Tension gives Dodgers, NLCS some life
LOS ANGELES -- There are moments in the life of any good postseason series when everything changes.Maybe some day, we'll look back on the 2008 National League Championship Series and ask: What was That Moment? And when, or if, we do, we'll be remembering this: A 94-mph Hiroki Kuroda cannonball whizzing behind the noggin of Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino in the third inning of Game 3. Before that pitch, this was just baseball. After that pitch, we didn't just have a series anymore. We had A SERIES. A benches-emptying, fingers-wagging, neck-veins-bulging, coaches-jawing, Manny Manny-izing, crowd-shrieking, live must-see drama kind of series. So this is from all of us must-see October drama fans to Hiroki Kuroda: Thanks for livening up the week. When the day began, the Phillies were in total charge of this series, up two-games-to-zip. Now -- one game, and one 7-2 wipeout of the Phillies by the Dodgers later -- this is a whole different deal. In the history of best-of-seven series, 35 teams have come back to win after being down 2-1. But just one (of 31) has roared back to win after tumbling into that 3-0 canyon. You can ask Joe Torre to tell you the story of that one sometime. But not now. Now, we have more important matters to attend to. Like calling in some United Nations peacekeeping forces. Or Don King. Or both. No haymakers were thrown after Kuroda launched that fly-by in Victorino's air space Sunday. But after Victorino then grounded out to first base and started yapping at Kuroda again, at least we got the thrill of having about 80 people in uniform charge onto the field for a lively discussion.
But the Dodgers appeared to brighten their mood considerably. After their pacifistic loss in Game 2, they were challenged by their manager to show more fight. So they made a statement in this game, in more ways than one."I think we needed this for ourselves, to go out and get some confidence that we're not going to be pushed around," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "We're going to play the game the right way. Sometimes you've got to make a stand. And we got that done [in Game 3]." But this was one stand they didn't just make on the old scoreboard.
Dodgers players have been muttering about it for two days. One affectionately referred to Myers, between games, as a "wacko." And only a couple of hours before Sunday's game, right up there on the interview-room podium, Derek Lowe, L.A.'s Game 4 starter, suggested that it might be time to address this situation "Nuke LaLoosh style."Well, no nukes ever did get dropped. But Kuroda clearly fired a warning shot over the brow of Victorino. And if this was a message, Victorino obviously got it. He turned directly toward Kuroda and started pointing at his head, then his ribs, then his head again, as the largest crowd in Dodger Stadium history (56,800) began buzzing ecstatically. Afterward, however, Victorino had no interest in rehashing any of this. At one point, when a reporter pressed him on it one time too many, he retorted: "I'm done," and walked away. But Martin, being the closest earwitness, reported: "He said, 'If you're going to hit me, hit me in the ribs. Don't hit me in the head.' But we weren't trying to hit anyone." Whatever they WERE trying to do, though, give the Dodgers credit: They had their alibis down cold. Kuroda spun out the old "it just slipped out of my hand" excuse. Manny could only guess that "maybe the ball slipped." Matt Kemp at least did some minor creative editing, theorizing that "the ball just got away from him." And if you believe any of that, we've got your own personal star on the Walk of Fame we'd like to sell you. But after The Pitch, there was even better action to come. Victorino may have gotten his point across once. But he couldn't resist resuming the monologue after his inning-ending groundout, when Kuroda wandered within easy shouting distance.
Next thing they knew, everybody but Henry Winkler was charging toward the infield. And Manny turned on his heretofore-hidden Usain Bolt jets, motored in from left field in record time and got so overheated, he had to be restrained by Martin and coach Bob Schaefer before he well, we're not sure what, exactly.Asked if he was trying to get at anyone in particular, Ramirez reached into his Drew Rosenhaus quote book and answered: "Next."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
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NLCS GAME 3: DODGERS 7, PHILLIES 2
The Dodgers scored five runs off Jamie Moyer in the first inning and went on to defeat the Phillies 7-2 in Game 3 of the NLCS. Story | NLCS page
• Jayson Stark: Tension adds life to NLCS
• Jorge Arangure Jr.: Is Moyer done in Philly?
• Eric Neel: Series momentum shifts quickly
• Benches clear over Kuroda's pitch to Victorino
• Highlights: L.A. jumps on Phillies early
• Russell Martin talks about Dodgers' win
• John Kruk breaks down Game 3
• Shulman, Phillips recap Game 3