Torre wants Dodgers to fly high
That is by how much Jonathan Broxton said he missed his spot with the 95-mph fastball that Matt Stairs sent soaring halfway up the right-field pavilion in the eighth inning on Monday, giving Philadelphia a 7-5 victory over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.
That might have been what separated the Dodgers from walking into Dodger Stadium tonight with the series tied, 2-2, instead of one loss away from the end of their season.
“That would’ve been huge,” third baseman Casey Blake said. “Now, we’re down 3-1.”
If the Dodgers are to recover from blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning and witnessing their closer give up a mammoth shot to a 40-year-old journeyman, they’ll have to do so against the Phillies’ best pitcher, left-hander Cole Hamels.
Hamels beat the Dodgers in Game 1 by limiting them to two runs in seven innings. Taking the mound for the Dodgers will be 24-year-old Chad Billingsley, who was charged with eight runs (seven earned) in 2 1/3 innings in a Game 2 loss.
“Right now, our goal is to be on that plane on Thursday,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said, referring to the charter flight the Dodgers will take to Philadelphia for Game 6, and maybe 7, if they aren’t eliminated tonight.
The Dodgers are 0-6 at Citizens Bank Park this season.
The Phillies know they’re close.
“You have to win on the road, that’s the key to winning the series,” first baseman Ryan Howard said. “It’s a huge swing. Instead of being tied up 2-2, now we’ve got a little bit more of the momentum. Now we have a chance to close it out.”
On the eve of what could be the final game of the Dodgers’ season, Torre made certain he would be the only member of his team forced to revisit the events of Monday.
Torre and his personal assistant, Chris Romanello, sat alone in the manager’s office of an otherwise empty clubhouse Tuesday, as he told his players to physically and emotionally stay away from Dodger Stadium.
“It was a very emotional game last night,” Torre said. “Guys were down. . . . I just thought that just getting away from it would be better than just coming out here and taking batting practice.”
And answering questions.
In what looked like one of his trademark efforts to deflect criticism of his players onto himself, Torre called the Dodgers’ public relations department and said he would make himself available to reporters.
In street clothes and a blue cap bearing the name of the Safe At Home Foundation he created, Torre took the podium for a noon news conference and answered questions about the widely scrutinized decisions he made in Game 4 -- from his call to pull Derek Lowe in the sixth inning to his choices about which relievers he used and when.
Torre said he didn’t second-guess any of his decisions.
“You wish the result was different,” he said. “If we all know the results, we certainly say, ‘Yeah, maybe I should have done that and done this.’ But with what I had at hand and knowing what I wanted to do, the only thing I’d like to change is the result.
“I have a two-run lead in the seventh inning, the game’s in my court and then the winning home run is hit off my closer.
“I don’t know what I could say to myself that would change what I would do, to be honest with you.”
The only change Torre said he envisioned making today would be to re-insert Matt Kemp into the lineup. Kemp, who has hit .208 in his six postseason starts, had his place in center field taken by Juan Pierre in Game 4.
Torre said he was planning a new pregame speech for his team.
“I’ll just remind them of everything that they’ve accomplished to this point and to just continue to fight,” he said. “You don’t get to this time of the year without the ability to win three, four, five games in a row.”
They’ll have to win three.
“What we have to do is make sure we just go out and put the blinkers on tomorrow and win tomorrow and then concern ourselves with the next day and hopefully in Game 7 again,” Torre said.
The manager added that there are enough veteran presences in the clubhouse -- including the oversized personalities of Manny Ramirez and Lowe -- that he thought the team could overcome its Game 4 shock.
As for young relievers Broxton, Cory Wade and Clayton Kershaw, Torre said they had the mentality to recover from their collapse.
Kershaw was charged with a run in the sixth inning and Broxton and Wade combined to give up four runs on two home runs in the eighth.
“The one thing they’re not going to be is afraid,” Torre said.
Dodger Stadium, 5:15 p.m.
On the air -- TV: Channel 11. Radio: 790, 930.
Update -- Right-hander Chad Billingsley is all that stands between the Dodgers and their winter vacation. The question is, which Billingsley will show up tonight? The one who led the Dodgers with 16 wins and ranked seventh in the National League with a 3.14 earned-run average, or the one who gave up a career-high eight runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLCS? That loss was Billingsley’s first since Aug. 25 -- also to Philadelphia -- and he hasn’t lost at home since July 8, posting a 1.65 ERA at Dodger Stadium over his last seven starts. Hamels has been almost as hot, winning seven of his last nine decisions including two in the postseason, during which he has given up only two runs and eight hits in 15 innings. He held the Dodgers to two runs in seven innings in Game 1 and is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA against them this season. In the regular season only five teams in baseball beat left-handers more often than the Dodgers, who were 31-21 against southpaws.
-- Kevin Baxter