With their ace and slugger leading the way, the defending World Series champions got back their swagger.
Lee dominated the Dodgers, Howard and Jayson Werth(notes) provided the big swings early and Philadelphia cruised past Los Angeles 11-0 Sunday night for a 2-1 lead in the NL championship series.
Lee provided another brilliant playoff start, striking out 10 and allowing only three hits in eight innings.
“Cliff Lee, what can I say about him? He was absolutely outstanding,” Manuel said.
Howard ran hard for a triple, Werth homered and the Phillies led 6-0 by the second inning. Howard made two headfirst dives during the romp—the All-Star first baseman has an RBI in all seven of Philadelphia’s playoff games this year, a record streak in a single postseason.
“He’s a big-game player,” Werth said. “We’ve got a lot of guys like that here, guys that thrive in big situations.”
The Phillies came up with the most-lopsided win in their postseason history. Joe Blanton(notes) starts Game 4 Monday night against Randy Wolf(notes), who hasn’t pitched since the opener of the division series against St. Louis.
“You never want to get your rear end kicked,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “But you don’t toss and turn and wonder if you made the right move. It’s still only one game and we’re in position to tie the series tomorrow.”
The next two games in the best-of-seven series are set for Citizens Bank Park.
Howard had three RBIs, including his two-run triple in the first. Werth followed that with a two-run homer, and that was more than enough for Lee.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner faced just two batters over the minimum. Lee gave up a pair of singles to Manny Ramirez(notes) and one to Ronnie Belliard(notes).
Manuel planned to send Lee out for the ninth until he hit a single in the eighth and scored on Shane Victorino’s(notes) three-run homer. Chad Durbin(notes) relieved to begin the ninth and pitched a perfect inning.
Lee is 2-0 with an 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts, giving the Phillies exactly what they expected when they acquired him from Cleveland in late July.
“I don’t know if I ever doubted myself,” Lee said. “I always had confidence in myself.”
After wasting a brilliant performance by Pedro Martinez(notes) in Game 2, the Phillies jumped on Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda(notes) right from the start.
On a brisk 46-degree night—almost half the temperature at Dodger Stadium for Game 3 Friday—Philadelphia’s hitters had no trouble swinging hot bats. Every starter except Raul Ibanez(notes) had a hit and all nine starters scored a run.
Victorino’s home run to deep right field put an emphatic exclamation mark on the rout. The shot also let Phillies outscore the city’s NFL team—the Eagles lost 13-9 to the Oakland Raiders.
Making his first start in 20 days, Kuroda only got four outs. He allowed six runs and six hits. Dodgers manager Joe Torre chose Kuroda over Chad Billingsley(notes) even though Kuroda was unavailable for the first-round series against St. Louis because of a herniation in his cervical spine.
“They put me on the mound and I have to come through, but I didn’t,” Kuroda said through a translator.
A sellout crowd of 45,721 made Kuroda uncomfortable from the start. Fans waved their “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels and chanted “Beat LA! Beat LA!” even before the first pitch was thrown.
Ramirez got an earful, too. Fans screamed “You took steroids!” before he struck out in the seventh inning.
Victorino, who exchanged words with Kuroda in the NLCS last year after a fastball buzzed his head, got things started in the first. Victorino singled with one out and stole second. Chase Utley(notes) followed with a single. Howard then ripped a liner into the right-field corner to score both runners. The 255-pound slugger chugged around the bases and dove headfirst into the third for his first career postseason triple.
“It was one of those things where I had to make up my mind,” Howard said. “Once I hit second, I was going for it.”
Werth made it 4-0 with a long drive that landed in the shrubs in almost straightaway center.
Carlos Ruiz(notes) started the second with a double and scored on Jimmy Rollins’(notes) one-out double that chased Kuroda. Scott Elbert(notes) came in and walked Victorino and Utley. Howard’s RBI dribbler put the Phillies up 6-0. Howard slid headfirst into first on that play, too, trying to avoid the tag.
When the Phillies were in the field, all eyes were on Utley after he committed two costly throwing errors on double-play balls in the first two games. Utley bounced his first throw to first base, but Howard made the scoop. But he made a couple routine throws later and drew some cheers.
NOTES: Howard extended his postseason streak of reaching base to 16 games. … Former Phillies Vicente Padilla(notes) and Randy Wolf were booed during NLCS introductions. Former shortstop and manager Larry Bowa received a mixed reaction and there was a nice ovation for former slugging first baseman Jim Thome(notes). … Victorino lost his bat when it flew into the stands and hit a fan. The team didn’t know of any injury.