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LA revitalized at Moyer's expense

LA revitalized at Moyer's expense

LOS ANGELES -- You know what they say about momentum in baseball. It is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher.

The Philadelphia Phillies had built up a ton of momentum in the National League Championship Series. Their performance in the first two games was so convincing that it appeared that their momentum might be irresistible and their 2-0 lead might be just the beginning of a completely one-sided romp. Oops.

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In charge of maintaining that momentum for Game 3 was the admirable 45-year-old lefty, Jamie Moyer, typically a portrait of finesse, command and success. But what Moyer produced here was an outing so strikingly ineffective that it accomplished two things simultaneously: It ended the Phillies' momentum and it allowed the Dodgers back into this series.

"Momentum in this game is huge, and like they came out in the first inning, I would say they took it away from us for the night," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

The first-inning damage included four singles, one hit batter, one triple and five runs. At no point was Moyer being nickel-and-dimed. Even three of the four singles were blistered. This game was over early. The Dodgers went on to a 7-2 victory.

The only question on Moyer after this was why Manuel bothered to bring Moyer back for further battering in the second inning. That's what happened as Rafael Furcal led off with a home run. Moyer departed after one more out, but the damage had been done, and done again; six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

There is a certain set of standard expectations for someone who is given a start in these lofty circumstances. At least a competitive performance is required. A man who has won 246 games and defeated all reasonable expectations on how long a contemporary pitching career can last, could fairly be expected to meet those standards. But on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, apparently not.

"It wasn't his night," Manuel said. "And he's been consistent all year long for us. He's won 17 games, and he's one of the reasons why we're playing here. Sometimes, he gets out of those jams. Tonight, he didn't."

On the Phillies' side of the ledger, their momentum was gone, but their lead had merely been halved. Their chance for a carefree jog all the way to the World Series was over, but their 2-1 advantage in the NLCS was still a matter of public record.

QUICK WORK, THE HARD WAY
By lasting just 1 1/3 innings in Game 3 on Sunday night, the Phillies' Jamie Moyer became the sixth pitcher since the Wild Card era began in 1995 to leave an NLCS game before completing two innings. The others:
PitcherTeamOpp.GameIP
Steve TrachselMetsCardinals2006 NLCS G31.0
Rick AnkielCardinalsMets2000 NLCS G20.2
Al LeiterMetsBraves1999 NLCS G60.0 (6 BF)
Todd StottlemyreCardinalsBraves1996 NLCS G51.0(+3)
Donovan OsborneCardinalsBraves1996 NLCS G70.2

"We got a lot more baseball left, and our team, we gather ourselves up and we'll come out here, we'll come out here to win [Game 4]," Manuel said. "And we've been doing that for like two and a half years, and definitely this year we've been doing it. And nothing's changing."

The only other issue to be resolved in Game 3 was if and when the Dodgers were going to retaliate after a series of their hitters had been brushed back, knocked down, hit and otherwise made extremely uneasy by Philadelphia pitchers. Catcher Russell Martin appeared to be a particularly routine target, unintentionally or not, being hit once and knocked down twice in this series.

The answer came with two out in the third, when L.A. starter Hiroki Kuroda threw a pitch over the head of Shane Victorino. The umpires issued a warning to both benches. After Victorino told Kuroda he didn't appreciate the location of the pitch, both benches cleared at the end of the inning, but the ensuing argument did not escalate into a physical confrontation.

In a postgame interview with FOX-TV's Ken Rosenthal, Victorino said that he fully expected one of the Philadelphia batters to be hit: "The situation called for it."

However, Victorino said that he told Kuroda: "If you're going to do it, throw it somewhere else. Don't throw at my head. That's all I ask."

Kuroda said through an interpreter that he couldn't understand what Victorino was saying, "since my language skills are kind of limited."

Kuroda denied throwing at Victorino's head: "I tried to pitch inside and it just slipped out of my hand," he said.

That is exactly what a pitcher with English as a first language would have said, so it appears that baseball is once again the universal language.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre also offered assurances that the location of the pitch was a mistake. "Again, you try to throw a ball inside and sometimes it gets away," Torre said. "But certainly there was no intent on hurting somebody in that area. That I can tell you for sure."

This topic had arisen in Game 2, when Phillies starter Brett Myers decked Martin with a pitch and then threw one behind Manny Ramirez. In Game 3, Moyer hit Martin with a pitch in the first, but that came on a 1-2 pitch in the midst of the Dodgers' rally and could hardly have been viewed as intentional.

When reliever Clay Condrey buzzed Martin with a pitch in the second, however, the Dodgers were bound to become emotionally involved on this issue.

With any luck, this episode is over and baseball will take over again. "I think so," Manuel said. "I think somewhere along the line, I'd like to see us go back and play baseball."

Much will be made of this episode, but the Game 3 score was 6-1 when it occurred. What made the difference here was the performance of the two starting pitchers. Kuroda had retaliated, but he had also triumphed in the larger argument. Encoring from winning the clincher of the Division Series against the Cubs with 6 1/3 shutout innings, Kuroda checked the imposing Philadelphia lineup, giving up two runs in six-plus innings.

So the Dodgers were revived on this night, and they picked a heavily populated moment for the revival. A Dodger Stadium record crowd of 56,800 attended this one. The Los Angeles patrons were rewarded for their time and expenditures with a Championship Series that moved dramatically in the direction of their team.

The Phillies still lead the series. But the Dodgers, who would have been at elimination's doorstep with a Game 3 loss, instead have renewed life, thanks to a large momentum-changing outburst against Jamie Moyer.

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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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }