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So here we are; the MLB League Championships. Obviously the playoffs wouldn’t be the playoffs without a few upsets, and we had two of them involving Southern California teams (Note I don’t say Los Angeles teams; Anaheim isn’t in Los Angeles). The Angels fell to the defending champion Red Sox in a minor upset, but more stunningly, the Dodgers swept the Cubs to advance to the NLCS.
In baseball, you not only have the daunting task of outlasting your division or every other wild card team over a 162 game schedule; you also have to do so without peaking too early. Timing is everything; the Cubs may have been a better team then the Dodgers for most of the year, but in the three games that it mattered most, the Dodgers were the better team. No excuses, no curses, they were simply the better team.
So with four teams left, the question is now, who is simply the better team in these two series? Unfortunately for those of us who try and predict things, it is only simple to see who the better team was AFTER the fact.
National League Championship Los Angeles Dodgers VS. Philadelphia Phillies
How do you cap a team like the Dodgers? On paper they are a solid to above-average team; but they rarely seem to play like one on the field. They usually either play like duds, or they play like champions. In the Cubs series, they proved quite convincingly that when they are on their game, they can beat anyone in the league. So what can we expect from them against the Phillies? The Phillies out-slugged Milwaukee, and with their powerhouse line-up, they can mash the ball against just about anyone. They have experience on their side as they made the playoffs last year.
But as is usually the case in baseball, this series will come down to pitching. Just how good are these Dodger pitchers? Pretty amazing to see such an impressive 1 – 2 – 3 punch without Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, or Clayton Kershaw’s name involved in it. Derek Lowe had a strong regular season and always steps up big in the playoffs. Chad Billingsley has established himself as a true ace this year. And Kuroda has stepped right into the MLB without issue, and while he isn’t overpowering, he keeps you in the game; which, when the Dodgers are on, is all they need.
The Phillies are just outclassed here; Cole Hamels is an ace and very dangerous, but he is also matched up against Lowe, a playoff veteran that isn’t likely to leave much room for error. Myers needs to be at his very best to match up to Billingsley, and while season win totals would certainly suggest otherwise (in Moyer’s favor), Kuroda and Moyer are pretty evenly matched. If it comes down to a 4th pitcher, Joe Blanton would face one of the game’s all-time greats in Greg Maddux. Old he may be, but he is still effective and a better pitcher then Blanton.
So the question is, can the Phillies hit their way out of their pitching disadvantage? If anyone can, it’d certainly be them. But I’m going to give the Dodgers the edge here; assuming the Cubs series is an indication of what we will see from them and not merely a façade, I can’t see them losing this series. If the offense could score on Dempster, Zambrano, and Harden, it is hard to see their bats going totally quiet against this staff.
PREDICTION: Dodgers in 6