Dodgers, Phils Again But Different Players
It’s the Dodgers and Phils again in the National League Championship series, but some of the main players have changed from a year ago.
The Dodgers lost that best-of-seven series, 4-1. They started a righthanded pitcher in all five games – not an enviable position to be in against a team featuring superb lefthanded hitters Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
This time the Dodgers will start lefthanders Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw. Chad Billingsley, a righthander who lost two games in last year’s series and had an earned run average of 18.0, probably won’t get a start.
That having been said, the Phils are favored again. They’re the defending World Series champions and they’ve added Cliff Lee, one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The Phils had the home field advantage last year and the Dodgers hope to benefit from having it this time. Winning the first two games at home, as the Dodgers did in the first round against the Cardinals, would be a great way to start.
The Dodgers aren’t likely to see Lee until the third game because he pitched Monday in the Phils’ first round clincher over the Rockies. Lee would also pitch a deciding seventh game if the series goes that far.
The series may be decided by whether the Dodgers can improve their offense against lefthanded pitchers. Since he all-star break they’re only 10-10 against lefthanded starters.
Andre Ethier, who’s had his best major league season and developed the knack of hitting walk-off home runs, batted just .194 against lefties.
If Ethier isn’t doing better I wonder if Joe Torre will let him bat in crucial situations against lefties.
The stakes are very high now. The winner qualifies for the World Series. Both managers will give themselves the best chance to win, even if they have to disappoint some players.
In the American League the Angels are an underdog even after their sweep of the Red Sox. They’ll begin on the road against the Yankees, who seem more unified this season than in the recent past.
A World Series between the Dodgers and Angels would be great for Southern California, but in reality it would require upsets in both league championship series.
Certainly not impossible, but a longshot.