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Archive for Friday, October 10, 2008

Phils draw first blood

Burrell, Utley homer to take opener

October 10, 2008

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— Pat Burrell and Chase Utley cleared the wall with room to spare. Manny Ramirez's drive fell just short and stayed in the park.

Utley and Burrell homered off tiring Derek Lowe in the sixth inning to back a strong performance by Cole Hamels, and the Philadelphia Phillies were a winner in their return to the NL championship series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2, Thursday night.

"They have been pitching us tough, trying to not let us do too much damage," Utley said. "That's the game plan for a lot of teams, but we have eight guys, sometimes nine, that can swing the bats."

Ramirez put the Dodgers ahead with a long RBI double in the first, just missing a two-run homer. But the Phillies' big bats answered in the sixth, when Burrell hit a go-ahead solo homer after Utley's two-run drive tied it.

Game 2 is today in Philadelphia, with Phillies right-hander Brett Myers facing Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley.

The Phillies played their first NLCS game since clinching the pennant in Game 6 against Atlanta at old Veterans Stadium on Oct. 13, 1993. They're seeking their second World Series title (first was in 1980) in the franchise's 126-year history.

When Burrell lined a 3-1 pitch into the left-field stands for a 3-2 lead, the sellout crowd of 45,839 went into a frenzy.

"It was definitely intense out there," Utley said. "It gave us that little extra Adrenalin."

A lower back injury nearly sidelined Burrell in the first round against Milwaukee, and he almost got benched after going 0-for-8 in the first three games. But manager Charlie Manuel kept Burrell in the lineup, and he responded with two homers and four RBIs in the clincher over the Brewers.

"Right now he's staying back behind the ball and driving the ball," Manuel said.

Hamels settled down after the first and wound up allowing two runs and six hits, striking out eight.

"Cole pitched outstanding," Utley said. "He gave up a few early runs, but after that he kind of kept them off the bases and limited the damage."

Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless eighth, and Brad Lidge finished with a perfect ninth for his third save of the postseason. Lidge is 44-for-44 in save chances this year.

Lowe had cruised through the first five innings, allowing just four singles, but the right-hander with the hard sinker couldn't make it out of the sixth.

Speedy Shane Victorino reached second base leading off on shortstop Rafael Furcal's throwing error. Utley ripped the next pitch into the seats in right-center for his first postseason homer in 29 at-bats, tying it at 2.

"It was up, but it wasn't that bad a pitch," Utley said.

Utley grew up a Dodgers fan and attended Game 2 of the 1988 World Series. He was drafted by his hometown team out of high school in 1997 but chose to go to UCLA and ended up being Philadelphia's first-round pick in 2000.

Burrell is in the final season of a $50 million, six-year contract and it's uncertain whether the Phillies will bring him back.

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