Media weighs in with NLCS predictions
Baseball writers and broadcasters polled on matchup
Can the Dodgers ride the momentum of a Division Series sweep and use the home-field advantage to vault themselves to their first World Series since 1988? Or will the reigning World Series champion Phillies pull through once again and stay alive in their chase to be the first team to go back-to-back since the 1999-2000 Yankees?
The world will find out soon enough. But some of the top journalists in the country have already weighed in with their predictions.
MLB.com asked 11 baseball writers and broadcasters -- eight from national media outlets and one each from Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston -- and seven of them said it's the Dodgers who will win the upcoming Championship Series to represent the National League in the Fall Classic.
"You have to love the determination and never-quit mentality of the Phillies, but their bullpen could leave them vulnerable once too often," Tony DeMarco of NBCSports.com said. "The Dodgers have home-field advantage this time, their rotation has settled and Manny Ramirez's bat came alive in the Division Series."
This series will ultimately be decided on the field, not on paper. But when MLB.com broke down the NLCS into 13 different categories -- catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield, starting pitching, closer, middle relief, bench, manager, coaching staff and fans -- the Dodgers held the edge there, too, at 9-4.
"I think [the Dodgers will win] because they're an improved team over last year, and a healthy [Rafael] Furcal [at shortstop] makes a big difference," Ken Levine, co-host of KABC's "Dodger Talk," said.
The NLCS will get underway Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, as Game 1 is scheduled to start at 8:07 p.m. ET and will be televised on TBS. In the opener, it will be Dodgers youngster Clayton Kershaw facing off against reigning World Series Most Valuable Player Cole Hamels.
"I think Cole Hamels will be the Hamels of a year ago and set the tone in Game 1," Bob Nightengale of USA Today said.
Who will win the NLCS?
|Enrique Rojas||ESPN Deportes||LAD in 7|
|Bob Nightengale||USA Today||PHI in 7|
|Scott Miller||CBS Sports.com||PHI in 7|
|Ken Levine||Dodgers Talk||LAD in 7|
|Scott Franzke||Phillies broadcaster||PHI in 6|
|Buck Martinez||TBS analyst||LAD in 7|
|Tim Brown||Yahoo! Sports||LAD in 6|
|Nick Cafardo||Boston Globe||PHI in 5|
|Mark Kriegel||FoxSports.com||LAD in 7|
|Tony DeMarco||NBC Sports.com||LAD in 7|
|Jeff Fletcher||AOL Sports||LAD in 6|
"Hamels will rise to the occasion," added Phillies broadcaster Scott Franzke, "and, backed up by Cliff Lee, the Phillies' starting pitching is better."
There's no denying the two standout lefties at the top of the Phils' rotation are dangerous, but TBS analyst Buck Martinez warns not to overlook Los Angeles' starters.
"I think people are discounting the improvement of the Dodgers' pitching staff," Martinez said. "[Vicente] Padilla, Kershaw, [Hiroki] Kuroda and [Randy] Wolf have the ability to shut down the Phillies."
If not at the start of games, the Dodgers could definitely have the advantage in the bullpen, where George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton pretty much have the eighth and ninth inning locked up.
"I think good bullpens win in the playoffs, and the Dodgers' bullpen is going better than the Phillies'," Jeff Fletcher of AOL Sports said.
"[The Dodgers have a] better bullpen, and they don't need Manny [Ramirez]," is how Mark Kriegel of FOXSports.com broke it down. "They can win without Manny, and they know they can win without Manny. They don't depend on him."
But that doesn't mean Ramirez can't make his presence felt.
The Dodgers' slugger didn't have his typical standout season in 2009. It started with a 50-game suspension for testing positive under Major League Baseball's Drug Policy, and it ended with him hitting .218 over the final month of the regular season.
But Ramirez hit .308 (4-for-13) with two RBIs in a three-game NLDS sweep of the Cardinals, and perhaps he's showing signs of reverting back to the old Manny -- the one who hit .520 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in last year's playoff run.
"I believe Manny is coming back to life, and I wonder how sharp Hamels will be [in Game 1]," Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports said. "Things seem to be going right for the Dodgers."
Yeah, but things aren't going too bad for the Phillies, either.
They're coming off a 3-1 series win over the Rockies, and though it's still a relatively small sample size, their biggest question mark going into the postseason seems to have been at least partially answered with Brad Lidge getting the job done in the ninth inning.
Oh, and don't forget this: The Phillies are the World Series champs until somebody takes it away from them, and they beat the Dodgers in five games in last year's NLCS.
"I just don't see where they've lost any edge at all from last year," Scott Miller of CBSSports.com said. "I was really impressed with the way they went into Denver and won two games in horrible weather."
The Phillies likely won't have to brave any harsh weather -- especially not a snowed-out game -- when they make their way to Los Angeles.
And if any team can play in an amped-up ballpark like Dodger Stadium, it's the Phillies -- owners of the best road record in the NL during the regular season.
But the Dodgers aren't going to let another NLCS against the Phillies slip away, are they?
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo thinks they will, saying, "Much like last year, the Dodgers' pitching won't be able to handle the Phillies lineup."
But Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes disagrees.
"Starting at home is a big advantage for them," he said. "I just can't see the Phillies doing what they did to them two years in a row in the NLCS."
It won't be long before fans find out for sure.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. T.R. Sullivan contributed to this report This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.