Matt Kemp hit a tiebreaking home run and the Dodgers‘ bullpen escaped a jam to help Los Angeles take a 4-3 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies after six innings Monday night in Game 4 of the NL championship series.
Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Dodgers starter Randy Wolf and tied Lou Gehrig’s major league record of eight straight postseason games with at least one RBI. Gehrig drove in runs in eight consecutive games for the New York Yankees during the 1928 and 1932 World Series.
Howard already held the record of seven straight games with an RBI in one postseason.
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Joe Blanton retired his first 10 batters as the Phillies tried to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and move within one win of their second straight World Series trip.
Philadelphia cut it to 4-3 on Chase Utley‘s RBI single in the sixth, which chased Wolf. Dodgers manager Joe Torre went to right-hander Ronald Belisario, who got Jayson Werth on a fielder’s choice. In a lefty-lefty matchup, Hong-Chih Kuo retired Raul Ibanez to end the inning and leave two runners stranded.
Manny Ramirez made a nice, shoestring catch of Ibanez’s liner in left field.
Blanton ran into trouble in the fourth when James Loney and Russell Martin each hit a run-scoring single, tying it at 2. They were the first runs Los Angeles knocked in against a Phillies starter since the fifth inning of Game 1.
Kemp hit a shot to center over the 401-foot sign for a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Casey Blake made it 4-2 in the sixth when his single drove home Ramirez, who reached on a throwing error by third baseman Pedro Feliz.
After an off day, Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels and the Dodgers‘ Vicente Padilla – like Wolf an ex-Phillie – are the probable Game 5 starters.
Wolf was an All-Star with the Phillies and started the first game at Citizens Bank Park in 2004. He always wanted to get a postseason start in Philadelphia – only he did it for the first time wearing a blue Dodgers cap.
He settled down after a shaky first, retiring the next 12 batters after Howard’s homer before Carlos Ruiz walked with two outs in the fifth.
It was another cool night in Philadelphia, with the first-pitch temperature at 48 degrees. No pitcher has cooled off Howard in October.
Jimmy Rollins led off with a single for the defending champions. Two outs later, Howard drove a 3-1 pitch to right for his second homer of the postseason. He has 14 RBIs in eight games and seven extra-base hits.
“He’s seeing the ball good. He looks real relaxed at the plate,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said before the game. “He’s loading up good, and he’s staying on the ball. When he’s staying on the ball, he makes more consistent contact.”
Howard came out for a curtain call demanded from another raucous crowd that would love to see the Phillies clinch the series at home. Game 6 would be in Los Angeles.
Howard has a hit and an RBI in every playoff game this year. His six career postseason homers to match Mike Schmidt for most in team history.
Blanton went 12-8 in 31 starts for the NL East champions, then was sent to the bullpen for the division series.
Including the postseason, Blanton is 1-0 with a 3.30 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers. He got a no-decision in Game 4 of the NLCS last year against Los Angeles.