Wednesday, October 08, 2008
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A capsule look at the NL championship series

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[October 08, 2008]  (AP)  A look at the best-of-seven National League championship series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies:

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Game 1, Thursday, at Philadelphia (8 p.m.); Game 2, Friday, at Philadelphia (4 p.m.); Game 3, Sunday, at Los Angeles (8 p.m.); Game 4, Monday, Oct. 13, at Los Angeles (TBA); x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 15, at Los Angeles (TBA); x-Game 6, Friday, Oct. 17, at Philadelphia (TBA); x-Game 7, Saturday, Oct. 18, at Philadelphia (TBA). (All games on FOX).

x-if necessary.


Season series: Tied 4-all.


Projected lineups

Dodgers: SS Rafael Furcal (.357, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs in 143 at-bats; missed most of season with back injury), C Russell Martin (.280, 13, 69, 18 SB), LF Manny Ramirez (.396, 17, 53 in 53 games with Dodgers after July 31 trade from Boston; .332, 37, 121 overall), RF Andre Ethier (.305, 20, 77), 1B James Loney (.289, 13, 90), CF Matt Kemp (.290, 18, 76, 35 SB), 3B Casey Blake (.251, 10, 23 in 59 games with Dodgers after July 26 trade from Cleveland; .274, 21, 81 overall), 2B Blake DeWitt (.264, 9, 52).

Phillies: SS Jimmy Rollins (.277, 11, 59, 76 runs, 47 SB), CF Shane Victorino (.293, 14, 58, 36 SB, 102 runs), 2B Chase Utley (.293, 33, 104, 113 runs), 1B Ryan Howard (.251, 48, 146, 104 runs, 199 strikeouts), LF Pat Burrell (.250, 33, 86), RF Jayson Werth (.273, 24, 67, 20 SB), 3B Pedro Feliz (.249, 14, 58), C Carlos Ruiz (.219, 4, 34) or Chris Coste (.263, 9, 36).



Projected rotations

Dodgers: RH Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA), RH Chad Billingsley (16-10, 3.14, 201 strikeouts), RH Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73), RH Greg Maddux (2-4, 5.09 in 7 starts with Dodgers after trade from San Diego; 8-13, 4.22 overall) or LH Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 4.26 in 22 games, 21 starts).

Phillies: LH Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09, 196 strikeouts), RH Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55), LH Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71), RH Joe Blanton (4-0, 4.20 with Phillies after July 17 trade from Oakland; 9-12, 4.69 overall).



Dodgers: RH Jonathan Broxton (3-5, 3.13, 14/16 saves), RH Takashi Saito (4-4, 2.49, 18/21 saves), LH Joe Beimel (5-1, 2.02), RH Cory Wade (2-1, 2.27), RH Chan Ho Park (4-4, 3.40).

Phillies: RH Brad Lidge (2-0, 1.95, 41/41 saves), RH Ryan Madson (4-2, 3.05), LH J.C. Romero (4-4, 2.75), RH Chad Durbin (5-4, 2.87), RH Clay Condrey (3-4, 3.26), LH Scott Eyre (5-0, 4.21 with Phillies and Cubs; 3-0, 1.88 with Phillies).




This is the fourth time these teams have met in the NLCS. Tom Lasorda and the Dodgers won in 1977 and 1978 before Philadelphia's "Wheeze Kids" took the 1983 NL pennant. League championship series were a best-of-five format back then, and all three matchups ended in four games. ... Los Angeles finished a four-game sweep of the Phillies on Aug. 14 at Dodger Stadium. Philadelphia returned the favor at home 11 days later. ... The Phillies outscored Los Angeles 43-27 during the season series. ... Utley batted .355 with 2 homers against the Dodgers this year. Howard was 4-for-30 (.133) with 2 home runs and 11 strikeouts. ... Furcal is 0-for-8 lifetime against Lidge. ... Utley, Howard and Burrell have zero homers in 50 combined at-bats against Lowe. ... Ramirez is 14-for-25 (.560) with a home run against Blanton and 18-for-53 (.340) with 10 homers versus Moyer -- his most home runs against any pitcher. ... Kuroda pitched well in two starts against the Phillies, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA. ... Philadelphia led the NL with 214 HRs. The Dodgers hit 137. ... Los Angeles led the NL with a 3.68 ERA. Playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark, the Phillies ranked fourth at 3.88. ... The Phillies had the best stolen-base percentage (84.5) in the majors. They were 136-for-161.


