Phillies falter late, settle for split in LA
Utley's throwing error, Happ's walk spoil Pedro's gem
LOS ANGELES -- The buses that carried the Phillies to the airport for a return flight Friday to Philadelphia had parked behind the center-field fence at Dodger Stadium.
Players cut across the outfield to get there.
The quiet scene provided a stark contrast from the craziness more than an hour before when the Phillies blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The Phillies were six outs from taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. They instead left the ballpark with a split and answering questions about manager Charlie Manuel's decision to pull Pedro Martinez after seven scoreless innings, Chase Utley's throwing problems and another late-inning meltdown.
Had the Phillies taken a 2-0 lead over the Dodgers playing their first two games on the road, they would have been in incredible shape. Eighteen teams had taken a 2-0 lead on the road since the LCS expanded to seven games in 1985, and all 18 reached the World Series.
"How easily is this forgotten?" Ryan Howard said. "Well, we can sit here and dwell on it or we can pick ourselves up and get ready for Game 3."
This much can be said: the Phillies clubhouse has looked worse after other losses this season, and those hardly carried the significance of this one.
Maybe that bodes well for Game 3 on Sunday at 8:07 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park on TBS and Postseason.TV.
"We have a resilient ballclub," Utley said. "We have a lot of heart on this team. It's not going to get us down."
But there were enough bad moments in the eighth inning to keep the Phils thinking on the nearly five-hour flight home.
The first seven innings were much different. Howard put it best when he said it looked like "classic Pedro" Martinez out there. He dominated. He had an excellent feel for his offspeed pitches as he kept the Dodgers off balance throughout the game. He allowed a one-out single to Russell Martin in the third and an infield single to Matt Kemp in the fourth. He hit Martin with a pitch to start the sixth, but retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.
Those were the only baserunners he allowed. He threw just 87 pitches, but Martinez said Manuel told him before the game that he would throw no more than 90. Martinez had not pitched since Sept. 30, and had thrown just four innings since Sept. 19.
"I felt pretty fresh," Martinez said. "But at the same time, if you push it, what happens the next time? I went 17 days without pitching. I'm not saying I'm going to get hurt, but after 17 days, I think it was good enough. And I'm pretty sure everyone is good with the results. I would have loved to go one more."
The Dodgers were happy the Phillies stuck with their plan to pull Martinez with around 90 pitches.
"You have to," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, asked if felt a sense of relief when Martinez left the game. "You have to. I marvel. As much as you always hated anybody with a Red Sox uniform on, you always admired how well he did his job. Even though he doesn't have the velocity he once did, he did a masterful job today."
Manuel said he had no regrets.
"Not at all," he said. "He was gone. I mean, I think he was spent. He did a tremendous job, and he took it maybe farther than I anticipated when the game started. To me, Pedro was done."
Enter a Phillies bullpen that pitched well in Game 1.
Right-hander Chan Ho Park started the eighth, and Casey Blake hit a shot to the left of third baseman Pedro Feliz. He got a glove on the ball, but couldn't hold on as the ball scooted into left field for a single.
Is it a play Feliz should have made?
"I didn't make it," Feliz said.
"Let me tell you something," Manuel said. "Pedro is pretty good. He's one of the better third basemen in the league. He gave it a tremendous try."
Ronnie Belliard followed with a good bunt to the right side of the mound. Park could not take a direct route to the ball as he and Howard missed the ball as the Dodgers suddenly had runners on first and second with nobody out. The Phillies were praying for a double-play ball as Martin stepped to the plate, and they got it when he hit a hard grounder to third.
Feliz threw to Utley for the force at second, but Utley threw wildly from second base. Howard had no chance at the throw, which allowed pinch-runner Juan Pierre to score the tying run and leave a runner on first.
"It was just a bad throw," Utley said. "I just made a bad throw."
Utley made a similarly poor throw in Game 1 when he tried to turn a double play in the fifth, but threw that ball into the dugout. The Phils said they are unconcerned about Utley's recent throwing gaffes.
"[On Thursday], I forced it," Utley said. "I really didn't think we had a shot, but there was a runner on third, so I figured I'd give it a chance to try to turn it. Today was a different story. Today I had a good grip. I just wasn't able to make a good throw."
Jim Thome singled to right off lefty Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases and J.A. Happ walked Andre Ethier to score the go-ahead run.
Poof, Howard's homer wouldn't hold up.
Poof, Martinez's masterful performance was wasted.
The Phillies only could board their flight to Philadelphia and try to keep things in perspective. They split the first two games in Los Angeles. They are in the same position they were in last year in the World Series, when they split the first two games against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field. They returned to Philadelphia after a Game 2 loss and won the next three games at Citizens Bank Park.
"It would have been nice to go home up 2-0," Jimmy Rollins said. "But this time of the year, good teams don't let you get away with mistakes. In the grand scheme of things, we accomplished what we needed: we got a split on the road. But being in that situation not to close out is disappointing."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.