Chess Match: Eighth proves pivotal

Chess Match: Eighth proves pivotal

LOS ANGELES -- Ryan Howard gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead with his fourth-inning home run Friday in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

That was pretty much the Phillies offense. The rest of the afternoon seemed to be all about the Dodgers trying to find a way to score a run and the Phillies trying to do everything they could to stop them.

The bottom of the eighth was most critical for both managers.

Staying with Padilla for one
The situation:
The Dodgers were down, 1-0, going into the bottom of the sixth when Russell Martin was hit by a pitch leading off the inning.


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The decision: Padilla was up next. Manager Joe Torre, playing for one run and a tie, left in Padilla to get the runner over with a bunt.

The outcome: Padilla did the job, moving Martin to second with a sacrifice back to Martinez. But the Dodgers couldn't get Martin home as Rafael Furcal and Kemp both flied out. Padilla still pitched a scoreless seventh before leaving with one out in the eighth.

The analysis: "Well, I'll tell you, he had pitched well for us, and then he went into St. Louis last week, and it's the first time he had ever pitched seven innings for us, and then today he winds up going deeper." -- Torre

To bunt or not to bunt
The situation:
The Dodgers, down 1-0, put the first two runners on base in the bottom of the eighth. Casey Blake led off with a single and Juan Pierre pinch-ran for him. Ronnie Belliard pushed a bunt past pitcher Chan Ho Park for another hit, giving the Dodgers runners at first and second with Russell Martin up.


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The decision: Torre had Martin bunting. The first three pitches were balls. Martin then took a strike and fouled a pitch off, running the count full. Torre then had Martin swing away.

The outcome: Martin hit a double-play ball right at third baseman Pedro Feliz. He got the force at second but Chase Utley was wild with his throw to first. Martin was safe and Pierre scored the tying run.

The analysis: "I know [bunting] is not something he's comfortable doing. We're going to have to attempt it in that situation where we get the tying run to third base and less than two out. He's working on it. In fact, when I shook his hand after the game, that was the one thing he said, he apologized for the bunt, or the lack of it." -- Torre

Left-wing conspiracy
The situation:
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel went to matchups trying to shut down the Dodgers in the eighth inning. He had a lead and needed three outs from his relievers after pulling starter Pedro Martinez.


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The decision: Manuel went to two left-handers for critical lefty-vs.-lefty matchups. After the Dodgers tied it on Utley's throwing error, they had Martin on first with one out. In that situation, Manuel went with Scott Eyre against pinch-hitter Jim Thome. Later, with the bases loaded, two outs and the game tied, he went with J.A. Happ against Andre Ethier.

The outcome: The Phillies' left-handers didn't get the job done. Thome singled to right, moving the go-ahead run to third base, and Ethier drew a bases-loaded walk to force that run home.

The analysis: "Ethier is hitting .194 off lefties, and I wanted Happ off him, especially in that situation. But even then I considered putting Happ on him in this situation because we had enough pitching in the bullpen. And also, like when Thome, Eyre comes in the game, Thome was 0-for-7 against him, and I like that on him. -- Manuel

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.