Big picture

Dodgers: Joe Torre was hired as manager last offseason to bring his winning ways to the Dodgers, and that's exactly what he's done. With a three-game sweep of the favored Chicago Cubs in the first round, Los Angeles won a postseason series for the first time since upsetting Oakland in the 1988 World Series. Torre is managing in the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, including all 12 with the New York Yankees before splitting from the team last fall. ... The Dodgers outscored Chicago 20-6, getting strong starts from Lowe, Billingsley and Kuroda. Ramirez was 5-for-10 in the series with two jaw-dropping homers. He also drew four walks and scored five times. Loney hit a go-ahead grand slam in Game 1 and drove in six runs. Martin had five RBIs, including a three-run double that broke open Game 2. ... The Dodgers (84-78) qualified for the postseason despite having a losing record as recently as Sept. 3. They trailed Arizona by 4 1/2 games following a 9-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Aug. 29. Then, with Ramirez leading the way, Los Angeles rebounded from an eight-game losing streak to go 18-5, move past the Diamondbacks and clinch its first division title in four years. ... The addition of Ramirez made a huge difference. Blake, acquired five days earlier, and INF Angel Berroa, picked up in June from Kansas City, were significant moves as well. ... Furcal, who got off to a great start before going on the disabled list May 6 and missing 125 games, and 2B Jeff Kent, who underwent knee surgery Sept. 2, returned to action in late September. Furcal returned to his leadoff spot in the playoffs, while Kent and Nomar Garciaparra have been relegated to the bench. ... Broxton has taken over closing duties from Saito, who missed two months with a strained ligament in his right elbow before returning in September. Broxton had 14 saves in 16 chances during Saito's absence. Then, he worked 3 1-3 scoreless innings and earned a save in the division series. Cory Wade also was effective out of the bullpen. ... The Dodgers reached October despite the flop of free agent CF Andruw Jones, who hit just .158 with three homers and 14 RBIs in the first season of a two-year, $36.2 million contract. They're also without opening-day starter Brad Penny, limited by a right shoulder injury to 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 19 outings.

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Phillies: With power and pitching, Philadelphia beat the wild-card Brewers three games to one in the first round to reach the NLCS for the first time since 1993. Hamels pitched eight shutout innings of two-hit ball in the opener, and the Phillies finished with a 2.31 ERA. Lidge closed out all three wins, earning two saves. Victorino was 5-for-14 (.357) with 3 doubles, 3 walks, 3 stolen bases and 5 RBIs. Werth went 5-for-16 (.313) with a homer, a triple and 3 doubles. Burrell broke out of a slump with 2 homers and 4 RBIs in Game 4. Howard was 2-for-11 (.182) with an RBI and 5 walks. Utley went 2-for-15 (.133) with 2 RBIs and 4 strikeouts.

... With 16 games left, manager Charlie Manuel's team trailed the Mets by 3 1/2 games in the NL East and were four games behind wild card-leading Milwaukee. For the second year in a row, they played their best down the stretch. A four-game sweep over the Brewers got the Phillies going and they won 12 of 15 to clinch their second straight division title on the next-to-last day. ... After being swept out of the first round by Colorado last year, the Phillies (92-70) weren't satisfied with simply reaching the postseason this time. Every player and coach emphasized during a slightly less subdued celebration following the division clincher that the only goal is to win it all. ... This is the Phillies' 11th postseason appearance in their 126-year history. They've won one World Series title (1980) and lost more games than any franchise in professional sports. ...

The 92 wins were the team's most since '93. ... A strong pitching staff carried the Phillies while a star-studded offense was often inconsistent. Lidge was 41-for-41 in save opportunities, making him worthy of MVP consideration. The rest of the bullpen also was solid and the top three in the rotation match up well with most. Hamels was an ace and Myers was dominant in the second half after a brief demotion to the minors in July. But the biggest surprise was the 45-year-old Moyer. His 16 wins tied Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro for most by a pitcher that age. ... Howard led the majors in home runs and RBIs. He had another big September, making him a strong candidate to win the MVP award for the second time in three years. Utley tailed off considerably after an excellent April, hitting just 12 of his career-best 33 homers in the last 103 games. Rollins didn't come close to matching his MVP numbers from a year ago. ... Defensively, the Phillies are strong up the middle, particularly with Rollins and Victorino.


Watch for:

  • Fast Starts. Each team has a speedy shortstop batting leadoff who is coming off a strong division series. Back from injury, Furcal was 4-for-12 (.333) in the first round with 4 runs scored, 3 walks and 2 RBIs. Rollins went 6-for-16 (.375) against Milwaukee with 2 doubles and a leadoff homer in Game 4.

  • Manny Being Awesome. How will Philadelphia handle the sizzling Ramirez? The 12-time All-Star and 2004 World Series MVP went 8-for-13 with five RBIs in his first three games with the Dodgers, and that was just the beginning. He became a team leader almost immediately, adding life to a previously drab clubhouse, and he's hustled all the way.

  • Lights Out Lidge. That mammoth homer Lidge allowed to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS is a distant memory. Lidge was perfect in his first season in Philadelphia, helping the Phillies go 79-0 when leading after eight innings. He had a 1.10 ERA in save situations and a 0.61 ERA in his last 15 appearances. While Howard is the fans' choice for MVP, Lidge was chosen the Phillies' most valuable player by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.


  • Young Gun or Old Hand? When laying out his rotation for the first round, Torre would only go through the first three games, with Lowe, Billingsley and Kuroda getting starts. They all delivered. The 42-year-old Maddux, eighth on the career wins list with 355, pitched in relief during Game 1 against the Cubs. The 20-year-old Kershaw won his last three decisions during the regular season, but Torre put him in the bullpen against Chicago and didn't use him. Kershaw could be a weapon in the NLCS, however, against Philadelphia's lefty sluggers: Utley and Howard.

  • The Flyin' Hawaiian. The underrated Victorino gets overlooked in a lineup filled with big names. But he's a spark plug who can turn a game around with his bat, glove or speed. The switch-hitting center fielder is excellent defensively and has one of the strongest arms in the majors. His grand slam off Milwaukee ace CC Sabathia in Game 2 sent the Phillies on their way.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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