LAS VEGAS, LOS ANGELES - After a very long day that started at home and wound its way through Nevada and then into California, I was not terribly confident the Phillies bullpen could get 11 outs before they allowed a run or more. More runs, of course, could render the thought moot.
Reliever George Sherrill had given up exactly two runs in 27 2/3 innings since the Dodgers got him from the Orioles. On a wild night when not a lot made a lot of sense, the Phillies got three runs in the eighth off Sherrill before he got an out. Raul Ibanez got the Phils' second three-run homer of the game, and what looked like white knuckle time turned into an 8-6 win in Game 1 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium.
Larry Bowa had it exactly right. The Phils went 0, 0, 0, 0, 5 and then 0, 0, 3. And that was too much for a Dodgers team that had seven really well-pitched innings and two innings when the Phillies lit them up.
The Phillies also got clutch relief pitching from Chan Ho Park, stifling the Dodgers for one inning, pitching for the first time since injuring his hamstring late in season.
"He must have been taking some good Korean ancient herbs [while injured]," said closer Brad Lidge. "He looked as good as he ever has."
Said Park: "Today was really exciting, because it's been a long time . . . I've been pitching mentally. I kept imagining myself pitching."
A very long day, indeed
They will then draw a bill out of the bag. The person in the seat number on the bill will get all the cash. My kind of action.
I consider dropping a few bills with 5D on them, but choose to play it straight. By the time they are done, $112 is collected. And they draw 18E.
It is an omen. After bypassing the slot machines in the Vegas airport and getting ready for the short flight to Burbank, we are informed that the flight is canceled.
"Maintenance," we are told.
The plane seemed fine when it got to the gate moments before the cancellation.
Not to be cynical, but I think the flight I am supposed to be on had very few people on it, so they figured they could cram everybody on the next one. So they do.
Why am I writing about airports? Well, our esteemed executive sports editor Josh Barnett told me he wanted me to write an early "Spin." How early?
Must be done by 9:45 p.m., which might get us to the fifth inning.
And we have enough people writing baseball anyway.
I migrate up the concourse from C-24 to C-4 for the next flight to Burbank, just 70 minutes later than the original. Not bad in the bizarro world of air travel. And the game doesn't start for 4 1/2 hours. I might be the first one there.
I go from A-20 boarding priority to B-50. So much for my $10 early-bird fee enabling me to get on at the start of the sequence.
While minding my own business next to the B-50 sign, I hear a voice behind me, disdainfully say: "Dodgers in 7."
I turn around to see several Phillies fans who obviously read the Daily News' special section on the NLCS. I picked the Dodgers, the lone dissenter among my colleagues.
As we get on the plane, I ask the man his name to see whether he wants to get some run in the DN. He declines, but the point has been made. Do not mess with Phils fans in the postseason. Or any time, really.
As the forward door is closed, the flight attendant announces the time for our short flight over to "Sacramento."
Have I slipped into some alternative universe?
After some quick grumbling by passengers near the front, the flight attendant says she is going to Sacramento after we stop in Burbank.
She then starts to sing that we "have been cleared for departure."
Why then do I see a plane in front of ours ready to get onto our runway? Oh, well. We are off quickly enough.
I glance out the window, see the Bellagio fountains, Steve Wynn's monument to himself, the Eiffel Tower, the skyscrapers of New York and a pyramid. Alternate universe, indeed.
The captain says we will be arriving ahead of schedule, which means I am not really that far behind schedule. As we make the final approach into Bob Hope Airport, I see that Interstate 5 South is wide open.
The car is ready. I am in Pasadena in 20 minutes. Bags are dropped in the hotel. Windbreakers are changed.
If you ever are going to Dodger Stadium, stay in Pasadena. It's a lovely town with a wonderful park, shops, no shortage of nice restaurants and the Rose Bowl. The Pasadena Freeway, a straight shot south to Chavez Ravine, ends there so you generally encounter very little traffic.
Somehow, I arrive at the media gate at exactly 3:07 p.m. Pacific Time, 2 hours before game time.
And after never visiting in Dodger Stadium, I am back for the third time in 8 days. Only this time the Phillies decide to come with me.
Glorious is the one-word description of the view from the Top Deck entrance to the stadium. You can see forever on a clear day. A little bit of haze is lingering, but I have gained 40 degrees in 3,000 miles.
And there are certainly not 2 inches of snow as in Central Pennsylvania. Really, Oct. 15. Snow?
The surrounding San Gabriels sometimes get a bit of snow, but it does not get down into the ravines, Chavez or otherwise.
Did you know the Dodgers had a team translator? Makes sense. They have players from every country except Luxembourg.
Why is Shane Victorino getting picked off before Ryan Howard ever sees a pitch, right after Chase Utley crushed one . . .
Why are there pockets of empty seats in the first two innings? I-5 is just outside one of the gates. Rush hour. Baseball. Freeways . . .
James Loney blasts a 2-1 pitch from Kid Cole between the 360 and 375 signs in rightfield for a second-inning home run. The pitch exemplifies Hamels' problem all year. Too many meatballs.
The Phillies are having trouble getting runners against the Dodgers' kid lefty, Clayton Kershaw. The Phillies finally get a second hit in the fifth. Kershaw throws a wild pitch. He can't find the strike zone. The Phillies threaten. And Mr. October, a k a Carlos Ruiz, crushes one into the leftfield pavilion. Phils lead, 3-1.
Kershaw throws two more wild pitches, setting the LCS record for WPs in an inning. So good for so long, he is completely losing it. Why does Joe Torre let him pitch to Howard with two men on? A two-run rocketing double to right ends Kershaw's night.
Last year, this game would be so over. This is not last year.
A potential inning ending doubleplay in the bottom half ends up with Utley throwing the ball into the dugout. Manny Ramirez hits one halfway to Santa Monica.
The teams get one run in four innings and eight runs in the fifth inning. Baseball really is a funny game.
The Phils put up that second crooked number and that was that.
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Everybody is getting bored on my very long (headwinds) Southwest flight to Las Vegas on the way to Burbank on the way to Pasadena and eventually Dodger Stadium. The flight attendants do the only sensible thing. They tell everybody to take out a dollar bill, write their seat number on it and put in a large bag as they come down the aisle.