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10/13/08 4:09 AM ET

Rough start sinks Moyer, Phils in LA

Lefty gives up six early runs as Dodgers gain momentum

LOS ANGELES -- Not a single punch was thrown during a third-inning, bench-clearing incident that stoked tensions between the Phillies and Dodgers.

Clenched fists weren't necessary. The Dodgers already had landed the knockout blow in the bottom of the first inning with a five-run outburst en route to a 7-2 victory Sunday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.

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It comes as no surprise to the Phillies, but the Dodgers sent a stern reminder that a series winner is very much undecided. The loss came before 56,800 at Dodger Stadium, the largest crowd ever at the NL's second-oldest park.

This isn't shocking to the Phillies, but the Dodgers sent a stern reminder that a series winner is very much undecided. While trimming the Phils' NLCS lead to 2-1, the Dodgers also generated momentum.

"They had all the momentum on their side out of the gate," Ryan Howard said. "They came out, got five runs early. In times like these, that's crucial."

"We knew it was going to be a tough environment," J.C. Romero said. "We expected them to give us a series. They have a very balanced team. Everybody knew the series wasn't going to be four games."

The Dodgers quickly took it to Jamie Moyer, scoring five runs off the soon-to-be 46-year-old, and forced him to the throw 35 pitches in the opening inning.

"He had a tough time," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "They came out swinging. They weren't taking many pitches. They hit some balls hard and also seemed like everything went through for a hit. We got behind quick."

Already being pelted, the Phillies swung back in the third inning. With two outs and nobody on, Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda knocked Shane Victorino down with a pitch behind his head, and the center fielder took exception.

He motioned to his side, appearing to suggest that if Kuroda was going to retaliate, he should lower his aim from the head.

By lasting just 1 1/3 innings in Game 3 on Sunday night, the Phillies' Jamie Moyer became the sixth pitcher since the Wild Card era began in 1995 to leave an NLCS game before completing two innings. The others:
Steve TrachselMetsCardinals2006 NLCS G31.0
Rick AnkielCardinalsMets2000 NLCS G20.2
Al LeiterMetsBraves1999 NLCS G60.0 (6 BF)
Todd StottlemyreCardinalsBraves1996 NLCS G51.0(+3)
Donovan OsborneCardinalsBraves1996 NLCS G70.2

"Someone was bound to get hit on our team," Victorino said. "We knocked down [Russell] Martin twice and threw behind [Manny Ramirez by] Brett [Myers on Friday]. The situation called for it. Just don't throw at my head. That's what I told Russell. I said, 'If you're going to hit me hit me, hit me anywhere else. That's all I ask. We'll leave it at that.'"

When the game resumed, Victorino grounded to first, ending the inning. Kuroda went to cover the base, and the two jawed again. Benches cleared, with Ramirez sprinting in from left field to join the scuffle.

Several Dodgers surrounded Ramirez and pushed him to the back of the crowd, before umpires separated the clubs. No one was ejected, though both benches were warned.

"It's part of the game, and it's over," said Romero, who played alongside Ramirez last season with the Red Sox. "We weren't trying to hit anybody. We weren't throwing at Manny's head [on Friday]. That's not the way we play. Brushing somebody back is one thing, but throwing at somebody's head is out of line."

Emotions aside, the Phillies' difficulties had already been identified. On the fifth pitch of Moyer's shortest outing in more than 10 years (July 4, 1998), Ramirez singled to left, scoring Rafael Furcal and putting himself and Andre Ethier on second and third, respectively.

Moyer then hit Martin on the knee, loading the bases with no outs and angering the Dodgers, who watched Game 2 starter Myers throw up and in to Martin and behind Ramirez's head two days earlier.

"I didn't do mine on purpose," Myers said, reiterating his stance. "I guess they thought I did. That was their opinion and they came back at us. We're definitely fighting each other out there to try and win. You definitely don't want to get anybody hurt. Fortunately, no one was hurt. We'll just come out and try to play clean baseball tomorrow."

Strikeouts sandwiched around a RBI single by Casey Blake had the veteran close to escaping with two runs allowed, but rookie Blake DeWitt laced a bases-clearing double into the right-field corner.

Dodgers 5, Phillies 0. Message received.

Philadelphia got a run back in the top of the second, but Moyer surrendered a solo homer to Furcal leading off the second. He left one out later. Only one other start in his career, on Aug. 11, 1986, while pitching for the Cubs, had Moyer allowed six or more runs in such a short outing.

That day, he allowed seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Pirates. On this day, he may have let the Dodgers back into the NLCS.

Home-field advantage has been a factor this season, with neither side winning a road game. The teams traded four-game sweeps in the regular season, and neither team has lost a home game in the postseason.

On a perfect, 72-degree October evening, with the palm trees of Elysian Park gently swaying, the Phillies find themselves in a series. They're still up, just not as comfortably.

The reality is still this: The Phillies are the 19th team to win the first two games of an NLCS and all but two of the previous 18 have ended up in the World Series. Only the '84 Cubs and the '85 Dodgers lost an NLCS after going up 2-0.

"Game 4 becomes pretty important for us," closer Brad Lidge said. "If they're able to take it, it makes the teams feel even. We don't want them feeling even right now. We want to still feel that we have the edge."

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