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Dodgers must rebound in Philadelphia

Dodgers must rebound in Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- The fundamental equation for this National League Championship Series did not change in Game 1. If the Dodgers are going to advance to the World Series, they have to find a way to win a game at Citizens Bank Park.

The difficulty of that undertaking was suggested vividly in the opener on Thursday night. Derek Lowe was a groundball machine for five innings for the Dodgers, but then two momentary lapses meant Philadelphia home runs by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell and an eventual 3-2 Dodgers loss.

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It was a difficult combination to beat. The Dodgers had seemed invulnerable in sweeping the Cubs in a Division Series. The question of how much of that was the Dodgers playing terrific baseball and how much was the Cubs folding under the weight of history, may only be completely calculated in retrospect.

In the meantime, there is Game 2 on Friday, with Chad Billingsley starting for Los Angeles, Brett Myers for Philadelphia. Both of these pitchers won impressively in Division Series starts.

The Dodgers will require a winning start from Billingsley to accomplish their task of finding a victory in Pennsylvania. One problem for them is that while Myers had an up-and-down campaign, at home he was mostly up (7-5, 3.01). He really likes pitching before the impassioned crowds at Citizens Bank Park.

"I want them to be as loud as they possibly can be," Myers said of the Philly fans. "That's what us players thrive on, our fans and how they respond to big plays, big pitches, big outs in key situations and stuff like that. It definitely makes us feel better and we push a little harder when they're behind us the way they are."

Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel of Myers pitching at home: "I think when he feels like the fans are behind him and everything, I think he pitches better here."

Again, the difficulty of beating the Phillies at their place is underscored. Billingsley could be up to the task. He is just 24, but he was 15-6 from May through the end of the season and he has top-of-the-rotation stuff and makeup. He certainly wasn't troubled by starting in a hostile environment at Wrigley Field, and the Dodgers can take encouragement from that.

But two other questions confront the Dodgers. One is how they will react to their first defeat of this postseason. Manager Joe Torre believes that this will not be a problem.

"This ballclub has come to play every day," Torre said. "It's been really rewarding for me to be in that clubhouse and see how comfortable I am with their personality. [Game 2] will be the first game we're going after somebody after we lose. And I think I'll get a sense if I feel anything different, but my sense is I won't.

"I think they have a lot of confidence in themselves and they've been working hard. And again, when you get to this time of the year, you play the best teams. You face the best players and the pitchers and things are going to happen and for the most part they're going to be close."

Beyond that, the Dodgers would be helped by some offense generated by someone other than Manny Ramirez. Ramirez, with two more hits on Thursday night, is batting .500 for the postseason. The rest of the Dodgers are hitting a collective .213. Manny's hitting heroics have been nothing short of epic, but he needs more assistance.

Overall, the home-field advantage remains uninterrupted for both teams. In the regular season, these two clubs were 4-4, each sweeping a series at home. The Dodgers' fundamental task remains the same: Win at least one game at Citizens Bank Park in this NLCS. After Game 1, the Dodgers have one less chance to do that, and also a reminder of the degree of difficulty involved.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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