Kuroda Carrying Dodgers Hopes in Game 3

Hiroki Kuroda never experienced a season like this. The 34-year-old right-hander will be making his third career post-season start tonight (Sunday) in what has turned out to be the most crucial game of the series after a season of ups and downs that rivals the Dow Jones Index.

After winning the opening game of the season, Kuroda suffered an oblique strain that cost him two months. When he recovered, he was hit in the head by a line drive that cost him three weeks. And set to make a final tuneup for the post season, he came up with a small disk herniation in his cervical spine while running in San Diego and was scrubbed from that start.

He was left off the Division Series roster and for the third time fought back to so impress manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt with a start in the Arizona Fall League he not only gained a spot on the Championship Series roster, but a starting spot.

The Dodgers inability to hit with runners on base in the opening game loss, and the incredible comeback in game two that evened the series 1-1 had reduced things to a best of five series, with Philadelphia uniquely enough gaining the home field advantage in the first three games.

A Dodgers loss in game three would necessitate their winning three of the final four games, two which would be in Philadelphia and two of them at home. However, winning one of the three road games would bring the series back home where they seem to be a different team. And the Phillies were only 45-36 at home this season.

Not only that, the forecast is for 42 degrees and showers -- weather more conducive to a late-season professional football game.

The club will be provided hoodie sweats with "Division Champions" on the front and players will in all likelyhood be wearing Nike tights which wick the moisture off the body, are thinner and can be worn under their uniforms. Trainers will provide mini heat packs that the players can put in their pockets to keep their hands warm.

Torre feels that cold weather favors the pitcher. "I remember Bob Gibson pitching in San Francisco. We used to watch it and enjoy it, especially when you're on his side, because nobody wanted to hit against him."

But of course nobody wanted to hit against him when it was warm either.

"Hitting is tougher," Torre continued. "If it gets really cold, then all of a sudden the ball becomes a little slicker and you may not be able to have the command you'd like to have, especially if you're a touch-and-feel guy. So it affects both, but I don't know of any hitter that really enjoys hitting in cold weather."

Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard was all smiles. "It's back to our weather and our crowd," he said. "It's going to be fun being in front of our fans again."

During is interrupted season, Kuroda made 20 starts, was 8-7 with a 3.76 earned run average but was better on the road, recording a 6-3, 3.55 mark. He was 2-0 in the 2008 post-season, collecting the Dodgers only win against the Phillies.

His mound opponent will be left-hander Cliff Lee, who made 34 starts and was 14-13 with a 3.22 earned run average. He was lights-out against Colorado in the first round, winning both starts and posting a 1,10 earned run average. Lee had handed Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Ethier very well this season, holding them to a combined 1-for-10.

The key is again getting Lee out of the game as soon as possible and getting into the Phillies bullpen. That has been the modus operandi most of the season and it has served them well.

Manny Ramirez is confident, but when isn't he?

"We won, and in the playoffs, everything is about winning," Ramirez said. "We showed that we never give up and we are going to go over there and play hard for nine innings. We only need three more wins to do something special. We are going to keep going and see what happens."

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