said. “Cory Wade’s numbers against left-handed hitters this year have been really good. He threw a breaking ball and it stayed up and Shane just knocked the hell out of it.”
Torre canceled the Dodgers’ workout today.
“These guys are fighting their hearts out, and just I told them to be back here on Wednesday to be ready to play baseball,” he said. “We have to win the remaining games. We can only do it one at a time. I sense we’ll be back right here with the right attitude.”
Ramirez extended his record streak of getting at least one RBI in league championship series games to eight. He reached base in all five plate appearances on a single, double and three walks — two intentional.
It wasn’t good enough.
Notes: Orel Hershiser, one of the Dodgers’ stars in the 1988 World Series, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to son Jordan. … Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, pitching on three days’ rest for the fifth time in his career, allowed six hits and two runs in five innings. Phillies starter Joe Blanton also went five innings, giving up seven hits and three runs. … Casey Blake’s solo homer leading off the sixth off Chad Durbin gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead, and they scored another run later in the inning on first baseman Ryan Howard’s throwing error. The Dodgers had a chance to break the game open when they loaded the bases with one out, but second baseman Chase Utley speared Martin’s liner and turned it into a double play.