Long before the largest crowd in Dodger Stadium history finished filing in for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, the home team put on an offensive spectacle that all but sealed its outcome. Within five pitches, the Dodgers had produced three hits and a run off Jamie Moyer, jolting the crowd into a frenzy.
And that much was merely an offensive introduction. By the time the Dodgers finished batting, they had sent nine men to the plate and scored five times off Moyer. And by the time rookie Blake DeWitt capped things with a three-run triple, the Dodgers had amassed all the runs they would need.
"It was an unusual first inning," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Unusually productive for the Dodgers, and unusually damaging for Moyer. It began three pitches in, when Rafael Furcal grounded a single through the left side, and continued one pitch later, when Andre Ethier grounded one into right field. Then, on Moyer's next pitch -- the third consecutive one put into play -- Manny Ramirez laced a single into left field, plating Furcal and giving the Dodgers their third straight early lead.
The fear at Dodger Stadium, of course, was that Moyer might regroup -- he's done so before. So what happened next proved critical. Moyer hit Russell Martin with a pitch to load the bases, and the next batter, Nomar Garciaparra, sent a potential grand slam just yards foul down the left-field line. He eventually struck out, but Casey Blake singled home another run and then, with two outs, DeWitt drilled a three-run triple into the right-field corner.
The rally was complete, and the Dodgers stood clutching a 5-0 lead.
"It's one of those at-bats you can't strike out," DeWitt said. "You've got to put the ball in play, and I'm lucky it got in there."
|Jamie Moyer became the sixth pitcher in postseason history to give up at least six runs while starting a game but not pitching more than 1 1/3 innings. The others:|
|Date||Pitcher||Tm.||Opp.||IP, H, R|
|BOS||NYG||1.0, 7H, 6R|
|10/4/79||David Frost||CAL||BAL||1.1, 5, 6|
|10/12/88||Ron Darling||NYM||LAD||1.0, 6, 6|
|10/17/96||Donovan Osborne||STL||ATL||0.2, 5, 6|
|10/08/00||Gil Heredia||OAK||NYY||0.1, 4, 6|
|10/12/08||Jamie Moyer||PHI||LAD||1.1, 6, 6|
Yet Moyer indicated that the hit wasn't entirely luck.
"It was right down the middle of the plate," he said.
Things only grew worse for Moyer in the second inning, when Furcal led off with a solo home run. And unwilling to fall any deeper into a hole, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel yanked his most experienced veteran from the game one batter later.
"It wasn't his night," Manuel said in explanation.
"It's playoff baseball," Moyer said. "He's got to do what he thinks he needs to do."
Sunday's outburst wasn't entirely surprising, considering the Dodgers' much-improved offensive showing in Game 2. But the fact that five of the team's seven runs came in one early clump seemed downright shocking -- especially against Moyer. Though he lost his only other playoff start last week, Moyer entered October on perhaps his best run of the season -- winning six straight decisions, and nine of his last 10.
But with a chance to win his first postseason start in seven years on Sunday night, Moyer instead endured his shortest outing since July 4, 1998, when the Mariners yanked him from a game after one inning.
"He had a tough time tonight," Manuel said. "They came out swinging on him. They were not taking very many pitches. They hit some balls hard, and it also seemed like everything they hit went through for a hit."
That much was a problem. In a complete departure from the strategy the Brewers used against Moyer last week -- taking pitches to the tune of three walks in four innings -- the Dodgers swung at three of Moyer's first five pitches. They jumped at nearly every pitch close to the strike zone, attempting to knock him out of the game as quickly as possible.
Which is precisely what they did.
"He's a pitcher that definitely needs to get the count in his favor, and then he tries to expand the zone," Martin said. "We were just being aggressive and he was throwing hittable pitches early in the count, and we just jumped on them."
"They're not going to roll over," Moyer said. "We didn't expect that going into tonight's game, we didn't expect that at the beginning of the series. So we certainly don't expect it when they're here in their home ballpark."
DeWitt's hit, Torre said, was the "back-breaker," and Moyer agreed. Aside from plating three runs, DeWitt's triple changed the complexion of Sunday's game by reducing Moyer's margin of error to zero. It ensured that he would have no chance to salvage his start. It ensured that the Dodgers would head home with a chance to tie the series on Monday. And it ensured that a rookie infielder would take his place in the Hollywood spotlight.
"It's unbelievable," DeWitt said. "That's why you put in all the work to get yourself into situations like this. So I had a blast."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.