Wait 'Till Next Year 2.008

It wasn't your ordinary night at Dodger Stadium. Another record-tying crowd stayed to the bitter end, and longer, as the Cinderella Dodgers heard the clock strike midnight and left the ball and the World Series to a Philadelphia team that was more experienced and in his series, much the better team. Some of them spent a long time watching a team in red celebrate on their field after a 5-1 loss.

. The Dodgers hopes that young Chad Billingsley would regain his mid-season form and take the series back to Philadelphia went up in smoke when he was knocked out of the game in the third inning. He left trailing 3-0 and the Phillies had all the runs they needed this night.

It was a bitter night for the Dodgers, and it was particularly difficult for their two middle infielders. Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who became only the second player in playoff history to make three errors in one inning, and second baseman Blake DeWitt, who hit into successive double plays to kill two of the three potential rallies allowed by Philadelphia pitching.

The only consistent Dodger horse the club could ride on, Manny Ramirez, homered in the sixth to end NLCS MVP Cole Hamels' shutout bid. And it might have been his final game with the Dodgers.

The slugging left fielder, who hit a stunning .533 with four homers, 10 RBIs and 11 walks in eight playoff games, can become a free agent after the World Series. He batted .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 regular-season games for the Dodgers after being acquired July 31 from Boston and catalyzed their final title surge.

The devil-may-care outfielder carried the Dodgers into the playoffs, stretching the season out an additional eight games and finished his 2008 season, over 61 games, hitting .410 with 21 home runs and driving in 63 runs.

Some media-types are still hung up what he did or didn't do in Boston but the paying customers who crammed into Dodger Stadium over the final two months could clearly see what he had done for a .500 team and filled the night with the chant, "Manny stay, Manny stay."

Manager Joe Torre came up short of the World Series title he wanted so badly after being shuffled out the door in New York. He took a strange mix of veterans and youth, talented all, deep into the postseason again. Torre won four World Series in his first five years as manager of the Yankees and although he took them to the postseason dance, he never won another.

After the game he said, "John Wooden told me that it isn't always your winning team that makes you the proudest. I was proud to be the manager of this team.

A two-strike first-inning home run in the first inning off Chad Billingsley, the 16-game winner who led the team down the stretch, was the clincher. He could never find his command in the NLCS, lasting only a bit over two innings in each of his two starts and losing both.

As the Dodgers packed and left the clubhouse for the final time this season, telling each other, "have a good winter, we'll see you next year," they must have realized that this club, flawed from the beginning, went farther than any one expected and that many of the faces they promised to see "next year" won't be in the Dodger Blue uniform they had grown so accustomed to.

Ominous Start
Billingsley gave the late-arriving crowd a jolt when he went 0-2 on leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, then slipped to 3-2 before Rollins tagged a high fastball that just cleared the right field fence and fell in front of the seats for a 1-0 lead.

Billingsley walked Jayson Werth and Chase Utley grounded to James Loney at first who tagged the bag and threw to first. Utley slid in hard and caught Rafael Furcal's ankle twisting it. Raffy limped around for a time but stayed in the game, obviously in pain.

In the bottom of the second, Loney and Matt Kemp singled with one out but Blake DeWitt hit into a double play, ending the inning for the third time in his last four at-bats over two games and leaving his 13th runner on base in the series.

Billingsley worked a scoreless second and walked a pair before Ryan Howard grounded a single into right field just past the glove of a diving Loney to dive in the second run. Pat Burrell looped a single to right to make it 3-0. A wild pitch eluded Martin but the field has been cut down so much to install premium box seats, the ball hit the backstop and bounced right back to Russell, holding Howard at third.

Shane Victorino walked and that was enough for manager Joe Torre and he brought Chan Ho Park in from the bullpen. For the second start in succession, Billingsley was unable to get out of the third. Pedro Feliz hit Park's first pitch to Furcal to end the inning.

Greg Maddux, the winningest active pitcher in baseball, took over in the fourth inning then in the fifth, the game unraveled and so did Furcal. Some felt it was an insult to Maddux to work him out of the bullpen but after the game he said, "I was privileged to help in any way I could."

Maddux had no trouble in the fourth, retiring three in a row, two on strikeouts. Then the killing fifth inning started with a leadoff single and a force play for the first out. Ryan Howard singled to put runners at first and third -- and the nightmare swung into full view.

Pat Burrell hit an apparent double play ball to Furcal. He backhanded it but the ball slipped out of his glove and he accidentally kicked it into short left field as one run scored. Then Furcal threw wildly to the plate but the runners could only move to second and third.

