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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Phils Up 1-0 in NLCS

Chase Utley ignited a 3-run in the bottom of the sixth with a 2-run home run that gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, which held up to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in the National League Championship Series. The home run tied the game 2-2 with Shane Victorino having reached on an error just before Utley’s plate appearance, and Pat Burrell added the third run on a solo homer, continuing his hot streak.

After a slightly shaky first inning, giving up a RBI double to Manny Ramirez, Cole Hamels was pretty solid. A lead-off double in the fourth led to the only other run he gave up. Things weren’t looking good as Hamels had 50+ pitches at that point, but he recovered to complete seven innings.

Burrell’s home run knocked Derek Lowe out of the game in the sixth. Hamels finished strong, giving the Phillies the proverbial shut-down inning after they took the lead.

In the 8th, Charlie Manuel came out to talk to reliever Ryan Madson, who was about face a 2-3 Ramirez. The result? A first-pitch line-out to third. After a base hit, I’ll admit I was looking for a four-out save by Brad Lidge. Instead, Madson got the third out. Lidge stayed perfect in save opportunities with an easy ninth.

Obviously, this game was huge. With the 2-3-2 format and a day off while the series is in L.A., and an early start time tomorrow, losing tonight would have made tomorrow an absolute must win. It may still be, but I think this let’s everybody breathe a lot easier, which seems critical for this group of players. I think it’s especially important for tomorrow’s starter, Brett Myers.

I wasn’t real comfortable headed into tonight. The Dodgers were red-hot since getting Rameriz, and had swept a Cubs team that was pretty dominant all season. I had also heard Mike Missanelli on ESPN 950 say that Utley had some cartilage issues in his hip, offering little hope he’d snap out of his recent slump.

Instead, he went 2-4 with the home run and 2 RBI. I really believe that he’s the key to this team (as do many). While Ryan Howard looks a little frustrated, if Utley gets hot, I’m suddenly very comfortable.

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