PHILADELPHIA — The Dodgers' decision that Hiroki Kuroda was ready to start Sunday proved horribly wrong. And the Phillies overcame any lingering aftereffects of their self-inflicted Game 2 loss and showed they were all right.
As a result, Game 3 wasn't much of a contest, as the Phillies rolled to an 11-0 win. And unless the Dodgers can rebound tonight and even it up, the NL Championship may not be much of a series.
"So far, so good," rightfielder Jayson Werth said. "You hear Charlie (Manuel) say a lot that we're resilient, and I really think we are."
The Phillies got a tremendous eight-inning effort from starter Cliff Lee; offense from throughout their powerful lineup, headlined with home runs by Werth and Shane Victorino and a triple by rumbling Ryan Howard, who extended his postseason RBI streak to a record seven games; and the benefit of a warm homecoming on a cold night, 46 degrees at first pitch.
But their biggest break may have come Tuesday on a field in Arizona, which is where Dodgers manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt went to watch Kuroda — who'd been out three weeks with a herniated disc in his neck — pitch in a simulated game and determined he was ready to rejoin the rotation.
Twenty pitches into Sunday's game — when Kuroda was already down 4-0 — it was clear that wasn't the case.
"I don't second-guess the decision because we made it on what we saw," Torre said. "His bullpen (session) was good for this start. The bullpen (Sunday) coming into the game was good. He came into the game and he just didn't — the ball didn't behave. That's basically all I can tell you."
Kuroda, who lasted only 10 batters, said there were no issues — not his neck, not the rust, not the chill. "It was a disappointing game," he said.
Lee, the Phillies' prized pickup from Cleveland, continues to surpass expectations. He dazzled from the start and improved to 2-0, 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts.
"What can I say about him," Phillies manager Manuel said. "He was just absolutely outstanding."
"That was the Cliff we expected," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "Cy Young style Cliff."
It looked as if Lee, who threw 114 pitches, was going to have a chance for the complete game. Manuel let him hit with no outs and one on in the eighth, and he singled, but after Victorino's homer extended the lead from 8-0 to 11-0 — apparently enough for Manuel to trust his beleaguered bullpen — he decided to have Chad Durbin finish.
"If I would have known that were the case," Lee joked, "I would have tried hitting into a double play or something to go back out there."
Much as they were on their way to winning the World Series last year, the Phillies rocked Citizens Bank Park, where they are 9-1 over the past two postseasons.
Werth hit a long two-run homer in the first, Victorino capped it with his three-run blast in the eighth and Carlos Ruiz had a couple of key hits in the middle as all nine starters scored a run.
But the highlight had to be when the big man joined the band, Howard — the 6-foot-4, 255-pound first baseman — lacing a ball down the rightfield line then racing around the bases, diving in headfirst for a first-inning triple that gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
"Full-out panic going around second base," Howard said. "No, I mean, it was a lot of fun."
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.
NLCS, Game 4: Dodgers at Phillies
8:07 tonight, TBS, 1040-AM Phillies lead 2-1