Padilla rises to occasion in Game 2
Righty keeps Dodgers close, doesn't figure in decision
LOS ANGELES -- The home team was trailing, but the crowd at Dodger Stadium felt it was the right moment to unleash one of its loudest cheers of the game on Thursday.
Joe Torre had just pulled starter Vicente Padilla from the game, and the right-hander turned in an effort that would have earned a win on pretty much any other day. On a hot, sticky day -- the game-time temperature was 93 degrees -- Padilla was ice cold on the mound.
Padilla gave up just one run on four hits in 7 1/3 innings against a Philadelphia lineup that unloaded for two homers and eight runs the previous night. And the fans rewarded Padilla's performance with a raucous standing ovation as he tipped his cap and walked to the dugout.
"He's been tremendous," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said after the Dodgers' 2-1 comeback win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. "He just has nerves of steel out there. He doesn't get rattled.
"The game never really speeds up for him. It seems like he's able to keep his composure."
That was evident given how well Padilla pitched despite working with little margin for error. With the way Pedro Martinez channeled his past dominance, one mistake could have been the difference between a win and a loss.
And save one at-bat -- Ryan Howard's fourth-inning solo home run -- Padilla matched Martinez zero for zero on the scoreboard.
"I was very emotional," Padilla said of facing someone like Martinez in the postseason. "Obviously, he's one of the best pitchers that there is, and I have a lot of respect for him."
Padilla managed to keep the Philadelphia batters off-balance by mixing his fastball, slider, sinker and curveball for strikes. Because he was able to consistently locate those pitches, batters could never key on one specific pitch or hope that Padilla would feed them fastball after fastball.
And then there's the matter of Padilla's mid-50s curveball, eephus, whatever you want to call it. "It's kind of like a -- I don't know how to explain it -- like somebody's tossing the ball up in the air," Martin said.
"It's like a, I don't know, cartoon pitch or something," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said.
It definitely made Shane Victorino look silly when he didn't come close to touching the 54-mph pitch in the third inning.
"Shane asked me, 'Did you get the speed on that one?' " Martin said. "I said, '54 mph,' and he started chuckling."
When paired with a fastball that topped out at 97 mph Friday, Padilla can be a tough matchup for even a lineup that featured five left-handed hitters. The Philadelphia lefties went 3-for-15 against the right-handed Padilla.
"He was just kind of moving it in, moving it out," Howard said. "Had two different curveballs going today, one that was around 75, 76, and then the eephus curveball. He just kind of mixed it up, did what he needed to do."
Padilla has now lasted at least seven innings in his two postseason starts this season and has thrown a total of 14 1/3 innings in the playoffs. In those two starts, Padilla has given up just one run on eight hits.
"Those are the types of games when you look back on them, you're talking about guys who can handle pressure and guys who really rise to the occasion," Torre said.
"Both Pedro and Vinny today, there was no room for error. Plus it was like 100 degrees out there where they were doing what they were doing. He was something. He was really something."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.