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Dodgers Outlast Pedro, Attack Phillies Bullpen

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For seven innings, game two of the National League Championship Series was a game played to Renoir-esque beauty. For the players in the game and the diehard fans, the beauty of this pitcher’s duel couldn’t fully be appreciated. But from afar it was a complete piece of art.

But the Dodgers stayed persistent and used the ugly strokes painted by the Phillies reliever and defense to come away with a 2-1 victory tying up the series 1-1.

Phillies starter Pedro Martinez was outstanding in his seven scoreless innings giving up only two hits and hitting one batter. This is a guy who hadn’t pitched in 17 days and hadn’t had a quality outing since September 13.

Martinez’s fast ball wasn’t what it used to be, but he used his off-speed pitches to keep Dodgers hitters off balance. Manny Ramirez popped up twice and struck out against Martinez while Andre Ethier who had gotten two hits off of left-handers in game one went hitless against the former Cy Young.

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However Dodgers starter Vicente Padilla painted an equally beautiful picture matching Martinez pitch-by-pitch. With the exception of leaving a hanging breaking ball to slugger Ryan Howard in the fourth inning for a solo homer, Padilla also changed speeds frustrating the Phillies batters.

In the fourth inning with Shane Victorino at bat with two outs, Padilla started him off with a 55 mph breaking ball that fooled Victorino badly. In fact it was so bad Victorino could do nothing but laugh. The next pitch Padilla threw was a 96 mph fastball, a 41 mph difference. Though it was a ball, it was pitches like this that fooled the Phillies all day long.

“I think I have a lot more confidence, and I was able to pitch well,” Padilla said of his masterful start. “It’s my first time playing in front of a big crowd like this in a game that’s more important than I’ve ever pitched in my life. I was very emotional.”

“You’re talking about guys who can handle pressure and guys who really rise to the occasion,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “Both Pedro and Vinny today, there was no room for errors.”

“It was a tremendous pitching game between those guys,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel commented.

The turning point of this game came in the top of the eighth inning. After the eighth hitter Carlos Ruiz worked a walk with one out, Manuel decided to use a pinch hitter for Martinez. Pinch hitter Ben Francisco would end up grounding into a double play.

After pitching a gem of game for seven innings, the 87 pitches Martinez made was enough for Manuel.

“Actually he did a tremendous job, and he took it actually farther than I anticipated when the game started,” Manuel said. “To me Pedro was done.”

In the bottom of the eighth, Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard led off with back-to-back singles off of Chan Ho Park. Russell Martin came up to the plate to bunt the runners to second and third.

However after getting the count 3-2, Martin hit what should have been a double play ball. After Belliard got picked off of second, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley did his best impression of Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblach throwing the ball away for the second consecutive game. Just like last night, the Dodgers made him pay for the error which allowed Juan Pierre, running for Blake, to score and tie the game.

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“Chase is better than that,” Manuel said. “Those mistakes that you make like that, that happens sometimes.

“But at the same time I’ve got a lot of faith in him. He’s the one guy in the world that will work on it and correct it.”

After pinch hitter Jim Thome singled and Rafael Furcal walked to load the bases, the fourth Phillies pitcher in the inning leftie JA Happ was brought in to face leftie Andre Ethier.

Ethier worked a seven-pitch walk to score the winning run which sent the Dodgers crowd including Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant into a frenzy.

“I was really proud of that at-bat Andre,” Torre said, “with the fact that he got behind in the count. He laid off what looked like some tough pitches away, and at 3-2 it’s tough when your mentality is swing to take a pitch.

“It was huge.”

Of course that set the stage for Jonathan Broxton in the top of the ninth powering for the save to send the series back to Philadelphia.

Two months ago, no one could have imagined that Martinez and Padilla would have played such a crucial part in the NLCS. But here they were today doing everything in their power to keep their respective teams in the game.

“I was very happy to be given this opportunity with the Dodgers,” Padilla said. “The hope that I had with this team was just to pitch well and go all the way, and I just feel fortunate to pitch in this important game.

“I hope we go all the way.”