LOS ANGELES - Brad Lidge has regained that nasty slider. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are stroking big hits. Cole Hamels is winning postseason games without his best stuff.
Boy, this is looking real familiar for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Ruiz and Raul Ibanez hit three-run homers, reliever Ryan Madson got a key out and Lidge finished off the Phillies’ 8-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL championship series Thursday night.
“We do have the talent and just that sort of fight, that we’re going to do everything we can to get those big hits in those big moments,” Hamels said. “Our offense is really what’s setting the tone.”
Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead in last year’s best-of-seven NLCS, beat the Dodgers in five games and went on to win the World Series.
“Well, they had our number today,” Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. “Tomorrow is a different day, and last year is over with.”
Manny Ramirez homered, but grounded out weakly with two runners on against a struggling Madson to end the Dodgers’ two-run rally in the eighth. Their 14 hits set a club record in a single LCS game, but they stranded 10 runners.
“It’s like a prize fight, we just came up a little short,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Lidge worked around a single and a walk in the ninth, helped by a double play that made him for 3 for 3 in save chances this postseason — he posted three saves against the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS.
Lidge was perfect in save tries all last year, but led the majors with 11 blown opportunities this season.
Home runs dominated on both sides in a game that lasted 4 hours, 2 minutes. Ruiz highlighted a five-run burst in the fifth and Ibanez homered in the eighth for an 8-4 lead as the Dodgers failed to neutralize the Phillies’ left-handed hitting.
“The Dodgers aren’t going to back down. We know they’re going to come in waves and continue to fight, and that’s what they did,” Howard said. “We just needed that one big hit to kind of get us over the hump, and Carlos came through. We got guys on, and guys came through when we needed big hits.”
James Loney also connected for the Dodgers. Ramirez, baseball’s all-time postseason home run leader with 29, hit a two-run shot.
Los Angeles will start Vicente Padilla against Philadelphia’s Pedro Martinez on Friday afternoon in Game 2.
Hamels thrived under pressure last October, earning NLCS and World Series MVP honors. But the left-hander hardly resembled the same pitcher in earning the victory, giving up a postseason career-high eight hits and two homers. He allowed four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
“It doesn’t look good on paper, but there were a lot of times where the counts were in my favor and I kept them off-balance,” Hamels said. “Unfortunately, some of the results weren’t there, but in the key situations, I was able to get what I needed.”
At 21 years and 211 days, Clayton Kershaw was the youngest pitcher ever to start a Game 1 in a league championship series, and it showed.
The Dodgers lefty was tagged for five runs in the fifth, when he set a LCS record for most wild pitches in an inning with three. He also tied the record for most wild pitches in a LCS game, shared by Tommy John and Juan Guzman.
“The first four innings I felt great, and then I couldn’t make adjustments fast enough. In the playoffs, you’re not going to have a lot of leverage. If you don’t make your pitches, before long you’re out of there,” he said.
“I just got out of the strike zone a little bit, and that’s what happens. They make you pay for that.”
Kershaw allowed four hits in 4 2-3 innings and walked five in his second postseason career start. He worked out of the bullpen in last year’s NLCS, which the Dodgers lost 4-1 to the Phillies. He was 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA in two starts against them during the regular season.
“It looked like he tried to overthrow the ball, got frustrated out there. Unfortunately, it got away from him quickly,” Torre said. “As far as the pressure of the game, he certainly can handle it, but sometimes things get away from you.”
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