PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers recognized it was a problem as early as Game 1. By Game 5, they still hadn't corrected it.
Free baserunners were an enormous problem for Los Angeles pitchers throughout the National League Championship Series, but never more so than in Wednesday night's 10-4 loss to the Phillies that ended the team's season. Four walks and three hit batters played a huge role as starter Vicente Padilla and the Dodgers' bullpen couldn't keep the potent Philadelphia lineup in check.
It's hard enough to contain the Phillies when you don't give them extra baserunners. When you do, it's all but impossible.
Dodgers pitchers handed out 23 walks in the five-game series and hit five batters. That's 28 unearned baserunners in 42 2/3 innings, a ratio that simply will not do in May or June, never mind October. And what made it most maddening was that from the start of the series, manager Joe Torre identified it as an issue -- and yet it never got better. If anything, it got worse.
"Obviously, tonight we didn't pitch very well," Torre said after Wednesday's defeat. "Pitching is the name of the game. We kept passing around that No. 1 pitcher thing all year long, and I think we have a couple of guys in that clubhouse that certainly eventually will emerge as being capable of doing that stuff. But there was a lot of things learned this year. I think pitching is what's so important. I mean, tonight was a perfect example of coming in here and maybe trying to be too perfect or trying to be too good, and we just couldn't get the job done."
In Wednesday's series clincher, Dodgers pitchers walked four batters, a deceptively low number, because they hit three others. And as for the timing, well, the timing could scarcely have been worse.
Handed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Padilla retired the first two Philadelphia batters of the game. But then he lost the strike zone, issuing consecutive walks to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. That brought up Jayson Werth, who obliterated a 3-2 pitch, drilling it to right field for a three-run homer and a lead the Phillies would not relinquish.
"I lost a little bit of my control in the first and you can't do that against this team," Padilla said. "You make a mistake and they make you pay for it. I was a little bit out of the zone and there were consequences for it: three runs. It was a great experience all the way, except for today, but that is how it goes sometimes."
Three innings later, it was even uglier. Padilla was pulled after a single and an RBI double opened the inning. Reliever Ramon Troncoso issued a one-out walk, but after a sacrifice bunt, he had the chance to escape. He didn't. Troncoso hit Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. George Sherrill relieved Troncoso and hit Shane Victorino on a three-ball count for another Phillies run.
Clayton Kershaw hit Rollins with two outs in the sixth, and Victorino capitalized with a two-run home run. That was the shot that truly put the game out of reach, making it 8-3 and putting the Phillies fully in control.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.