NL Notebook

Comeback Bid Starts With 'Getting Away'

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre addresses reporters, a task he relieved his players of performing.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre addresses reporters, a task he relieved his players of performing. (By Morry Gash -- Associated Press)
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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 14 -- So daunting is the challenge, Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre asked his team, at least for a day, to not even think about it. The Dodgers are trailing Philadelphia 3-1 in the NL Championship Series and still reeling from the late-inning loss to the Phillies in Game 4, so Torre on Tuesday told his players to stay away from the ballpark and "just get their thoughts back."

He canceled the scheduled off-day batting practice, and freed them of media obligations.

"I just thought getting away from it would probably benefit them more than anything else," said Torre, noting that "guys were down" following Monday's defeat.

The player most likely to benefit from the step away is Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles' 24-year-old ace-in-the-making who in Game 2 had the worst performance of his season. Billingsley gave up eight runs, seven earned, and couldn't complete the third inning. In that game, Torre noticed Billingsley sticking less to his usual tendencies, straining to be unpredictable. As Torre later interpreted it, Billingsley pitched as if overprepared.

Though Billingsley (16-10, 3.14 ERA in the regular season) dazzled in his first start in the first round against Chicago, his Game 2 outing against the Phillies marked his first appearance in a league championship. Wednesday night, the task grows even tougher: With the Dodgers facing elimination, Billingsley opposes Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels, who has a 2-0 record and a 2.57 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this year.

"It's pretty much do or die," Billingsley said.

Now Starring: Depth

The Phillies have gotten this far in the NLCS with almost no help from two of their key players. Through four games, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are a combined 5 for 33 (.152). The disappearance of those A-listers, of course, has opened room for less heralded contributors, and Game 4 was the best evidence yet that the Phillies run deeper than their most famous faces.

Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs both hit home runs. A deep bullpen shut down the Dodgers for the final three innings.

"We haven't necessarily been hitting the way we want to, but we're still in a position where we're one game away from the World Series," Howard said. "I think for myself and Jimmy, we're going to have our times. The good thing about it is, everybody else has kind of helped us out."

Pierre Sighting

Juan Pierre made his first start of the postseason in Game 4, replacing Matt Kemp in center field for Los Angeles.

Pierre, who signed a five-year, $44 million contract before the 2007 season, went 2 for 3 and scored a run in the 7-5 loss after going hitless in one at-bat in the Dodgers' first six playoff games.

Kemp entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth and drew a walk. He stayed in to play center field. Torre said Kemp will start Wednesday night.

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