10/05/08 5:48 PM ET
Breaking down the NLCS
A look at how the Dodgers, Phils match up
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Phillies at bat: Conversely, the Phils feature some serious left-handed punch, while going up against a heavily right-handed staff. The Phillies are a power-and-patience team. They scored the third-most runs despite the 10th-best batting average, which tells you all you need to know about how they score. However, the Dodgers should counter that very well. They issued the second-fewest walks in the NL and allowed the fewest home runs. If any staff can contain the dangerous Phils, it may be this one.
Key late-game matchups:
JC Romero vs. James Loney and Andre Ethier: Romero obliterates lefties, who went 10-for-98 (.102) against him this year. But right-handers return the favor against him. That means that as long as manager Joe Torre puts Loney and Ethier back-to-back in the No. 4 and 5 spots, Philadelphia holds a tactical advantage. Loney and Ethier both have significant platoon splits of their own. So as a regular occurrence, you may see Philadelphia pitching around Manny Ramirez and bringing in the lefty to pitch to the two lefty hitters. This changes significantly if Torre decides to put Matt Kemp in the five spot between Loney and Ethier.
Joe Beimel vs. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard: As Morrissey sang, stop me if you think that you've heard this one before. Beimel's left-right split vanished this year, but over the years, he's been a lefty-killer, and Torre uses him tactically. It's not exactly the same as Romero against the Dodgers, because Utley's platoon split is small and getting smaller. But Howard is a completely different hitter against left-handers. The other similarity is that the Phils do have a right-hander, Pat Burrell, whom they could put between the two lefties, but they choose not to.
Secret weapon: The Division Series revealed that the Dodgers don't seem to have much faith in Takashi Saito, which shortens their bullpen quite a bit. Jonathan Broxton looks like the man at the end of the game, increasing the spotlight on rookie Cory Wade. The right-hander pitched in all three games of the Division Series, and you can expect he'll be asked to get a few outs pretty much every time the Dodgers have a lead in the seventh and eighth.
Achilles' heel: The top of the Dodgers' order is outstanding and it's going well. But the bottom half can be pitched to. Kemp and Ethier slumped in the Division Series, and even Loney, though he drove in six runs, was just 3-for-14. Casey Blake is certainly dangerous for a No. 8 hitter, but the Dodgers still need to get more from their 4-8 spots to win. If the Phils make their pitches, they have a good chance to keep those hitters relatively quiet.
The Dodgers will win if... they keep doing what they've been doing. Starters Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda have to throw strikes and keep the ball in the park, both of which they did against Chicago. Offensively, the Dodgers need to keep getting Furcal and Martin on base, allowing Ramirez and the rest of the middle of the order to do damage.
The Phillies will win if... they hit the ball out of the yard and can match up with their starting pitching. Hamels is probably the best starter in the series, but the next-best two or three starters are Dodgers. Brett Myers needs to show the same form he's shown since August, allowing them to go toe-to-toe with Billingsley.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.