…well, you know. No, Myers didn’t come up with all eight Phillies hits that Billingsley allowed, although it may have seemed that way. Oh sure, there’s plenty of other blame to be passed around for today’s debacle. Matt Kemp’s error in the second inning didn’t help any, although two runs were already in by that point. Plus as we saw in the first game, the Dodger situational hitting was awful (see: scoring only one run after having 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 2nd; Blake DeWitt striking out with the bases loaded in the 3rd).
And my god, the bottom of the third inning. After Billingsley allowed four of five to reach, he was pulled for Chan Ho Park, who promptly threw gas on the fire, allowing a two RBI triple that only made Chad’s final line look even worse. Joe Beimel (finally making his playoff debut) walked each of the two men he saw, and James McDonald – he of all of 4 MLB games – mercifully struck out Pat Burrell to end the 27 minute debacle.
Back to the point, though. While everyone except for Manny Ramirez and James Loney (two hits and a walk with a nice play to get Burrell at the plate) has to shoulder some of the blame, Billingsley clearly did not give this team a chance to win. Really, allowing two hits and three RBI to a pitcher who’d had six hits in the last three years sums up the game pretty well. Billingsley allowed only two hits to the big guns of Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley – yet let the pitcher and .219-hitting catcher, Carlos Ruiz, collect three hits and four RBI. Hell, Myers didn’t even pitch all that well, but the inability to get him out is really what ruined Billingsley on this night.
Oddly enough, it’s not like Billingsley didn’t have his stuff. Believe it or not, of the seven outs he got, five came via strikeout. It just seemed to me – and I make no pretenses that I’m some sort of pitching coach who can pick these things up on TV, because I’m not – that his location was off by a touch. By that I don’t mean he was wild, because he only walked two unintentionally, but that he was getting too much of the plate. His raw stuff is good enough that he was still able to strike out five guys, but not so good that a lineup like the Phillies isn’t going to start hitting him around if he’s over the plate too much. You just never thought it’d be the opposing pitcher to do it.
Yeah, the Dodgers showed signs of life after Manny’s three-run homer in the fourth halved the lead, and damned if I haven’t completely run out of things to say about that guy. Casey Blake came up as the tying run in the top of the 7th, as did Kemp and Nomar in the 9th, but you never really felt as though the Dodgers were actually going to make it back.
One amazingly huge bright point, if not so much for this postseason as for next year and beyond: James McDonald. The kid – he’s still only 23, although Clayton Kershaw has skewed our perception of “kid” a little – was a last-minute addition to the playoff roster after getting all of five September innings in four games. Almost exclusively a starter in the minors, even his relief appearances for the Dodgers came with him entering the game at the start of an inning. But tonight, having not pitched in two weeks, he comes in as the fourth pitcher of the third inning of NLCS Game 2… with the bases loaded, Phillies fans going nuts, and slugger Burrell at the plate in Philly’s bandbox park. Recipe for disaster, right? But no! McDonald strikes out Burrell, and proceeds to go three more scoreless innings, striking out four others and giving up just two hits. What an absolutely phenomenal effort by this kid, and he’s really thrown his hat into the ring for a starting rotation gig next year – he’s unscored upon in 8.1 MLB innings.
Look, it’s not over yet. Being down 2-0 is rough, but with three straight games at home after tomorrow’s off day, there’s still hope. You’ve still got Hiroki Kuroda against Jamie Moyer on Sunday, and Manny absolutely owns Moyer. I said that today’s game wasn’t decisively a “must win”, and I meant it. Game 3, down 2-0? Uh, yeah. That’s an asbo-freaking-lutely must win. One thing in our favor? The home team has now won all ten games between the two this year. By that logic the Dodgers will win the next three straight! Whoooo! And then lose Games 6 and 7 back in Philadelphia. Damn it.
No pressure, Hiroki!
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness