They had left-hander Cliff Lee on the mound Sunday night in Game 3, and they felt pretty good about it. Lee dominated the Dodgers in an 11-0 victory to give the Phillies a 2-1 one lead in the best-of-seven series.
The blowout was the largest in Phillies postseason history, eclipsing last year's 10-2 victory over the Rays in Game 4 of the World Series.
Lee allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings to improve to 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three starts this postseason. He tied a Phillies postseason record with 10 strikeouts in a game, matching Steve Carlton (Game 2, 1980 World Series) and Curt Schilling (Game 1, 1993 NLCS).
"He's pretty special," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of Lee.
"I don't think I ever doubted myself," said Lee, who is pitching in the postseason for the first time. "I always had confidence in myself and felt like I could pitch in a big game. But you never know until you get the opportunity."
Lee is thankful for that opportunity. He was pitching for the Indians, who were headed nowhere until the Phils traded for him July 29.
"He's done pretty good," shorstop Jimmy Rollins said.
The Dodgers also had interest in Lee before the Phillies sent four top prospects to the Indians for him and outfielder Ben Francisco.
Imagine if the Dodgers had pulled the trigger?
"We just would have had to beat him," Rollins said. "[General manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] is pretty smart. He would have found somebody else. But he did a great job in getting Cliff Lee, a guy who fits in this clubhouse very well. And he happens to be a pretty good hitter."
Lee singled to center field in the eighth inning, but when Shane Victorino hit a three-run home run to right field, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel decided right-hander Chad Durbin would finish the game. Lee had thrown 114 pitches, but had a chance for a shutout.
|2009||3||PHI 11, LAD 0||???|
|1996||7||ATL 15, STL 0||ATL|
|1996||5||ATL 14, STL 0||ATL|
|1993||2||ATL 14, PHI 3||PHI|
|1985||4||STL 12, LAD 2||STL|
|1984||1||CHC 13, SD 0||SD|
|1974||4||LAD 12, PIT 1||LAD|
|2007||6||BOS 12, CLE 2||BOS|
|2004||3||NYY 19, BOS 8||BOS|
|2001||3||SEA 14, NYY 3||NYY|
|1999||3||BOS 13, NYY 1||NYY|
|1983||3||BAL 11, CWS 1||BAL|
|1981||2||NYY 13, OAK 3||NYY|
"If he threw about 10 more, it wasn't going to hurt him," Manuel said.
"Eight wasn't enough, but 11 were, I guess," Jayson Werth joked.
It seemed less likely than likely the Phillies would score 11 runs on a night when Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda pitched. He had manhandled the Phillies in four previous starts, including Game 3 of last year's NLCS. In 25 innings, he had allowed just 11 hits, four runs and no home runs.
But something suddenly clicked Sunday.
Victorino and Chase Utley hit back-to-back singles to get things going. Ryan Howard followed with a triple into the right-field corner to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Howard's seventh consecutive postseason game with an RBI broke a tie with Ivan Rodriguez (Marlins, 2003), Bernie Williams (Yankees, 1996) and Carlton Fisk (Red Sox, 1975) for the longest streak in a single postseason. Howard is one game shy of the all-time mark of eight held by Lou Gehrig (1928-32), who set the mark over multiple postseasons with the Yankees.
Howard is tied with Moose Skowron (Yankees, 1958-60) and Clyde Barnhart (Pirates, 1925-27) on the all-time list.
Howard is hitting .385 (10-for-26) with four doubles, one triple, one home run and 12 RBIs in seven games this postseason. He is hitting .373 (22-for-59) with six doubles, one triple, four homers and 20 RBIs in his past 15 postseason games dating to Game 2 of last year's NLCS against the Dodgers.
"It's a little bit of everything," Howard said. "When you're hitting in this lineup, you've got guys like Chase, Jayson Werth, Raul [Ibanez], Shane, Jimmy, Cliff, when you've got guys like that in this lineup, it makes things a lot easier, and for me, [it's] just going up there right now, just trying to be as disciplined as I can."
Werth followed Howard with a towering two-run home run to center field to make it 4-0. The Phillies scored two more runs against Kuroda in the second to make it 6-0. Carlos Ruiz, who is hitting .429 this postseason, and Rollins both doubled to chase Kuroda from the game. In 1 1/3 innings, Kuroda allowed six hits and six runs. He struck out one.
That would be more than plenty for Lee, who retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced and did not allow a runner to reach second base until Ronnie Belliard singled and advanced to second on a fielder's choice in the seventh.
|2009||NLCS 3||PHI 11, LAD 0||11|
|2008||WS 4||PHI 10, TB 2||8|
|1978||NLCS 3||PHI 9, LAD 4||5|
|1983||NLCS 3||PHI 7, LAD 2||5|
|1983||NLCS 4||PHI 7, LAD 2||5|
"He attacks the strike zone," Torre said. "He works fast. He threw us some pitches to hit, but sometimes with his delivery and how aggressive he is, I think he comes at you quick, and sometimes it startles the hitters where they're not quite ready to hit. He knows what to do with a lead."
The Phillies have a lead in the series, and they can take a commanding lead with a good performance in Game 4 on Monday at 8:07 p.m. ET on TBS and Postseason.TV.
The Phillies have right-hander Joe Blanton facing left-hander Randy Wolf.
Blanton started Games 4 last year in the NLDS, NLCS and World Series. Philadelphia won each game. But the Phillies aren't thinking like that. Just like they wouldn't let a brutal loss in Game 2 carry into Game 3, they don't plan to let a blowout victory carry into Game 4.
"We don't get too high and we don't get too low," Manuel said. "And if we get knocked down, we can get back up, and we try to keep a level head. That's kind of who we are."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.