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

  • http://insidetheiggles.com/ Ian – Inside the Iggles

    As a Phillies fan I have to disagree with a lot of things you said here.

    The Dodgers rotation is not much stronger as you said. Cole Hamels is pitching lights out right now, and feeling healthy. There is no spinning that Derrick Lowe is better or pitching better right now. If Hamels got any kind of run support he would have easily gotten 6 more wins, and would have been a 20 game winner.

    Myers WAS shaky for the first half of the year. Then he was sent down to the minors to collect himself, and came back to pitch great. He gave up 1 run in the first inning against the Brewers, and then cruised the rest of the game. He is also pitching great.

    Jamie Moyer is having phenomenal year, and should be helped out a lot pitching in that big ball park in LA.

    I’ll take the Phillies top 3 over the Dodgers top 3 any day.

    Brad Lidge has been absolutely lights out. You can’t be 41 for 41 saves and not be lights out. He has been the teams MVP.

    JC Romero and Chad Durbin are shaky? Huh? JC Romero has been terrific. He has a 2.75 ERA, and If he had not been overused by Charlie Manuel, that would have been much lower.

    Durbin finished with a 2.87 ERA, and at one point was being considered moving to the starting rotation. These two are very solid, and I would once again take the Phillies over the Dodgers when it comes to the bullpen.

    Then you did not mention how the Dodgers are throwing all out right handed pitchers, and the Phillies destroy rightys. The Phillies 3 best Rollins, Utley, and Howard are all lefties.

    They may have struggled against a lefty ace like CC Sabathia, but against right handers they thrive.

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  • http://titansized.com Nick

    “As a Phillies fan I have to disagree with a lot of things you said here.”

    That pretty much says it all Ian.

    Listen, I could very well be wrong about the outcome of this series, especially after the Dodgers blew last night. All I’m saying is that the Phillies can’t manufacture runs to save their lives (or win games). I’m in a fantasy football league with a bunch of friends from Philly and Jersey that I’ve been in for three years now, so I’ve gotten my fair dose of Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers talk. One of my buddies in the league pointed out to me the other day something very simple, yet very telling about them. They live and die by the long ball (which worked last night). They are close to the bottom of the league in team average (.255) and everyone knows that if there is a way to coach yourself out of a game, Charlie Manuel knows how.

    All I’m saying is that if and when those big bats in the middle of that lineup go cold, they don’t stand a chance to win it all. Say what you want about the starting pitching, but outside of Hamels, I’m taking every other staff left in the playoffs. Sure Myers figured some things out in the minors and pitched well in the NLDS, but he didn’t finish the season strong, and if you depending on him to help steady that rotation, well then good luck to you.

    Fans of Philly sports teams are just so adorable in blind enthusiasm/rage for their sports teams. Philly may very well win this series, but I’ll stick with my pick.

    Oh and also, I’m a Braves fan and I hate the Phillies and Chase Utley’s stupid greaseball hair so, so much. I wouldn’t pick them if I had a gun to my head. Ok, yes I would, but I’d still make them shoot me for picking them. Maybe in the foot or the ass or something…

  • http://insidetheiggles.com/ Ian – Inside the Iggles

    Well so much for Derrick Lowe being better than Cole Hamels. He started out strong, but by the 5th inning he started looking like a scared puppy.

    The Phillies are more of a American League team. They rely on the home run a lot, but hey they hit a lot of home runs. Look how far it has gotten them.

    Utley and Burrell got it going last night. If Howard and Rollins can too then watch out.

    Also as long as Brett Myers does not get himself to pumped up mentally, I think he will be fine. He has always had great stuff, and he just needed a little work on his mechanics this year. Yes he did have two poor starts to end the season, but look at the 9 starts prior to that. He went on a very nice hot streak after that trip to the minors, and looks to be back.

    This is not blind loyalty or homerisim. I have not felt so good about a Phillies team since 1993, the last time they made the World Series.

    You hate Utley’s hair? LOL

  • gnbishop

    i never said lowe was better than hamels. hamels is one of the best young aces in the league. lowe is just a big game pitcher and i thought he would step up again. they both pitched well, lowe just let one hang and utley made him pay for it.

    i think burrell is a big piece for you guys. the guy was lights out in the first half and completely stunk in the second. it looks like he’s gotten his bat back in the last few weeks though. can anyone say contract year?

    i think some of the youth that was able to get the dodgers this far may be backfiring on them in the playoffs. the inexperience may be affecting them. plus all the time raffy missed.

    if the phils win tonight, they may very well take this series.

    and i don’t really hate utley’s hair. i’m just jealous because i secretly want mine to look like his. i guess i’m just not cheesy enough.

  • gnbishop

    and i’m not sure why it keeps logging me in as two different names. i’m both nick and gnbishop i guess.

  • http://insidetheiggles.com/ Ian – Inside the Iggles

    3-1! King Cole on the mound tonight!

  • http://titansized.com Nick

    yeah, you talk about blowing a game. 5-3 in the 8th and you give up two long balls. and torre straight up mangled that game.

    like i said, live and die by it. looking pretty healthy right about now though. a rays/phils series will surely be exciting. definitely the two hottest teams in baseball right now. but i’m sure you’ll hate our prediction for that one too.