Hoo boy! Guess there might be something to home-field advantage after all. In his first career post-season start, Randy Wolf came out tighter than the Death Star trash compactor and loaded the bases, aided by a brainfart defensive mix-up between Ronnie Belliard and Matt Kemp. But a Yadier Molina double play allowed Wolf to find the escape hatch.
Still, down 1-0 with Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter taking the mound is never a good situation. Unless he gets mowed down by a Bison. After a single by Rafael Furcal (3-for-4, RBI), Matt Kemp pounded Carpenter's first pitch for a home run and suddenly the Dodgers had the lead.
And the Dodgers held on to that lead, although it was a grind. They stranded James Loney at second base in the first and Rafael Furcal at third base in the second, but scratched out another run on a Mark DeRosa throwing miscue in the third to go up 3-1.
Wolf only lasted through the fourth, hitting Matt Holliday to load the bases and getting pulled by Joe Torre with the score 3-2. But Jeff Weaver came in and got out of the jam. The Dodgers ended up grinding out another run in the fifth, with Furcal capping off an 11-pitch at-bat against Carpenter with a sacrifice fly. 4-2 Dodgers, and Carpenter was done after five innings and 105 pitches.
Thereon out it was a battle of the bullpens; each team ended up using five relievers. Ronald Belisario got the Dodgers' only 1-2-3 inning of the night in the sixth, while Kyle McClellan plunked Russell Martin on the shoulder to force in a run. 5-2 Dodgers.
The Kevorkian Committee was mostly effective, with Hong-Chih Kuo smoking Troy Glaus with two on and two out in the seventh and George Sherrill sandwiching a Skip Schumaker HBP with two fly-ball outs. Torre brought in Jonathan Broxton in the eighth to face Albert Pujols (0-for-3, 2 IBB) and induced a groundout to Casey Blake.
Broxton made us squirm slightly in the ninth, allowing a run on a Ryan Ludwick single and a Mark DeRosa double, but struck out Rick Ankiel looking on a 100-mph fastball to end it. WHEW.
So on a day where the favorites (Phillies, Yankees) followed the script, the Dodgers ad libbed and beat their chief tormentors. It wasn't pretty; both teams stranded a combined 30 men on base, a new playoff record. (Congrats!) Still, as we said a million times in the Game Thread, I'll take it. Any comments, Karl "Cardinals in 3" Ravech? Kevin "Cardinals in 3" Baxter (thanks, TBLA!)?
Kemp photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images