Chess Match: Bold moves in clincher
Torre pulls starter just in time; Manuel stays with ace long enough
LOS ANGELES -- As befitting a deciding game, Wednesday night's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series featured plenty of tension throughout the evening, even when the Phillies jumped out to a healthy lead. With the season and the pennant on the line, every decision takes on added scrutiny and significance.
The moves started early, and they kept going throughout the night. Here's a look at some of the decisions that defined the game's turning points.
Hit the showers
The situation: Starter Chad Billingsley allows three walks (one intentional) and two hits in a two-run third inning, putting the Dodgers in a 3-0 hole.
The decision: Manager Joe Torre lifted Billingsley, his best pitcher, after eight outs.
The outcome: Reliever Chan Ho Park got a groundout from Pedro Feliz, ending the third. Philadelphia tacked on two unearned runs in the fifth, but overall, the Dodgers' bullpen did an exceptional job.
The analysis: Sing along with Chess Match: You have to be aggressive in October. It was absolutely the right move to pull Billingsley quickly. You can't wait for a pitcher, even your best starter, to right the ship. You have to stop the bleeding.
Stand by your men
The situation: Two of the first three Phillies hitters reach base in the seventh inning, bringing up the bottom third of the order against Dodgers reliever James McDonald.
The decision: Manager Charlie Manuel let both Feliz and Carlos Ruiz hit for themselves.
The outcome: Feliz struck out and Ruiz grounded out, and the Phillies didn't add any more runs.
The analysis: This was a chance to go for the throat, and Manuel passed on it. With dangerous pinch-hitters such as Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs and Geoff Jenkins available off the bench, it would have been wise to try for the extra runs. Manuel clearly didn't want to give up the defensive advantages of both regulars, but another couple of runs could have put the game out of reach.
It's his game
The situation: Trailing, 5-1, in the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers threaten. After a fly ball all the way to the wall by Casey Blake, both Matt Kemp and Nomar Garciaparra draw walks, bringing up Jeff Kent.
The decision: Manuel stuck with his ace, Cole Hamels, rather than call on Ryan Madson to get Kent out.
The outcome: For the eighth time in as many meetings with Hamels, Kent was retired. He struck out for the second at-bat in a row, ending the threat.
The analysis: It's evident that the head-to-head record held some sway, because otherwise, Madson looked like the right call. Two well-hit balls and two walks in the inning indicated that Hamels was fading a bit, and Madson has been superb. But Kent doesn't appear to have any read at all on Hamels, and the lefty exploited that once again.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.