Maddux walked Victorino to load the bases, then fanned Feliz for his third strikeout of the night. Carlos Ruiz hit a second ground ball to Furcal and this time he threw into the dirt at first and Loney could only block the ball as Howard scored. Hamels bounced out to end the inning. Three errors, two runs, Phillies led 5-0 and most realized the party was over.

The Dodgers had their last, best chance in the last of the fifth. Casey Blake and Matt Kemp singled with none out. DeWitt then hit into his second double play of the night and Jeff Kent, pinch-hitting for Maddux, struck out.

Ramirez got the Dodgers on the scoreboard for the first and last time with a log home run into the right field seats in the sixth inning. Shane Victorino, miked in the Phillies dugout, kept asking "How does he do that?"

Young James McDonald took over for Maddux and worked two more scoreless innings, the sixth and seventh, allowing a walk and a single.

In the last of the seventh, Kemp and Nomar Garciaparra, hitting for McDonald, walked and with two out, Kent struck out again.

Ramirez came up for the fourth time in the game in the eighth, again with the bases empty and singled. Martin bounced out on a checked swing to end the inning.

Loney singled to open the ninth but Blake, Kemp and Garciaparra went out in order to end the game, the series and the season.

Wait 'til next year.

 Score by innings
Philadelphia	102 020 000-5
Los Angeles	000 010 000-1

 Los Angeles	   ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	   4  0  0  0  .211	
Ethier rf	   4  0  0  0  .227
Ramirez lf	   3  1  2  1  .533
Martin c	   4  0  0  0  .118
Loney 1b	   4  0  2  0  .438
Blake 3b	   4  0  1  0  .263
Kemp cf	           3  0  2  0  .333
DeWitt 2b	   2  0  0  0  .077
 McDonald p	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Garciaparra ph-3b 1  0  0  0  .429
Billingsley p	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Park p	           0  0  0  0  .000
 Ozuna ph	   1  0  0  0  .000
 Maddux p	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Kent 2b	   2  0  0  0  .000
 Beimel p	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p        	   0  0  0  0  .000
 Kuo p        	   0  0  0  0  0.00  
  Totals	   32 1 7 1
  Philadelphia	   35 5 8 3

 Error- Furcal 3 (3). HR- Ramirez (2),
RBI- Ramirez (7). LOB- Los Angeles 7,
Philadelphia 9. DP- Loney and Furcal;
 Blake, Furcal and Loney.

 Los Angeles	        in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (0-2)	2.2  4  3-3  3  4 18.00
Park        	        0.1  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
Maddux        	        2.0  2  2-0  1  3  0.00
McDonald	        2.0  1  0-0  1  2  0.00
Beimel	                0.1  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
Wade        	        0.2  0  0-0  0  0  4.91
Kuo        	        1.0  0  0-0  0  0  0.00
 WP- Billingsley. T- 3:14. Att- 56,800.
No Gold Watch
There was no ceremonies for three veteran Dodgers, no goodbye party or gold watch. Baseball just doesn't work that way for the most part and we may have seen the last of Greg Maddux, Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent in Dodger Blue. After the loss, the team scattered into the night and these three, undoubtedly three of the greatest players of our time might have gone home for good.

But baseball is a long-term memory thing and we'll try to erase the images of the way they went out.

For perhaps the last time, Maddux wove his magic, topping the slugging Phillies with an 83 mph fastball, a little curve and a slider that none of them could get a bat on very solidly. We'll forget who was on the mound when a courageous Rafael Furcal continued to play on a very sore ankle and made three runs in a single inning to allow the final, killing two runs.

Kent, who has an appointment with the Hall of Fame, watched his young replacement hit into two killing double plays, then late in the game he struck out twice, leaving three runners on base.

Garciaparra will be remembered for his clutch, game-ending home runs and his complex routine of checking his batting gloves before every pitch, not for fouling out for the Dodgers' final out in perhaps his final season.

We'll remember them, but not this way.

Dodgers Blue Notes --On this date in 1988, an injured Kirk Gibson hit a two-run homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium to give Los Angeles a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series over Oakland. The homer was later voted the Top Moment in Los Angeles Sports History but there was no such magic on this night. ...The 81-year-old Lasorda, now a member of the Dodgers' front office, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. His granddaughter, Emily, threw one as well. ...Ramirez extended his streak of getting at least one RBI in league championship series games to nine with his sixth-inning homer.                

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