NLCS Preview: #1 Dodgers vs. #2 Phillies

The Phillies are coming into the NLCS off of a huge series win versus the hottest team in baseball. Now they get to face the Dodgers, who stumbled into the post season but swept the Cardinals in the NLDS. The winner of this series will go on to the World Series to face the winners of the Angels/Yankees series. Whoever wins either series will set up an amazing World Series match up.

People want to see LA vs NY or LA vs LA. There is no love for the Phillies, who happen to be the reigning world champs. The “Road to a Repeat” now goes through Los Angeles as Joe Torre and his Dodgers will look to knock off the Phightin’ Phillies.

Fun Facts: Dodgers won the season series 4-3 but the last time they played each other this year was in June. Last time these two teams met in the post season was last year’s NLCS which the Phillies won 4-1. The Dodgers have three former Phillies: starting pitchers Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla and bench bat Jim Thome.

Schedule: (I’ll update the probables when they are known)
Thu. 10/15, 8:07 EST, PHI: Hamels (0-1, 7.20) vs Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 2.70)
Fri. 10/16, 4:07 EST
Sun. 10/18, 8:07 EST
Mon. 10/19, 8:07 EST
*Wed. 10/21, 8:07 EST
*Fri. 10/23, 8:07 EST
*Sat. 10/24, 8:07 EST
*if necessary

Teams by Positions: Post season stats

1B) Ryan Howard vs. James Loney

Howard: .375 (6-16), 3 runs, 3 doubles, 6 RBI, walk, 4 K’s
He led the league in RBI’s and was second in homers. He came up huge in the Rockies series, having the game tying and go ahead hits in games three and four. Phillies fans call him Mr. Red October. Jimmy Rollins calls him the Big Piece.

Loney: .250 (3-13), walk, K
The 25 year old is one of the best young stars of the game. This is his second full season as a starter. He killed the Phillies this year, batting .393 (11-28) with a couple homers and six RBI’s.

2B) Chase Utley vs. Ronnie Belliard

Utley: .429 (6-14), 5 runs, HR, RBI, 4 walks, 3 K’s, 2 SB’s
He is the Phillies best player and best two-bagger in the league. He really sizzled in the NLDS, a series he struggled in the past two years. He can only get better in this series versus the Dodgers.

Belliard: .273 (3-11), 2 runs, RBI, 2 walks, 5 K’s
He joind the Dodgers late in the season and took the starting job when Orlando Hudson got hurt. He kept that job through the NLDS and will look to be the guy vs. Philly.

3B) Pedro Feliz vs. Casey Blake

Feliz: .214 (3-14), double, walk, 3 K’s
He led the Phillies in average with RISP but failed to do anything in the NLDS. The Phillies hope his bat heats back up so the bottom of the line up isn’t a dead zone.

Blake: .273 (3-11), run, RBI, 2 walks, K
Blake adds pop to the bottom of a line up that was 23rd in homers in the majors.

SS) Jimmy Rollins vs. Rafael Furcal

Rollins: .263 (5-19), run, double, 5 K’s
He is the spark to the Phillies offense. Despite a weak NLDS, the Phillies were able to get runs. He did spark the game 4 rally. They won’t be as lucky if Rollins continues his struggles vs. the Dodgers.

Furcal: .500 (6-12), 2 runs, triple, 2 RBI’s, walk, K
Furcal is also the spark to LA’s offense. He was stellar in the NLDS. He has also killed the Phillies in his career.

LF) Raul Ibanez vs. Manny Ramirez

Ibanez: .308 (4-13), 2 runs, double, 5 RBI’s, 4 walks, 2 K’s

Ibanez enjoyed an all star year. He tailed off after the break but heated back up at the end of the season and into the NLDS, driving in crucial runs when needed. The Phillies will need that bat to show back up if they want to beat LA.

Ramirez: .308 (4-13), 3 doubles, 2 RBI’s, walk, 2 K’s
He had such a down year this season. He was very solid in the NLDS and was the only Dodger to really be effective versus the Phillies last post season. He has the ability to change a game with one swing of the bat so the Phillies lefty-heavy rotation better pitch smart to him.

