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October 17, 2009

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Phillies hold off Dodgers with barrage of homers in opener

THE Philadelphia Phillies held on for a 8-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday in a nail-biting opening game of the National League championship series.

In a rematch of last season's NLCS, the World Series champions Phillies slugged two three-run homers and used clutch relief pitching to take a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.

"This was definitely important to come in here and win the first game, especially starting on the road," Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez told reporters after hitting his first home run of the postseason. "Everyone on our team is playing for the same reason and that's to win. That's all that matters."

Catcher Carlos Ruiz hit a three-run blast in the fifth inning, where the Phillies scored five runs, and Ibanez added another three-run homer in the eighth to give the visitors an 8-4 lead.

The Dodgers answered with two runs in the eighth, but Philadelphia reliever Ryan Madson ended the rally when Manny Ramirez hit into a ground out with a runner in scoring position before Brad Lidge pitched the ninth to seal the win.

Lidge was perfect in save tries last season, but led the majors with 11 blown opportunities this year.

The Phillies took control of the game in the fifth, capitalizing on an erratic stretch from Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw, who allowed three walks and threw three wild pitches in the inning.

The 21-year-old was replaced shortly after, having allowed five runs and five walks.

Trailing 1-5, Los Angeles rallied behind its frenzied, towel-waving home crowd for three runs in the bottom of the fifth when Ramirez delivered a two-run homer to make it 5-4, extending his Major League Baseball-record for playoff home runs to 29.

The Dodgers then loaded the bases in the sixth to give themselves the opportunity of taking the lead but shortstop Rafael Furcal grounded out.

"We got outs when we had to," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We had enough to get by."

In a battle of bullpens, Philadelphia used seven pitchers to six by the Dodgers.

Starter Cole Hamels was credited with the win despite allowing four runs and two homers in 5 1/3 innings. Last year's World Series MVP has yet to find his postseason form of 2008.

The left-hander allowed a solo home run in the second inning to James Loney, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs and gave his team an early 1-0 edge.

Los Angeles maintained the lead until the fifth.

Game Two is today (Shanghai time) when Philadelphia will continue its quest to become the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees accomplished the feat in 1999 before adding a third a year later.

Los Angeles will start Vicente Padilla against Philadelphia's Pedro Martinez.

The Phillies won the first two games of their NLCS matchup with the Dodgers last season on the way to a 4-1 series triumph.

"We don't have anything to worry about," Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. "The way we bounced back in a number of innings, that's the attitude of this team."


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