Heading into the National League Championship Series, the buzz around Philadelphia is about the nerves on the mend from the Phillies-Rockies NLDS. And those nerves don’t look like they are going to have an easy road ahead. The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the NLCS boasting the best record in the NL with a 95-67 record, finishing two games ahead of the Phillies.
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Game 1 is slated for 8:07 p.m. on Thursday. That’s about the only thing set in stone right now for the Dodgers. With starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda returning after taking a line drive to the cheek bone in August, the Dodgers have six starting pitchers vying for four spots. Two of the starters, Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf, anchored the Phillies pitching staff during the early 2000s, when people started looking ahead to “next season” by mid-May. The other four, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Garland, and Kuroda, are all solid pitchers who could make a big impact on the series. The Dodgers come into the NLCS with a stronger bullpen than the 2008 squad, but more or less a similar lineup with just another year under theirs belts.
There’s no denying the Phillies potent lineup and have the edge in almost, if not, every position offensively. Manny Ramirez hit .533 last year against the Phightin Phils in the 2008 NLCS, and it’s highly doubtful he can repeat that feat again this year.
As far as rotation goes, point to the boys from South Philly again. Arguably the best pitcher on the Dodgers staff, Clayton Kershaw, has yet to beat the Phillies in his career, who have tagged the 21-year-old lefty in several appearances. Cole Hamels’ last outing in L.A. lasted nine shutout innings in a mere 97 pitches in June. The Dodgers take the advantage in the bullpen after picking up former Baltimore left-hander George Sherrill to set up for hard-throwing closer Jonathan Broxton.
Overall, the Phillies hold the advantage in the offensive and starting pitching categories while the Dodgers have the better bullpen. The matchup should produce an interesting, hard-fought, and hopefully entertaining series. All things considered, with the Phillies getting two days off to the Dodgers four, the Phillies are coming in hot, and riding the emotions of the whirlwind win in Denver on Monday. Look for the Phillies to take Game 1 in Los Angeles, and to take the NLCS in 6 games.
– Stephen Dolan ’12