CF) Shane Victorino vs. Matt Kemp

Victorino: .353 (6-17), 4 runs, double, HR, walk, K, SB
Victorino assumed the catalyst role from the two-hole while Rollins struggled. He led the league in triples and is a very speedy CF who can track balls and throw out runners.

Kemp: .143 (2-14), 2 runs, HR, 2 RBI’s, 8 K’s
As LA’s number two hitter, Kemp has not performed like it in the post season yet. He is ver capable fo doing so though.

RF) Jayson Werth vs. Andre Ethier

Werth: .357 (5-14), 5 runs, triple, 2 HR’s, 4 walks, 4 K’s
Werth tore up the Rockies in the NLDS. He is having an amazing year in his first full year, hitting .268 with 36 homers, 98 runs, and 99 RBI’s.

Ethier: .500 (6-12), 5 runs, double, triple, 2 HR’s, walk, 2 K’s
He is the best player on the Rockies, even better than Manny. Look at what he did all year and in the playoffs versus the pitching of St. Louis and tell me he is not the best player on the
Dodgers.

C) Carlos Ruiz vs. Russell Martin

Ruiz: .308 (4-13), 3 RBI, 2 walks, 2 K’s
Carlos Ruiz is one of the best defensive catchers in the game but his offense is lacking. Hopefully he will feed off of his good NLDS.

Martin: .111 (1-9), RBI, 3 walks, K
Martin was awful in the NLDS. He has become a very over rated hitter but still a really good catcher.

Starting Rotation:

Phillies: Cliff Lee is the ace of the staff but won’t see action until game three at the latest. Cole Hamels will pitch game one. He was dominant all year versus LA this year (In two starts: 16.0 IP, 12 H, 2 R (1ER), 1 BB, 14 K). Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez are the Phillies’ two options for game two and throw in JA Happ for game four.

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw will go game one. Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla are both former Phillies. Chad Billingsly rounds out a very solid rotation . Their starters held the offense of St. Louis in check in the NLDS. Kershaw and Wolf both throw left-handed. The Dodgers hope those two can silence Howard, Utley, and Ibanez.

Bull Pen:

Phillies: This unit is still blowing games. Luckily the offense bailed them out. Scott Eyre, Chad Durin, Antonio Bastardo, and Ryan Madson (despite the bad outing) all looked good. Brad Lidge scared everyone a bit but is 2/2 in saves. Blanton looked good in relief but is a better starter. The only thing hurting this pen right now is the fact that they don’t know who will pitch in what scenario. Chan Ho Park may be ready for the NLCS.

Dodgers: This is probably the best unit in baseball and certainly showed in keeping the Cardinals down in the NLDS. The pen is deep and showed that in game one when they went to the pen in the 4th inning and didn’t allow a run for the rest of the game. Jon Broxton is their closer and has blown saves this year (6). George Sherrill and Jeff Weaver are their other top options out of the pen.

Bench:

Phillies: The Phillies have relied on Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs in hitting situations, a huge mistake in my opinion. They both were amazing in 2008 and sucked in 2009. Ben Francisco is their fielding option and is also a very good hitter. Miguel Cairo earned a post season spot after having a hot bat in September.

Dodgers: Former Phillies Jim Thome is a very good hitter still and always a threat to hit a pinch hit HR. Mark Loretta is their other hitting option. Juan Pierre and Orlando Hudson can come in for base running and fielding situations.

Managers:

Phillies: Charlie Manuel wants another ring. He knows how to keep this team together through any situation and knows how to rally them.

Dodgers: Joe Torre is a future HOF manager. He has been in the post season more times than Phillies fans can contemplate. He’s a winner and he will make sure his Dodgers are winners too.

Probable Lineups:
LA: Furcal/Kemp/Ethier/Ramirez/Loney/Blake/Belliard/Martin
PHI: Rollins/Victorino/Utley/Howard/Werth/Ibanez/Feliz/Ruiz

Prediction: I’m an optimist. I love the Phillies and I believe this team can beat LA and go back to the World Series. I also know it’s really hard to repeat success and that this Dodgers team is really good. Dodgers in a heart-breaking 7 games.

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