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Dodgers vs. Phillies Preview – Expert Predictions

NLCS Preview

The nation is divided with the National League coming to down to powerhouses on either coast. The Los Angles Dodgers prepare to meet the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

The NLCS begins Thursday in Los Angeles. This is the second straight year these teams have met for a shot at the World Series. Last year, Philadelphia won this series in five games, outscoring the Dodgers 25-20, but did start the series at home and won two of three in Los Angeles.

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This season these teams met seven times with the Dodgers taking the season series 4-3. Their most recent meeting was a four-game set in California in which the teams split victories. However, the Phillies have dominated this cross-country battle in recent years and have won 11 of their last 16 games heading into Thursday’s opener.

Philadelphia returns to the NLCS after dropping the pesky Colorado Rockies in four games. The Phillies avoided going the full five-game series with a thrilling come-from-behind win Monday. They scored three runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 lead and then turned to questionable closer Brad Lidge to finish off the Rockies in the bottom of the ninth. Lidge, who had blown 11 saves in the regular season, came on with two out and two men on base to strike out Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies’ best hitter in recent games, and put Philadelphia back in the Championship Series.

The pitching staff was solid for the Phillies in the NLDS, posting a collective 3.00 ERA. Mid-season acquisition and former AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee pitched two of those four games thanks to Game 3 getting postponed a day due to a snowstorm that hit Denver on the weekend. Lee went deep in both starts, turning to the bullpen in Game 4’s win. The relievers finished the series with a 3.09 ERA and eight strikeouts.

Philadelphia averaged five runs per game in the NLDS, hitting a combined .296 with four home runs and a .361 batting average with runners in scoring position. The Phillies had trouble maintaining big innings with RISP and two out, hitting just .214. Monday, Ryan Howard had a two-run double to tie the game at 4-4 and then was driven home for the go-ahead run by Jayson Werth.

Howard is hitting .375 this postseason and had driven in six runs despite the fact the slugging first baseman has yet to hit a home run in four playoff games. Second baseman Chase Utley is batting .429, while Werth is batting .357 with two home runs and four RBI this October.

Werth could continue to be the difference-maker in the NLCS. He hit .308 against the Dodgers this season while Raul Ibanez also hit .308 and drove in five runs in those regular season contests. Last year it was Utley who did the most damage against Los Angeles in the playoffs, hitting .355 with two home runs and five RBI.

The Dodgers’ pitching staff is hoping to shut down the Phillies’ big bats, just like they did in the three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Los Angles limited the Cardinals to just six total runs and a .262 batting average.

As a staff, the Dodgers posted a 2.00 ERA with stellar outings coming from Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, and Vicente Padilla. Los Angeles was uncertain about its rotation heading into the playoffs but has a much clearer picture planning for the NLCS. The Dodgers’ bullpen was just as solid, allowing two earned runs for a 1.86 ERA along with seven strikeouts. Against the Phillies this season, Los Angeles posted a 3.14 ERA and limited Philadelphia’s bat to a .214 average against.

The Dodgers’ bats were sliding in the final weeks before the playoffs began, but have come alive in October. Los Angeles outscored St. Louis 13-6 in the Division Series and is hitting .276 this postseason with three home runs and 47 total bases. However, the Dodgers haven’t been able to keep many innings alive, hitting just .231 with runners in scoring position and .235 with RISP and two outs.

Outfielder Andre Ethier has been the biggest bat of the playoffs, hitting .500 with two home runs, three RBI, and 16 total bases in the three-game sweep of the Cardinals. Leadoff man Rafael Furcal is also batting .500, getting the Dodgers’ offense rolling early into games.

The biggest surprise has been the resurgence of Manny Ramirez, who slumped down the home stretch of the season. Ramirez is hitting .308 with two RBI and seven total bases. He’s helping make up for the lack of pop in the middle of the order. Fellow sluggers Matt Kemp and James Loney are slumping to start the postseason and have just five hits between them in 26 at-bats this October.

Game 1 could have Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels, who just had a baby during the NLDS, face off against Los Angeles’ Randy Wolf, who lasted just under four innings and struggled with his control, walking five batters in Game 1 of the NLDS. Hamels went five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits in a Game 2 loss to the Rockies.

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Comments

Comments

  1. If the Phillies pitching comes together at the right time like they did last year, the Dodgers will not be able to outscore them. The key to this series is Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge, if they perform to their capabilities, the Phillies win in 6.

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