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PHILS MAKE L.A. LOOK SILLY

The decision to start Hiroki Kuroda backfires as the defending champs romp at home.

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.

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.

Jayson Werth hit a long two-run homer in the first, Shane Victorino added a three-run blast in the eighth and Carlos Ruiz had a couple of key hits in the middle.

But the highlight had to be when the big man joined the band, cleanup hitter Ryan Howard 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. They got two more in the first, two more in the second and coasted from there to take a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

A strong performance by Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who allowed only three hits and struck out 10 over eight innings, and the cool temperatures, 46 at first pitch, were factors in the Dodgers' demise.

But they actually may have lost the game Tuesday on a field in Arizona. That's where manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt flew to watch Kuroda pitch in a simulated game against minor-leaguers and decided - though perhaps not as convincingly as they initially indicated - he was ready to rejoin their rotation.

"Would we have liked him to have another one?" Torre somewhat confessed before Sunday's game. "But you've got to make a decision. I was, and Rick was, both pretty pleased with what we saw that day."

Fifteen minutes into Sunday's game, not so much.

Kuroda faced only 10 batters, and six got hits and scored. After getting the first out, he allowed four consecutive hits - singles by Victorino and second baseman Chase Utley (making amends for his Games 1 and 2 throwing errors), Howard's triple and former Dodger Werth's homer - and was down 4-0 after just 20 pitches. Kuroda was done after allowing a pair of doubles in the second. Then the other pitcher the Dodgers added to their roster, reliever Scott Elbert, walked his first two batters and threw a wild pitch.

Lee, a midseason acquisition from Cleveland, continued his impressive postseason run, improving to 2-0 and lowering his ERA to 0.74 in three outings.

It looked as if Lee would have a chance for a complete game when manager Charlie Manuel let him hit with no outs and one on in the eighth - he singled - but he decided to have Chad Durbin finish. Maybe he didn't trust his beleaguered bullpen with an 8-0 lead but did at 11-0?

Howard's triple, his first in the postseason after 11 in the regular season, extended his postseason RBI streak to seven games. It was also the 16th straight in which he reached base.

The weather wasn't anything like they enjoyed in Los Angeles, but the Phillies were glad to get back home.

"We love to play in this ballpark," Manuel said. "We've had good success in the playoffs at home, and we've always played good here. We like playing here, and we love our fans, and we want to hear a lot of noise."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

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