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NLCS: Phillies beat Dodgers 3-2 for 1-0 series lead

PHILADELPHIA — Much of the talk heading into Thursday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series centered around history — the days of the late 1970s and early '80s when the Phillies and Dodgers regularly crossed paths in step to the World Series.

Those were the days when the Phillies played a few feet away from their classically modern ballpark in one of the cookie-cutter concrete caves of that era — the same time when it was suitable to play on bright green fake grass and hit the road wearing powder blue.

But in this age, Philadelphia worked hard to create a modern-day homefield advantage for nights such as Thursday's 3-2 comeback victory — building a cozy Citizens Bank Park custom-made for sluggers such as Chase Utley and Pat Burrell.

"If you're able to succeed here," Phillies starter Cole Hamels said, "you can pitch anywhere."

The flags flying above Ashburn Alley beyond centerfield blew out toward the downtown skyline, a perfect omen for a city that has hinged its hopes on far less than an October breeze.

So it was captivating enough that it came down to a costly sixth-inning Dodgers throwing miscue — along with a friendly south Philadelphia jet stream — that gave the Phillies the opener in this best-of-seven series.

The Phillies have won just one World Series — and it came 28 years ago.

Call the Cubs — recently dispatched by the Dodgers — the cursed ones, but Philadelphia has endured its share of base bounces. Here, they still talk of "Black Friday," when a blown call at first base propelled the Dodgers the '77 pennant.

Thirty-one years later, it was an awry throw from Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal that escaped first baseman James Loney's mitt that opened the door to victory.

After Dodgers sinkerballer Derek Lowe cruised through five innings as Los Angeles built a 2-0 lead, Shane Victorino's grounder to short was a routine play for Furcal, but the Phillies centerfielder reached when Furcal's wide throw forced Loney off first base.

"It felt like it was kind of a turn for us," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Then, the Phillies — and their bats — took flight.

Utley connected on Lowe's next delivery and sent it over the rightfield fence for a tying two-run homer, rounding the bases to a sellout crowd of 45,839 towel-waving fans. And two batters later, Burrell hit his third postseason homer to give the Phillies the lead, depositing Lowe's final pitch of the night into the leftfield stands for a solo homer and giving the Phillies a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"The error was good for us," Utley said. "(Lowe) was pitching very well. He was keeping the ball down. … The big homer of the night was Pat's."

While both home run balls easily reached the stands, they would have had a tougher time at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.

Hamels then departed after finishing his seventh shutout inning. The left-handed ace allowed just six hits and two runs while striking out eight before giving way to the NL's top bullpen in the eighth.

One of the loudest moments of the night came when reliever Ryan Madson induced Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez into a line out at third. Closer Brad Lidge finished off the Dodgers in the ninth for his 43rd save in as many opportunities with a perfect ninth.

"There's no score that we feel we're out of a game," Lidge said. "This team never feels like it's in a hole."

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com.

Phillies 3

Dodgers 2

NLCS: Phillies beat Dodgers 3-2 for 1-0 series lead 10/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:21pm]
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