National League Championship Series Preview

Phillies vs. Dodgers

A month ago you’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone predicting this as your NLCS. Both teams needed the waning weeks to solidify their post season births, and both were able to get past teams that played better than them for the majority of the season.

The Dodgers might have the best top to bottom lineup left in the playoffs. The numbers on the season don’t necessarily reflect that comment, but the addition of Manny Ramirez and return of Rafael Furcal have given a huge boost to the young guys who are coming into their own. While the outfield situation was muddy for quite some time in the beginning of the season, Joe Torre was able to give most players enough time in the field to really establish their worth (in the case of Andruw Jones, too much time). With the addition of Manny Ramirez before the deadline, the Dodgers have a very good mix of veteran presence (with Manny more in terms of game experience than positive clubhouse influence) and young guys (Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) earning their keep. The infield is far from a walk in the park either, highlighted by the play of Russell Martin, James Loney and the aforementioned Rafael Furcal who missed a total of 126 games during the regular season. They might not all be batting in the .300′s with tons of homers, but they run well, steal bases and hit in the clutch. Joe Torre is playing his brand of National League baseball in the National League again.

The Phillies come in as a very established offensive team themselves, scoring more runs on the season than the Dodgers did (second in the league only to the Cubs). Philadelphia got past a very good Milwaukee team in four games with the middle of their order (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell) hitting only .133, .182, and .250 respectively. The Dodgers will find themselves very fortunate if that’s a continuing trend, but that’s far from likely. Speedsters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino both reached base very well against the Brewers. If that continues against L.A., and the aforementioned middle of the order plays more like we’re accustomed to, that should equate to more runs.

The pitching in this series should be pretty interesting to watch. The Phillies have the most legitimate ace in lefty Cole Hamels, but after that, the Phillies starting rotation isn’t all that scary. Brett Myers can be downright filthy at times, but he tosses more duds these days than quality starts. I guess it just depends on how many Johnnie Walker’s he has before the game. Usually one too many. Jamie Moyer is quite possibly the steadiest arm in this rotation and is certainly the most experienced. As good as Hamels is though, he can only go out their twice, so they are probably at a disadvantage here. The Dodgers will send Derek Lowe onto the hill to face Hamels in game one, and the way that Lowe has been pitching lately, he may have the upper hand. The Dodgers starting rotation is much stronger top to bottom with Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and rookie Clayton Kershaw. Billingsley has maybe been the best of the rotation this year, and Kershaw will get a chance to show the world why he was such a highly touted prospect under immense pressure. The Dodgers starters should be able to keep the Phillies in check, but if the Phillies bats get going, well then who knows.

With closer Takashi Saito being removed from the ALCS roster, the Dodgers will turn to Jonathan Broxton yet again. Saito missed quite a bit of time already this season, so Broxton is well aware of the demands of the closer role, and has been lights out while filling in. Middle reliever and strikeout wizard Hong-Chih Kuo will take Saito’s place in the roster, and join Joe Beimel, Chan Ho Park, Corey Wade and the timeless Greg Maddux in set-up relief.

The Phillies have the one closer in the majors that has yet to blow a save opportunity, Brad Lidge. Now that doesn’t mean that he was lights out all season, but 41 saves in as many attempts speaks for itself. If the Phillies offense is able to get to the Dodgers early, it will be up to a few shaky middle relievers (J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin to name a few) to get the ball to Lidge with the lead. Luckily for him though, he won’t have to face Albert Pujols at any point.

Prediction: The Phillies haven’t made it look pretty, but somehow, they’ve found themselves one step away from the World Series. If that offense can get going against some pretty good Dodgers pitching, they’ll have a good shot to move on. However, the Dodgers look like the team to beat in the NL after surging at the end of the regular season to beat out the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and then proceeding to dismantle the Cubs in the first round of the playoffs. (that’s a real shocker).

Dodgers in 5

On a side note: I know we picked the Rays to win the ALCS (and we hope they do) but wouldn’t it be freakin’ awesome to see Manny go back to Fenway and completely demoralize “Red Sox Nation” with a game-winning blast in the bottom of the ninth? The answer is yes, it would…

  • GM 1: DODGERS @ PHILLIES 10/9, 8:22 PM ET
  • GM 2: DODGERS @ PHILLIES 10/10, 4:35 PM ET
  • GM 3: PHILLIES @ DODGERS 10/12, 8:22 PM ET
  • GM 4: PHILILES @ DODGERS 10/13, 8:22 PM ET
  • GM 5: PHILLIES @ DODGERS 10/15, 8:22 PM ET (if necessary)
  • GM 6: DODGERS @ PHILLIES 10/17, 8:22 PM ET (if necessary)
  • GM 7: DODGERS @ PHILLIES 10/18, 8:22 PM ET (if necessary)
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Tags: Albert Pujols Arizona Diamondbacks Brad Lidge Brett Myers Chad Durbin Chan Ho Park Chase Utley Chicago Cubs Cole Hamels Corey Wade Fenway Park Greg Maddux Hong-Chih Kuo J.C. Romero Jamie Moyer Jimmy Rollins Joe Beimel Joe Torre Manny Ramirez NLCS Pat Burrell Ryan Howard Shane Victorino

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