Moyer set to maintain momentum in LA

Moyer set to maintain momentum

LOS ANGELES -- Relatively dormant through the first 12 innings of the National League Championship Series, Manny Ramirez sent shock waves through Citizens Bank Park when he hit a critical three-run homer in Friday's Game 2. That signaled bad news for the Phillies at the time, and perhaps even worse news for Game 3 starter Jamie Moyer.

Ramirez's career numbers against Moyer have been downright incredulous. In 53 career at-bats, the Dodgers' big bopper has hit 10 home runs off Moyer, driven in 20 runs and slugged .962. He has reached base nearly as often as he has made an out. And he has also walked six times, which could be the number most likely to change.

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In Philadelphia, the Phillies chose to pitch to Ramirez in almost every key spot, keeping him out of the RBI column until his three-run home run in the fourth inning of Game 2. And while Ramirez had significant success Friday -- and even though the series is now shifting to Los Angeles -- Moyer said he won't be the one to change the strategy.

"He may have the upper hand, but does that mean I don't go out and try to pitch?" Moyer said. "I respect him, but I respect everybody on their club.

"What's happened in the past, I'll give him that. He's earned that. But [Sunday], the slate is even. And if he has success, so be it. And if I have success, so be it. It's part of the game."

Whatever happens with Ramirez, the fact remains that Game 3 will be critical for the Dodgers, down 0-2 in this best-of-seven series. They need a win at this point far more than the Phillies. And Moyer, the only Phillies pitcher to lose during the NL Division Series, will oppose Hiroki Kuroda, who hasn't allowed a run in 11 1/3 consecutive innings.

Kuroda most recently fired 6 1/3 shutout innings in the Dodgers' Game 3 clincher over the Cubs in the NLDS, a full week before this scheduled NLCS start. He proved to be quite adept over the final two months of his rookie season, as well, finishing 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA.

"His last outing was outstanding," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "So if he can just pick it up from there, he'll be good to go. He was lights-out last time."

Successful runs such as those, however, can end at a moment's notice. Just ask Moyer, who had won six straight decisions before pitching four shaky innings last week against the Brewers. Considered perhaps the Phillies' most consistent starter heading into the playoffs, Moyer suddenly ranks among the most unpredictable.

As usual, of course, Moyer has experience that might help. Because the veteran hasn't faced Los Angeles since July 2007, and because the Dodgers are a relatively young team, Ramirez and Rafael Furcal are the only regulars with more than three lifetime at-bats against him. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney have all boasted limited success in facing Moyer, but it's been just that -- limited. And small sample sizes don't count for much in October.

TALE OF THE TAPE: GAME 3 STARTERS
PHILLIES
Jamie Moyer
DODGERS
Hiroki Kuroda
2008 REGULAR SEASON
Overall33 GS, 16-7, 3.71 ERA, 62 BB, 123 K31 GS, 9-10, 3.73 ERA, 42 BB, 116 K
Key statAllowed 6 HR last 100 IP (incl. NLDS)Opponents slugged .359 (8th best in NL)
POSTSEASON
20081 GS, 0-1, 4.501 GS, 1-0, 0.00
Career6 GS, 3-2, 2.671 GS, 1-0, 0.00
AT DODGER STADIUM
2008NR14 GS, 6-2, 3.68
Career6 GS, 1-3, 6.8314 GS, 6-2, 3.68
AGAINST THIS OPPONENT
2008 regular seasonNR2 GS, 1-0, 1.38
Career11 GS, 3-5, 5.192 GS, 1-0, 1.38
Loves to faceCasey Blake, 2-for-17, 2 HRRyan Howard, 0-for-5, 3 K
Hates to faceManny Ramirez, 18-for-53, 10 HRChase Utley, 2-for-6, 1 2B
Why he'll win10-3, 2.92 on road (4.61 ERA at home)Including NLDS start, has 2.34 ERA since Aug. 1
Pitcher bewareOpponents hit .287, slugged .452 w/RISP0-4, 4.42 in day games (7 GS)
Bottom lineFine-tuned at 45Hiroki (Heart) L.A.

"To me, they're like a school of sharks -- kind of on the prowl," Moyer said. "And if you can keep them all separated in the pool, it's a great way to go after them. But when they swarm together and they see the blood in the water, I think they attack -- and they do a very good job of it. And I think it's very evident the way they played the last two months of the season."

More important is the notion that Moyer's outing can either all but knock the Dodgers out of contention, or allow them to creep right back into this series.

"We've got to play," Moyer said. "Nobody's going to hand us anything. Nobody has handed us anything all season long. We're going to have to earn it, and we're going to have to work for it. It would be great to win Game 3, because it would really put their backs to the wall. But we have to go out there and play baseball and not get caught up in everything that goes on in Hollywood and California."

That could be easier than expected, considering that the Phillies jetted west late Friday night knowing that they had shoved the Dodgers into a most precarious position. The Phillies are now within two games of the World Series for the first time since 1993, and the Dodgers desperately need to win Game 3 in order to restore some balance to this series.

They'll lean on Ramirez -- though Moyer insisted that he was more worried about Furcal, because "if you can keep the rabbits off base, when the big donkeys come up, it helps." And that's a view that comes from experience. Moyer, despite his respect, noted that Ramirez can only do so much damage with no one on base.

So it's Moyer's mental approach, along with his physical preparation, that should give him a chance on Sunday to put the Dodgers in a perilous hole.

"The one thing about Jamie is he's probably as well-prepared as any guy I've ever seen," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I don't know that most of our young guys can do what he does in between starts. He's got a tremendous program. He's very religious about doing it. He stays on task all the time. And he's pitched with this stuff for a long time, so not having 93, 95 miles an hour doesn't faze him."

Pressure-packed situations normally don't faze him either -- though it helps that the Phillies, winners of eight of their past nine games overall, will enter Game 3 with every last scrap of momentum.

"And when you have momentum, boy, and you can maintain it, it's important," Moyer said. "Right now we have some, and we'll see where it takes us."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.