Beating them inside-out
The Dodgers knocked Jamie Moyer out of the game. Then they almost knocked Shane Victorino on the seat of his uniform pants.
Retaliation was performed swiftly by the Dodgers on Sunday night, as they claimed a 7-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and narrowed their deficit in the National League Championship Series to 2-1 in front of an announced crowd of 56,800 fans that the Dodgers called the largest ever to watch a baseball game at Dodger Stadium.
“We felt like we couldn’t lose tonight,” said Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda, who held the Phillies to two runs in six-plus innings to earn his second victory of the playoffs.
An offense that had been dormant for two games and was urged by Manager Joe Torre to “take the game to them” pounded the 45-year-old Moyer for six runs in 1 1/3 innings, three on a bases-loaded triple by Blake DeWitt in a five-run first inning and another on a solo home run by Rafael Furcal in the second.
And after a couple of pitches were thrown too far on the hitter’s side of home plate for the Dodgers’ liking -- Russell Martin was hit on the left knee by Moyer in the first and was dropped by an up-and-in pitch from reliever Clay Condrey in the second -- Kuroda threw one over Victorino’s head that led to the clearing of the benches and emptying of the bullpens.
“We wanted to send a message,” said Manny Ramirez, who had a pitch thrown behind his back by Phillies starter Brett Myers in Game 2 that elicited no response that day from the Dodgers’ pitching staff.
They wasted no time Sunday sending either of the messages they wanted to send.
Moyer was the Dodgers’ first victim, as he endured a five-run, five-hit first inning.
“He kept talking about bringing the game to them and being aggressive,” Martin said, recalling the words of Torre in the wake of their Game 2 loss.
The Dodgers started their assault on Moyer with three consecutive singles, scoring on a hit to left field by Ramirez that drove in Furcal. Ramirez has driven in runs in his last seven league championship series games, a record.
Martin took a pitch on his leg to load the bases.
A one-out single by Casey Blake scored Andre Ethier, the bases remaining loaded, and after Matt Kemp struck out, DeWitt delivered his three-run triple into the right-field corner.
“I think it was a little better tonight,” DeWitt said of the Dodgers’ approach early in the game. “Everybody played great from the first pitch on.”
The key, Martin said, was attacking Moyer early in the count. “He’s a pitcher who definitely has to get the count in his favor,” Martin said of Moyer, who topped out at 83 mph in the first inning. “He does that and tries to expand the zone. We were aggressive.”
That included Furcal, who belted the first pitch he saw in the second inning over the wall in left-center to put the Dodgers ahead, 6-1.
The Dodgers scored their final run in the fourth, when Nomar Garciaparra singled in Ramirez with two outs.
Meanwhile, Kuroda was cruising.
He gave up a run-scoring single to Pedro Feliz in the top of the second that cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-1, but retired the next 13 batters.
The next Phillie to get on base was Chase Utley, who led off the seventh with a double, moved to third on a single by Ryan Howard and scored on a hit by Pat Burrell.
“Kuroda stepped up big tonight,” DeWitt said. “It’s as big a game as he’s ever pitched for us.”
But most of the questions Kuroda fielded in his postgame interviews concerned the pitch in the third inning that sailed a few inches behind the head of Victorino. The pitch was perceived not only as retaliation for the two pitches inside on Martin, but also for two that Myers threw to Martin and Ramirez in Game 2.
Victorino immediately said something to Kuroda, who walked off the mound toward the batter’s box.
Victorino and Martin started to exchange words, with Victorino pointing at his own head and telling Martin that if they wanted to throw at him, they should throw at his ribs.
For the record, Kuroda said that the ball slipped out of his hand -- the same explanation Myers gave after throwing behind Ramirez.
Victorino grounded out to first, leading to an exchange between him and Kuroda near the bag. The benches and bullpens cleared. Dodgers coach Larry Bowa and Phillies coach Davey Lopes got in each other’s faces, and Dodgers coach Mariano Duncan also yelled at Lopes. Ramirez, who darted to the scene of the confrontation from left field, was restrained by an army of Dodgers.
“I really don’t see it as bad blood,” Torre said. “I really don’t. It’s baseball.”