The Philadelphia Phillies secured an 8-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in a thrilling opening game of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).
|Cole Hamels delivers a pitch in the first inning [GALLO/GETTY]
It was a rematch of last season's NLCS, as the World Series champion Phillies slugged two three-run homers and used clutch relief pitching to take a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
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.
"This was definitely important to come in here and win the first game, especially starting on the road," Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez said after hitting his first home run of the postseason in the game on Thursday.
"Everyone on our team is playing for the same reason and that's to win. That's all that matters."
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.
The Phillies took control of the game in the fifth, capitalising 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 5-1, Los Angeles rallied behind their frenzied, towel-waving home crowd for three runs in the bottom of the fifth when Manny Ramirez delivered a two-run homer to make it 5-4, extending his MLB-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 takes place on Friday when Philadelphia will continue their 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.
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."