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Phils drop ‘biggest loser’ rep, punch ticket to World Series

Phils drop ‘biggest loser’ rep, punch ticket to World Series

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2008 6:16 pm
By: By JOHN NADEL, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jimmy Rollins got it started, Brad Lidge finished, and the losingest team in professional sports history was a winner.
A big winner.
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to the World Series for the first time in 15 years.
Rollins hit a leadoff homer and Cole Hamels pitched his third gem of the playoffs Wednesday night, sparking the Phillies past the mistake-prone Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the best-of-seven NL championship series in five games.
“This is for the city of Philadelphia,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We have one more step, one big step — then we’re going to make a grand parade.”
For Manuel, it was an emotional night. His 87-year-old mother died Friday, shortly before the Phillies beat the Dodgers 8-5 in Game 2.
“I guarantee you my mom’s watching right now,” the 64-year-old skipper said after the clincher.
The Phillies became the first professional team to lose 10,000 games last year.
Now, they’ll go for their second World Series title beginning next Wednesday night at Tampa Bay or Boston. The Rays lead the Red Sox 3-1 in the ALCS, which resumes tonight at Fenway Park.
The Phillies will be carrying the hopes of a championship-starved city that hasn’t had a title to celebrate since the 76ers swept the Lakers in the 1983 NBA finals.
“These guys are going crazy right now,” slugger Ryan Howard said. “I can only imagine how it is in Philadelphia.”
Back home, jubilant Phillies fans poured into the city streets, jumping on cars and celebrating.
Rollins, last year’s NL MVP who dropped off considerably this year, also hit a leadoff homer in the first-round clincher at Milwaukee.
“This is definitely the first step,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of steps, but this is definitely the biggest step and the first step in the right direction. We’ve just to go out there and find a way to win four more.
“After hearing about the ’93 team over and over and over again, we finally have a chance to make our mark. This was an organization that I felt when I got here I wanted to try to change. And I had my opportunity to. You know, we had been used to losing.”
The NL East champions, who didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final weekend of the season, took advantage of three errors by shortstop Rafael Furcal in the fifth inning and survived another homer by Manny Ramirez.
Lidge, perfect in 41 save opportunities during the season and five more in the playoffs, closed it out for the Phillies, who won their lone championship in 1980 by beating Kansas City in six games.
They also reached the World Series in 1915, 1950, 1983 and 1993, when they lost to Toronto in six games on Joe Carter’s ninth-inning homer off Mitch Williams.
Ramirez homered in the sixth for the only Los Angeles run what might have been his final game with the Dodgers. The 36-year-old slugger can become a free agent after the World Series. Afer hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games for the Dodgers after being acquired July 31 from the Boston Red Sox and .520 with four homers, 10 RBIs and 11 walks in eight playoff games.
“It was a great experience,” Ramirez said before joking: “I want to see who is the highest bidder. The gasoline (price) is up, so I’m up.”
Ramirez is one of several high-profile free agents who might have played their final game for the Dodgers, along with Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Casey Blake, Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux.
Hamels, the series MVP, limited the Dodgers to five hits in seven innings. The 24-year-old lefty has allowed three runs in 22 innings during the postseason, with two wins over Los Angeles and another over the Brewers in the first round. He’ll have ample rest to pitch Game 1 of the World Series.
“We were able to enjoy this moment,” Hamels said. “To get an award like this is something surreal.”
Ryan Madson worked a scoreless eighth before Lidge blanked the Dodgers in the ninth.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre came up short in the postseason again. He won four World Series in his first five years as manager of New York from 1996-2000, but hasn’t won one since. This was his first year as the Dodgers’ skipper after 12 with the Yankees.
“I was proud to be their manager,” Torre said. “This was an up-and-down year. I think they learned a lot. They learned to come together. This game tonight got a little ugly in the middle with the defense, but they never stopped plugging away.”
Furcal, who missed 125 games with back problems this year before being activated in late September, tied a postseason record by committing three errors in the fifth, leading to two unearned runs.
“It’s very frustrating the last game of the series at home to play like that,” Furcal said. “It’s very disappointing to me.”
Rollins drove a full-count pitch from loser Chad Billingsley over the right-center fence to open the game. The switch-hitter came to the plate with only two hits in 17 at-bats in the series.
“That was huge,” Torre said.
Rollins and Chase Utley walked in the third before Howard and Pat Burrell hit two-out, RBI singles to make it 3-0. Billingsley, 6-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last seven regular-season starts at home, lasted just 2 2-3 innings.
The 24-year-old right-hander, who went 16-10 with a 3.14 ERA this season, gave up a career-high eight runs in 2 1-3 innings in Game 2, won by the Phillies 8-5.
“I just want to forget the last two starts,” he said.
The Phillies scored their last two runs in the fifth against Maddux thanks to the errors by Furcal. The first two came on one play, when he booted Burrell’s potential inning-ending double-play grounder and then threw the ball away, allowing one run to score. The second came when Furcal made another throwing error on Carlos Ruiz’s two-out grounder, drawing boos from the disappointed Dodger Stadium crowd of 56,800.
The only other player to commit three errors in one inning in the postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Dodgers center fielder Willie Davis, who did so in the fifth inning of Game 2 in the 1966 World Series against Baltimore.
Ramirez hit a 1-2 pitch over the right-field wall with two outs in the sixth, but Russell Martin took a called third strike to end the inning.
And that was it.
“It’s a lot of days of hard work, and nothing left at the end,” Martin said.
Notes: Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, now a member of the front office, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. His granddaughter, Emily, threw one as well. … Ramirez extended his record streak of driving in at least one run in LCS games to nine. … Including the playoffs, the Phillies are 86-0 when leading after eight innings. … Shane Victorino failed to drive in a run, but leads all major leaguers and has set a Phillies record with 11 postseason RBIs.

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