LOS ANGELES | No debate here in the National League Championship Series.
The Philadelphia Phillies are heading to the World Series after closing out the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games Wednesday night with a 5-1 victory at Dodger Stadium.
Jimmy Rollins opened the game with a home run, and the Phillies never looked back.
They got another postseason gem from young ace Cole Hamels and took advantage of a nightmarish defensive meltdown by Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ usually sure-handed shortstop.
Furcal committed three errors in a decisive two-run fifth inning that put the Dodgers in a five-run hole. They never recovered.
LA suffered through another disappointing effort from 16-game winner Chad Billingsley, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings after a 2 1/3-inning outing in game two. He allowed three runs this time along with four hits and four walks.
Hamels, in contrast, limited the Dodgers to one run and five hits in seven innings before Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge closed out the victory. The pennant arrived when Nomar Garciaparra fouled out to catcher Carlos Ruiz.
The Phillies are heading to the World Series for the sixth time in their history, which dates to 1883 — or 20 years before the first Fall Classic. This is the Phillies’ first trip since 1993.
The Series starts next Wednesday in the American League city. Tampa Bay holds a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series, which resumes tonight in Boston.
Hamels was masterful as he has been all year. Don’t be fooled by his 14-10 record in the regular season. He posted a 3.09 ERA and, despite the Phillies’ abundant pop, got a loss or a no-decision in 10 of his 23 quality starts.
But he is now 3-0 in postseason after beating Milwaukee in the first game of the previous round before opening the NLCS with a victory.
The Dodgers had just four singles against Hamels before Manny Ramirez hit a two-out homer in the sixth. Ramirez finished the postseason at 13 for 25, including eight for 15 against the Phillies.
It was a terrific individual effort but didn’t come close to offsetting the Phillies’ balanced attack. The Dodgers won their first postseason series in 20 years by ousting the Cubs in the previous round but now head into an uncertain off-season.
The chief question: Can they retain Ramirez, a pending free agent who energized the club after arriving July 31 from the Boston?
The Phillies wasted no time in jumping on top. Rollins opened by game by tomahawking a full-count fastball over the right-field wall for just his third hit of the series.
Hamels gave up two singles in the second inning but induced an inning-ending, double-play grounder from Blake DeWitt.
The Phillies punished Billingsley for two walks in the third when Ryan Howard yanked a two-out RBI single through the right side of an overshifted infield. Pat Burrell followed with an RBI single that made it 3-0.
Billingsley never made it out of the inning.
A wild pitch moved Burrell to second but bounced back to catcher Russell Martin in time to prevent Howard from scoring. That prompted an intentional walk to Shane Victorino, which loaded the bases and finished Billingsley.
Chan Ho Park prevented further damage by retiring Pedro Feliz on a grounder to short.
The Phillies added two more runs in the fifth against Greg Maddux after Jayson Werth led off with a single. Chase Utley erased Werth with a fielder’s-choice grounder before Howard lashed a single to right.
Furcal booted Burrell’s sharp grounder for an error, and Utley kept running. Furcal then made a wild throw to the plate for a second error, which also put runners at second and third.
Maddux loaded the bases with an intentional walk but nearly stopped it there by striking out Feliz and getting Ruiz to hit a routine grounder to short.
Except Furcal, unbelievably, bounced the throw to first for his third error of the inning.
The Phillies led 5-0. The crowd of 56,800 cheered sarcastically when first baseman James Loney handled Hamels’ grounder without incident for the final out.
The Dodgers, urged on by a towel-waving Tommy Lasorda near the dugout, tried to answer in their fifth. Successive singles by Casey Blake and Matt Kemp re-stoked the crowd, but DeWitt kill the momentum by grounding into another double play.