Stairs home run sends Phillies to Game 4 win
Victorino also goes deep in 7-5 victory to give Philadelphia 3-1 lead in NLCS
It was a prodigious blast that brought Phillies fans out of their seats at Dodger Stadium, in Philadelphia and across Canada.
With two out in the top of the eighth inning Monday night, Fredericton's Matt Stairs snapped a 5-5 tie with a pinch-hit, two-run home run over the fence in right field off Los Angeles relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton.
Closer Brad Lidge took care of the rest, recording the final four outs for his 46th save of the season in as many chances to seal a 7-5 Phillies win and 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Broxton tried to throw a 3-1 fastball past Stairs, and the 40-year-old left-handed hitter drove it halfway up the right-field pavilion.
"I try to swing for the fences," said Stairs, who resides in Bangor, Maine. "That's what I've done my whole career. I was very fortunate to square one up tonight."
Stairs's first hit of the 2008 playoffs was also the first homer of his post-season career and third with Philadelphia in 19 games since he arrived in an Aug. 29 trade from the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was also the first four-bagger allowed by Broxton at Dodger Stadium since July, 2006. He surrendered only two homers in 69 innings during the regular season.
The Phillies hit an NL-leading 214 homers in the regular campaign, and have nine in eight post-season games, good for 17 of their 35 runs.
It was the first time the visiting team has won a game in 12 meetings between the teams this year.
The Phillies, who improved their record to 85-0 this season, including the playoffs, when leading after eight innings, could clinch their first World Series berth since 1993 with a victory Wednesday at Dodger Stadium (5:07 p.m. PT).
Lefty ace Cole Hamels, who won the series opener, will be opposed by Game 2 loser Chad Billingsley.
"We keep fighting," Phillies centre-fielder Shane Victorino said. "We keep plugging along."
Eleven teams in baseball history have come back from 3-1 deficits to win a best-of-seven post-season series — two in the NLCS.
Victorino strikes again
Three batters before Stairs went deep, Victorino erased a 5-3 Phillies deficit with a two-run home run off Dodgers rookie reliever Cory Wade into the right-field bullpen.
Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said he wouldn't have handled his bullpen any differently.
"We just didn't get the job done," he said. "Cory Wade's numbers against left-handed hitters this year have been really good. He threw a breaking ball and it stayed up and Shane just knocked the hell out of it."
Nicknamed the Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino made headlines in a 8-5 Game 2 win with four runs batted in and in Game 3 Sunday when he exchanged words with Hideki Kuroda after the Los Angeles starter threw a pitch over his head.
Slugger Manny Ramirez gave Dodgers fans a glimmer of hope on Monday with a two-out double off Lidge in the bottom of the eighth, but Russell Martin of East York, Ont., struck out to end the inning.
Down 3-2 in the sixth, Philadelphia drew even on a Chan Ho Park wild pitch that allowed Ryan Howard to score from third base.
But the Dodgers scored twice in the bottom of the frame on a Casey Blake home run — his first since Sept. 16 — and a Howard throwing error to go ahead 5-3.
With one out and the bases loaded, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley made the defensive play of the game, snaring a Martin liner and diving to touch second base to double up Rafael Furcal.
Jimmy Rollins singled off Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe to start the game, took third base on Jayson Werth's hit-and-run single and scored when Utley doubled on an 0-2 pitch. Werth came home on Howard's infield out to make it 2-0, and Pat Burrell walked before Victorino grounded into an inning-ending double play.
After the Dodgers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning against Phillies starter Joe Blanton, they went ahead with a pair of runs in the fifth.
Ramirez singled home Furcal to make it 2-2 and Andre Ethier crossed the plate on a Martin groundout.
Lowe, pitching on three days' rest for the fifth time in his career, allowed six hits and two runs in five innings. Blanton also went five innings, giving up seven hits and three runs.
With files from the Associated Press