10/13/09 4:46 PM EST
NLCS redux: Dodgers get second chance
In quest for Fall Classic, Los Angeles faces familiar foe
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
The Dodgers now get a chance to collect another marker against the Phils, who took them out of the 2008 National League Championship Series in five games.
No hard feelings, as the '09 NLCS kicks off on Thursday at 8:07 p.m. ET? That's what the Dodgers may be saying, but not what they are thinking.The Angels, too, had shrugged off their litany of Boston horrors going into that ALDS. Coming out of it, though, they danced over the fallen Red Sox with a little extra vim. And we haven't even gotten into the personal side of payback. The Wolf Pack will be back in Philadelphia -- and so will Vicente Padilla. Randy Wolf and Padilla topped the Phillies' rotation in 2002-05, and now are reunited on the other side.
The Phillies are not short on emotional ammunition, either. They have visions of becoming the first NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Big Red Machine, and have taken the next step toward that dream by becoming the first NL reigning champ to even advance to the NLCS since the 1996 Braves, who had taken the '95 Classic from the Indians the previous October.Between the lines, the teams are well-matched -- assuming Manny Ramirez's predictable postseason awakening continues and reaches the long-ball stage, to give the Dodgers an answer to the constant Ryan Howard threat.
With the Phillies set to reprise the all-lefty rotation that dismissed the Rockies -- with the likely addition of way-back Dodger Pedro Martinez -- that could be critical for Los Angeles.The Dodgers' modest Division Series attack on three St. Louis righties -- their 13 runs were the second-fewest ever in 15 NL Division Series sweeps -- was led by Andre Ethier, a .194 hitter against southpaws this season who has one hit in 13 career at-bats against Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
But both Matt Kemp and Ramirez are available for protection there, which has helped level the playing field between the teams. They split eight regular-season games in 2008 and, while the Dodgers had the slight edge (4-3) this season, they outscored the Phils by all of one run.The caveat for Los Angeles is that all the '09 games occurred in late May and early June, when their rotation was healthy and dependable. Meaning, both Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda were integral. Now some of the chips have been moved around, and Joe Torre's adjusted rotation faces a far sterner test, as it should be as you progress on the postseason ladder. The Phillies who led the NL in scoring, who had the most homers (224) and extra-base hits (571), who throw at you the first quartet of 30-homer men (Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Howard) in their history ... well, these aren't the little-ball Cardinals.
DODGERS VS. PHILLIESHow the Dodgers fared against the Phillies during the regular season:
- Won season series, 4-3
- Team batting average: .276
- Runs scored per game: 3.7
- Staff ERA: 3.14
- Outscored Phillies, 26-25