The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone from 3-0 in the National League Division Series to 0-2 in the NL Championship Series. They have also gone from looking like an October force of nature in the first series to looking like the second-best team in the second series.
The Dodgers grabbed early leads in both Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, but it didn't make any difference. They were overcome by a Philadelphia Phillies offense that was explosive in Game 1 and relentless in Game 2.
In the Division Series sweep of the Cubs, the Dodgers gave the impression of being a team peaking at exactly the right time. But they also received some gifts from the Cubs. There were the seven walks in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 and then an error by each Cubs infielder in Game 2. The Phillies don't seem to be inclined toward these sorts of lapses. And, unlike the Cubs in the postseason, when they fall behind, their outlook is much more determined than helpless.
Now the scene shifts from Citizens Bank Park to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 on Sunday night. The Dodgers can take solace from that. These teams have played each other 10 times this year and the home team has yet to lose.
For the Dodgers to win this series, they must still take a game at Citizens Bank Park. But now before they get another opportunity in that category, they would have to win two out of three at home to keep this series alive.
For the third straight game, the Dodgers will turn to a starter who worked well in the Division Series, in this case, Hiroki Kuroda. He will be opposed by the venerable lefty, Jamie Moyer. Moyer, 45, took Philadelphia's only loss in the Division Series against Milwaukee. But he won 16 games this year, and he has won 246 in his career. He defines the entire "crafty left-hander" concept.
The record says that a change of scenery will be good for the Dodgers, bad for the Phillies. What else will the Dodgers need to reverse the direction of this series?
2-0 advantage big in NLCS
|The Phillies became the 19th team in history to win the first two games of the NLCS. Of the clubs that have jumped out to a 2-0 lead, 16 of the 18 teams have ended up winning the series.|
|The League Championship Series was a best-of-five series from 1969-1985 and a best-of-seven series since.|
The Dodgers did a little fighting back of their own in Game 2. Rather than rolling over on an 8-2 deficit, they climbed back into the game on a three-run Manny Ramirez homer in the fourth. They very nearly tied the game in the seventh, when center fielder Shane Victorino was forced to make a leaping catch at the wall on a drive by Casey Blake. They brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth.
All of that doesn't add up to a victory to build on, but at least it wasn't a Cubs-like postseason defeat, meek and mild and quietly retiring. The home-field advantage at Dodger Stadium is an obvious encouragement, even though in the other half of the equation, the Dodgers were unable to make a dent in the Phillies' edge at Citizens Bank Park.
Kuroda's overall work and his successful postseason start offer more potential positives. In two regular-season starts against Philadelphia, Kuroda was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA, so there is additional encouragement.
But the Dodgers controlled the Cubs lineup in three straight games, and they have not had that kind of success against the Phillies. Derek Lowe was terrific for five innings in Game 1, then was beaten by two home runs. Chad Billingsley was sent packing in the third inning of Game 2 as the Philadelphia offense turned from explosive to relentless, putting up nine hits in the first three innings, including two by starting pitcher Brett Myers.
The Dodgers, Manny Ramirez aside, don't figure to bludgeon their way back into this Series. They're going to require strong pitching, nine innings, no exceptions. They had that consistently against the Cubs, they've haven't had it consistently against the Phillies.
The Dodgers' situation is not anybody's preferred postseason circumstance, but it is also far from hopeless. Manager Joe Torre indicated that part of the deal being down 0-2 is simply focusing on the next game.
"Sometimes when you're in that locker room and in that lineup, you tend to think things are worse than they are," Torre said. "You don't get to this time of year without having the capability of winning three or four in a row.
"And we just have to get that feel back, because we all know when you're playing five-game, seven-game series, momentum is such a huge factor and one game is really all we have to think about at this point. And that's what we do when we get home Sunday."
Torre's pervasively calm leadership style and 13 straight Octobers of postseason experience also are pluses.
"When we [the Yankees] lost two games at home to Oakland, I think it was in 2001 [in a Division Series], and we go out there where they hadn't lost in about a month and beat them two games and then come back and win Game 5," Torre said on Saturday, before the Dodgers' workout at Dodger Stadium. "It's a momentum switcher is what we need [Sunday].
"We need to get things back on our side. And I don't want to say it's more comfortable coming home, but it should give us a little more confidence, let's put it that way."
The Phillies, meanwhile, had all the best of it on the field at home, but they suffered some truly serious personal losses. Manager Charlie Manuel's mother died on Friday. Center fielder Shane Victorino learned after Game 2 that his grandmother had died.
The Phillies did a truly commendable job of pulling together behind their grieving manager for Game 2. The devotion this team displayed for its manager, essentially dedicating the Game 2 victory to Manuel, was both heartwarming and impressive. Manuel will stay with the club through a potential Game 5 and then depart for his mother's funeral in the place he grew up, Buena Vista, Va.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.