In a 3-1 hole, Los Angeles turns to unlikely savior Padilla in Game 5
On paper, the Dodgers look like an even match for the Phillies
Manny Ramirez's latest head-shaking moment could affect the clubhouse
Joe Torre decided to go with Vicente Padilla's experience and recent performance
PHILADELPHIA -- Wherever Joe Torre went when his team arrived at Citizen's Bank Park on Saturday, he saw it. When he went to the weight room, it was on the treadmill. When he went to his office, it was cued up on the television on his desk. If Torre had successfully blocked out his Yankees' 2004 American League Championship Series collapse to the Red Sox, Dodgers first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, a first baseman on that Boston team, made sure he was reminded of it when the team got to Philadelphia. At the time, it was meant as playful payback for Torre recently watching Aaron Boone's home run that beat the Red Sox in 2003, but now it serves as a potent, if somewhat unpleasant, reminder that compared to Torre's situation in '04, the Dodgers are in a relatively comfortable 3-games-to-1 hole to the Phillies in this season's NLCS.
Both Torre and Mientkiewicz were able to laugh about the incident on Tuesday. Torre said "turnabout is fair play" and Mientkiewicz joked that he merely wanted to remind Torre that he had decided to pitch to David Ortiz in Game 5 that year, rather than face Mientkiewicz with the game on the line. "The fact that he did is probably pretty telling that we're both in different uniforms now," Mientkiewicz joked.
The Dodgers don't have much else they can laugh about at the moment. After coming within one out of a win on Monday night only to see it vaporize in the cool Philadelphia air with Jimmy Rollins' double against Jonathan Broxton, the Dodgers are suddenly very much in danger of losing a series many thought they would win, and that they themselves thought they should win. On paper, they are an even match in many ways for the Phillies, but as Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson said Wednesday, "Paper's easier. I wish we could play against paper all day long."
To send the series back to southern California, the Dodgers must do three things:
1. Get much more production throughout a lineup that is batting just .233/.286/.318, especially leadoff man Rafael Furcal (.125 average, .167 on-base percentage) and Manny Ramirez, who has hit .250 and whose only extra-base hit came in Game 1.
2. Find a way to get their once-vaunted bullpen -- which has played leading roles in two of their losses in this series -- back to its previously overpowering self.
3. Hope that Vicente Padilla can summon his unlikely October magic one more time.
They also must hope that the latest head-shaking example of Manny Being Manny will have no residual effect on their close-knit clubhouse. That Manny Ramirez lives in his own world should come as a shock to absolutely no one. And so the news that Ramirez was in the shower while Rollins was being showered with affection from the fans and bear hugs from his teammates following his game-winning double in Game 4 should be equally unsurprising. This, after all, is the same Ramirez who two years and two days ago said about the chances of coming back from an identical 3-games-to-1 deficit in the League Championship Series, "It doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world."
Even by Ramirez's normally selfish standards, not watching a critical game, much less not being with your teammates in the dugout while it's happening, is highly disappointing. One Dodger went wide-eyed upon hearing the news on Tuesday, but Ramirez is only taking quite literally the request he made of Torre when he came to Los Angeles in July of 2008 and said all he wanted to do was play baseball and go home. Ramirez is exactly the kind of unique personality that Torre has made his reputation on -- managing these types so effectively that their transgressions don't consume the rest of the team, and he attempted to do so again on Tuesday. "When we get a lead late in the game, and I've taken him out, whether it be for defense or we have a big lead, when we go up to shake hands after the game, he's in his street clothes," Torre said. "So it's really nothing different than he's done before. I don't think it's disrespect or anything."
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