Utley, Burrell go deep in sixth to back Hamels' strong outing
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Pat Burrell raised his right arm in curtain-call acceptance. Standing on the mound 100 feet away, with hands on disgusted hips, Derek Lowe glared angrily toward left field.
Seconds later, the Dodgers righty muttered to himself about his evening's abrupt unraveling. After five innings of beating sinkers into the dirt, the Phillies, a team that lived by the home run all season, forced Lowe to elevate.
The result was a two-homer spurt, and a 3-2 Phillies win over the Dodgers on Thursday night in Game 1 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Or two big pitches, thoroughly enjoyed by 45,839 towel-wavers at Citizens Bank Park.
"You can hear crickets out there, then all of a sudden you hear a roar," said Brad Lidge, who closed out the win. "When we put pressure on, and you make a mistake, the ball's out of here quick. It changes the game. Our lineup has done that all year."
Philadelphia, which led the National League with 214 home runs in 2008, banged its way to victory against one of baseball's stingiest pitchers. Lowe had surrendered just 14 home runs in 211 regular-season innings, but three in the postseason.
Before the first of the two home runs Lowe surrendered, there was Shane Victorino grounding weakly to Rafael Furcal and speeding down the line. The shortstop fielded the chopper, but threw high to first baseman James Loney for an error.
That ball hit by Victorino, like many others thrown by Lowe through the first five innings, had induced ground ball after ground ball. Fourteen of the 15 outs Lowe recorded came on the ground, giving the night the feel of something that might not work out for Philadelphia.
Furcal's error sparked the Phillies.
"I saw Loney reaching up, and said to myself, 'What's happening here?'" Victorino said. "I wanted to make sure I could get to second."
One pitch later, Victorino was waiting for Chase Utley at home plate. One of Utley's patented drives floated out to right, tying the score at 2.
"I was trying to get him over, no matter what, I was getting him over to third base," Utley said. "[I] squared a sinker up and it went over the fence. For Derek Lowe it was up, but it wasn't that bad of a pitch."
Since the League Championship Series moved to a seven-game format in 1985, teams that have taken 1-0 leads have won 29 of the 46 series combined between the two leagues.
Here's the breakdown of how teams
that won Game 1 have fared
National League: 16-7
American League: 13-10
With barely enough time to settle, Pat Burrell sent the crowd into a frenzy with a rainbow into the left-field seats. Manny Ramirez peeked over his shoulder to watch, but there was no doubt it was gone.
Cue the disgusted look, the one a pitcher makes when fly ball finds the seats.
"He basically made two mistakes," Victorino said. "Things happen quick in this game. Momentum can shift on a simple mistake, a big home run, or big pitch."
Emboldened with a lead, Cole Hamels dazzled in his seventh and final inning, striking out Blake DeWitt and Jeff Kent and getting Furcal to ground out. Ryan Madson worked a scoreless eighth -- including retiring Ramirez with one pitch, a changeup -- and Lidge worked a perfect ninth.
Hamels allowed two runs in seven innings, one in the first on a Ramirez double and the other on a fourth-inning DeWitt sacrifice fly. The two-base hit clanged off the fence above the center-field sign, above the padding.
A home run in almost any other park, Ramirez's shot stayed in play and became a double. Ironically, the balls hit by Utley and Burrell likely would've been fly balls in Dodger Stadium.
"I missed some spots in the first, but I was able to come in the second, third, fourth inning and really hit," Hamels said. "That's when you let another team know you can't take too many pitches, because he's going to throw strikes no matter what. That's what I was able to establish."
The Phillies established the tone, changing it from bleak to bright and taking a one-game advantage the best way they can. They scored nine runs in their previous two postseason games, all on home runs.
"We hit home runs. That's what we do," hitting coach Milt Thompson said. "We did a good job of trying to be patient."
"Maybe the wind helped us," slugger Ryan Howard said. "However it happened, we'll take it. When we got the two home runs and took the lead, everybody was going crazy. With each out, you could just feel the energy getting higher and higher and higher down to the last strike. When we finally got the last out, it was just mayhem."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.