10/05/08 7:07 PM ET
Confident Dodgers set for NLCS, Phils
Teams swept each other in four-game series in regular season
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The best-of-seven series will begin in Philadelphia against the NL East champion Phillies, who advanced Sunday by eliminating the Brewers. According to a Dodgers spokesman, tickets are still available for Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium (Oct. 12 and 13) and for a Game 5 (if necessary, Oct. 15). No game is scheduled Oct. 14.
Dodgers first baseman James Loney, who drove in as many runs in the Division Series as the Cubs scored (six), said his club never bought into skepticism about its credentials just because it mowed through a 17-8 September while playing only one winning team.
"We really don't worry about who the other team is, and I think we showed that against the Cubs," Loney said, referring to the Cubs having the best record in the league and the Dodgers the worst of all division champs.
"We're going to play Philadelphia, but our approach would be the same for Milwaukee. We play our game, we stay in our game and don't focus on the other team or its record and the level of competition it has in its division or any of that. We don't look at it like, the Phillies are more intimidating than the Brewers, or whatever. Our mentality all along has been to just go about whoever the opponent is, because we have a confidence level no matter who we play. Records can be misconstrued, anyway. You play the other team, not its record."
The season series between the two clubs sheds little light on what to expect. The Dodgers (84-78 overall) swept the Phillies (92-70) in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium Aug. 11-14, and the Phillies swept the Dodgers in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park Aug. 22-25. Those four losses started the notorious eight-game losing streak that put the Dodgers' season on the brink.
"Maybe we can use this to correct some of the mishaps we had in that series," said outfielder Andre Ethier, who was 1-for-10 with four walks in the NLDS batting cleanup behind Manny Ramirez.
"That's the series that got us started on our eight-game losing streak. We left runners on base, didn't take advantage of opportunities and just didn't do the little things to put us over the top like we did against the Cubs. It left a bitter taste in our mouths. Hopefully, we can use some of that."
And unlike the 2-5 season record against the Cubs, recorded before the transforming acquisitions of Ramirez and Casey Blake, those two were with the Dodgers for all eight games against the Phillies.
"We got swept in their home and they got swept in our home," Loney said. "I remember they had an all-around good team. When we played them here [in Los Angeles], we were playing some of the best baseball of the year at that time. We were fortunate to get big hits and our pitching, well, that's been there all year. We'll have the same intensity against the Phillies that we had against the Cubs. We have the belief we can play with anyone.
"But we know the Phillies are good, they showed us that back there. They're in this series for a reason. They're the better team and that's why they won that series. They have a great offense and frontline pitching. We have to expect them to be a lot tougher than the Cubs or they wouldn't have gotten this far."
The Dodgers overwhelmed the Cubs in the playoffs with a 2.00 ERA from a pitching staff that had a 2.49 ERA in the seven regular-season games against the Cubs. Dodgers pitchers had considerably more trouble against the Phillies, with a 5.48 ERA in eight games. Saturday night's Game 3 winner Hiroki Kuroda, had the best success against the Phillies, allowing two runs in 13 innings.
Derek Lowe faced them once, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Chad Billingsley allowed three runs in six innings. Clayton Kershaw allowed 10 runs in nine innings and Greg Maddux faced the Phillies three times, allowing four runs in 13 1/3 innings in two starts for the Padres and seven runs in a 5 2/3-inning start for the Dodgers. Brad Penny allowed six runs in three innings but is injured and will not pitch.
In regular-season league rankings, the Dodgers were fifth in team average, first in team ERA and seventh in team defense. Philadelphia was 10th in average, fourth in ERA and fifth in fielding. The Phillies, however, led the league in home runs and were second in runs scored. The Dodgers were 13th in both categories.
The series will mark the first time the teams have met in the postseason since 1983, when the Phillies won the best-of-five NLCS in four games and went on to lose the World Series to Baltimore.
The Dodgers are hopeful of reinstating left-handed reliever Hong-Chih Kuo to the active roster, although he has pitched only once in the past four weeks because of persistent discomfort in his left triceps area. Kuo, who has had four elbow operations, is expected to throw off a mound Monday for the first time in three weeks.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.