Baseball

‘Outstanding’ Lee gives Phils 2-1 lead

PHILADELPHIA – Cliff Lee dominated the Dodgers, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth provided the big swings early and the Philadelphia Phillies cruised past Los Angeles, 11-0, Sunday night for a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.

Lee provided another brilliant playoff start, striking out 10 and allowing only three hits in eight innings.

“Cliff Lee, what can I say about him? He was absolutely outstanding,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Howard hustled for a triple, Werth homered and the Phillies led 6-0 by the second inning. Howard made two headfirst dives during the romp – the big slugger has an RBI in all seven of Philadelphia’s playoff games this year, a record streak in a single postseason.

Coming off the most-lopsided win in their postseason history, the defending World Series champion Phillies will try to move closer to a return trip in Game 4 tonight. Joe Blanton starts against the Dodgers’ Randy Wolf, who hasn’t pitched since the opener of the division series against St. Louis.

“You never want to get your rear end kicked,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “But you don’t toss and turn and wonder if you made the right move. It’s still only one game and we’re in position to tie the series tomorrow.”

The next two games in the best-of-seven series are set for Citizens Bank Park.

Howard had three RBI, including his two-run triple in the first. Werth followed that with a two-run homer, and that was more than enough for Lee.

The 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner faced just two batters over the minimum. Lee gave up a pair of singles to Manny Ramirez and one to Ronnie Belliard.

Lee hit a single in the eighth and scored on Shane Victorino’s three-run homer. Chad Durbin relieved to begin the ninth and pitched a hitless inning.

Lee is 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in three postseason starts, giving the Phillies exactly what they expected when they acquired him from Cleveland in late July.

“I don’t know if I ever doubted myself,” Lee said. “I always had confidence in myself.”

After wasting a brilliant performance by Pedro Martinez in Game 2, the Phillies jumped on Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda right from the start.

On a brisk 46-degree night — almost half the temperature at Dodger Stadium for Game 3 Friday — Philadelphia’s hitters had no trouble swinging hot bats. Every starter except Raul Ibañez had a hit and all nine starters scored a run.

Victorino’s home run to deep right field put an emphatic exclamation mark on the rout. The shot also made the Phillies the city’s highest-scoring team of the day — the Eagles lost, 13-9, to the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.

Making his first start in 20 days, Kuroda got only four outs. He allowed six runs and six hits. Torre chose Kuroda over Chad Billingsley even though Kuroda was unavailable for the first-round series against St. Louis because of a herniation in his cervical spine.

“I don’t second guess the decision,” Torre said after the game. “We made it on what we saw. The ball didn’t behave. That’s all I can tell you.”

A sellout crowd of 45,721 made Kuroda uncomfortable from the start. Fans waved their “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels and chanted “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” even before the first pitch was thrown.

Ramirez got an earful, too. Fans screamed “You took steroids!” before he struck out in the seventh inning.

Victorino, who exchanged words with Kuroda in the NLCS last year after a fastball buzzed his head, got things started in the first. Victorino singled with one out and stole second.

Chase Utley followed with a single. Howard then ripped a liner into the right-field corner to score both runners. The 255-pound slugger chugged around the bases and made a headfirst dive into third for his first career postseason triple.

“It was one of those things where I had to make up my mind,” Howard said. “Once I hit second, I was going for it.”

Werth made it 4-0 with a long drive that landed in the shrubs in almost straightaway center.

Carlos Ruiz started the second with a double and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ one-out double that chased Kuroda. Scott Elbert came in and walked Victorino and Utley. Howard’s RBI dribbler put the Phillies up 6-0. Howard made a headfirst dive into first on that play, too, trying to avoid the tag.

When the Phillies were in the field, all eyes were on Utley after he committed two costly throwing errors on double-play balls in the first two games.

Utley bounced his first throw to first base, but Howard made the scoop. But he made a couple of routine throws later and drew some cheers.

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