They were one out from defeat. A moment later, Jimmy Rollins put the Fightin’ Phils within one win of the World Series.
Rollins lined a two-run double with two outs in the ninth inning off All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton and the Philadelphia Phillies rallied past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4 Monday night for a 3-1 lead in the NL championship series.
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The defending champions can earn their second consecutive pennant with a victory at home in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Cole Hamels, last year’s NLCS and World Series MVP, will take the mound for the Phillies. Clayton Kershaw or Vicente Padilla will start for Los Angeles.
“This is big,” Rollins said. “The pressure’s all on them.”
Trailing 4-3, the Phillies started their rally with one out in the ninth when pinch-hitter Matt Stairs walked on four pitches against Broxton. Stairs hit a two-run homer off Broxton in Game 4 of the NLCS last year at Dodger Stadium.
Broxton then hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch, but pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs hit a soft liner to third for the second out.
Rollins, just 3 for 18 in the series to that point, then ripped a 99 mph fastball to right-center and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Andre Ethier‘s throw toward the infield was high and off line, and Ruiz slid home without a play.
Rollins pointed in the air as he rounded second and got mobbed by teammates at third base. Even Jamie Moyer, who just had surgery on his lower abdomen, limped out and joined the celebration.
“I’m all right. I had to curl up in the fetal position and throw some punches of my own,” Rollins said.
Brad Lidge got two outs in the ninth to earn the win. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer that gave him eight straight postseason games with at least one RBI, tying Lou Gehrig’s major league record set more than seven decades ago.
Matt Kemp had a tiebreaking, solo homer for the Dodgers, and Manny Ramirez made a shoestring catch that prevented the tying run from scoring in the sixth.
Before Rollins’ hit, Dodgers relievers hadn’t allowed a hit in 3 1-3 innings.
“They’re a very tough lineup to go through,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. “You try to be careful. He almost dug himself out.”
Dodgers starter Randy Wolf pitched 5 1-3 effective innings against his former team while his “Wolf Pack” fan club sat in seats he left for them – and rooted against him.
George Sherrill struck out Howard with two runners on in the eighth and Broxton retired Jayson Werth on a fly ball to end the inning. At that point, Dodgers manager Joe Torre had made all the right moves one day after hearing criticism for starting Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3. Torre let Sherrill face Howard, even though he was 0 for 10 against Broxton.
But Broxton couldn’t nail down the four-out save. Now the Dodgers are on the verge of elimination.
Trailing 4-2 in the sixth, the Phillies got within a run on Chase Utley‘s RBI single. Shane Victorino tripled into the left-field corner as Ramirez nonchalantly chased after it. Victorino scored on Utley’s liner to right.
Wolf exited after walking Howard. Ronald Belisario came in to face Werth, who hit a broken-bat fielder’s choice to third. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard dropped the ball before he could throw to first for a possible double play.
Hong-Chih Kuo replaced Belisario, and Raul Ibanez lined his first pitch to left. But Ramirez, known more for loafing than sensational grabs, saved the day – momentarily – for the Dodgers. He still was removed for defensive replacement Juan Pierre in the ninth.
It was another brisk night – 48 degrees for the first pitch – at Citizens Bank Park. Bundled-up fans kept warm by waving their “Fightin’ Phils!” rally towels and screaming “Beat LA! Beat LA!”
They had plenty to cheer early when Howard ripped a 3-1 pitch to the seats in right, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead in the first. Fans gave Howard a standing ovation and many chanted “M-V-P!” as he came out for the early curtain call.
The streaking slugger has driven in a run in each of the Phillies‘ eight playoff games this year. Gehrig’s streak stretched over two World Series with the New York Yankees in 1928 and 1932.
“I’m just going to go up there and keep throwing my bat at the ball,” Howard said.
Making his first start since he lasted just 3 2-3 innings in Game 1 of the division series against St. Louis, Wolf gave up three runs and four hits. The Wolf Pack – a group of fans who used to sit in the upper deck and cheer for Wolf when he pitched in Philadelphia – was in the crowd. Wolf left them tickets, knowing they would root for their beloved Phillies.
Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton allowed four runs – three earned – and six hits in six innings in his first postseason start after two relief appearances against Colorado in the first round.
Coming off the most lopsided victory – 11-0 – in their postseason history, the Phillies jumped on the Dodgers in the first for the second straight night. But Wolf settled in and Los Angeles chipped away.
Kemp, who started a two-run rally in the fourth by drawing a walk, put the Dodgers ahead 3-2 when he connected off Blanton with two outs in the fifth. Kemp’s drive to straightaway center carried just over the wall. Victorino climbed the short fence with his back turned to the field, but the ball was beyond his reach.
Shaky defense by Philadelphia helped the Dodgers tack on the run in the sixth. Ramirez reached on third baseman Pedro Feliz‘s throwing error, a ball that first baseman Howard could’ve scooped. With two outs, Casey Blake looped an RBI single down the right-field line to give the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Blake was 1 for 13 in the series before the hit.
Blanton retired his first 10 batters before running into trouble in the fourth. James Loney and Russell Martin hit consecutive RBI singles to tie it at 2.
Howard tied Mike Schmidt’s club record with his sixth career postseason homer. Howard has 14 RBIs this postseason and has reached base safely in 17 straight playoff games. … Wolf was an All-Star with the Phillies in 2003 and started the first game at Citizens Bank Park in ’04. … Blake was 1 for 25 against Blanton before his RBI single.