In less than 24 hours, the Phillies will begin their NLCS with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Going into the series, the Phillies have many things going for them, but they also have many things going against them. I'm going to break down what's going right and what's going wrong, and will predict whether that part of the game will succeed or fail in this series.
We'll start with the offense.
There's one big problem with the offense...well, three: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Pat Burrell. None of the three are hitting well. In the NLDS, Howard and Utley combined to go 4-for-26, and Burrell did not record a hit until the fourth game.
Although the Dodgers' pitching does not give up many home runs, I think Utley and Howard can improve this series. Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley are both right-handers, which is a huge plus for the two, especially Utley. I'm not quite sure about Burrell. I can only hope he can carry over his Game Four hitting into the NLCS.
Other than the big three, the offense is looking pretty good.
Shane Victorino is playing well and getting on base. Jimmy Rollins is doing the same. If Charlie Manuel keeps these two at the top of the order, it will help Utley, Howard, and Burrell to get some key hits and confidence.
Also, Jayson Werth did not play well early in the series. He picked it up later in the series, providing some key extra base hits. But after Werth, there isn't much hope. Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, and Carlos Ruiz are not playing well. The only player of the three that I'm confident in is Dobbs.
All in all, the offense is looking a bit shaky. Victorino, Rollins, and Werth are getting on and giving the team some fire, but the rest of the lineup is not coming through in the clutch and hitting them in.
Next, we'll go to pitching.
What can I say? Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Joe Blanton all pitched very well while Jaime Moyer and the bullpen pitched pretty well.
Hamels and Myers were lights out and gave the Phillies' offense a huge boost, and Joe Blanton pitched well over his six-plus innings.
For the entire series, the bullpen was not bad but not great.
Chad Durbin was shaky once again, and Ryan Madson gave Phillies fans headaches. Brad Lidge was not bad, but he was also a little shaky in the first game, giving Phils fans some worry.
But overall, I was extremely happy with the pitching staff. The starting rotation pitched very well and the bullpen did do enough to hold it up. They allowed just 2.25 runs per game, which was plenty for the iffy offense.
When you match the Phillies' pitching with the Dodgers' offense, it's hard to predict what will happen.
Phillies pitchers don't give up a lot of home runs, but the Dodgers don't rely on them anyway. The Dodgers rely on big hits and consistent hitting, but the Phillies' pitching—for the most part—is pretty strong in killing rallies and keeping big innings away from teams.
I don't think the Phillies' pitching will do as well as they did against the Brewers, but we shouldn't see an absolute collapse.
So if you add the offense and the pitching together, you have a team very capable of going places. But the team they are facing has many of the same qualities, so we are in for some good action.
No matter what happens, I expect a long series that will provide many thrills, with the Dodgers eventually winning the series in six.
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