MLB Championship Series Day One: It's Always Sunny in Mannywood

Nino CollaSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2008

Pardon for the confusing title, but trust me, I'm definitely going somewhere with this one.

We've narrowed down the Major League Baseball playoff field to just four teams and in my opinion, four of the MLB's strongest.

I look at each team and see all the qualities a good championship-caliber team needs to have in starting pitching: a good bullpen, solid defense, and a productive lineup.

All four of these teams deserve to be here and you can honestly say that no one got here based of being the "hot hand" coming into the playoffs. There is no St. Louis Cardinals of the bunch; all four of these teams are playing solid baseball.

With that, I'm real excited about the two matchups and the potential each one has.

The Rays and Red Sox are division rivals, who are surely primed to give us the excitement we know the two can provide. The Rays are tough at home, and the Red Sox have had a good time with the Rays at Fenway, so something has to give.

The Phillies and Dodgers aren't really rivals, but there is so much history in each organization, and there is plenty of star power. The Phillies have their slugging lineup and power arms in the rotation with Cole Hamels and in the 'pen with Brad Lidge.

The Dodgers...Well, you know whom they have, do I even have to mention his name?

The one man that has pretty much changed the landscaping of the 2008 season, in both leagues, is still playing baseball, and I don't think he has any plans on stopping in the NLCS.

Manny Ramirez has impacted both his new lineup and his old with a move that took him out and put Jason Bay, a definite hero for the Boston Red Sox in their ALDS win, into the same lineup.

I find it really eerie that the lasting moments, for me at least, of the Division Series round are two guys who got traded for each other, sliding into home plate and beating the tags in their team's respective clinching games.

Ramirez scored the second of three runs the Dodgers put up but his was the difference.

Bay, on the other hand, scored the game winner off Jed Lowrie's single in the bottom of the ninth.

Just think about that for a second and realize what we might be on the verge of.

Always happy, always bright, at least in recent times, Manny Ramirez and his fun-loving Dodgers roll into Fenway Park to start a battle for the game's most coveted prize.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I apologize, but it tells you what I'm already thinking of. We still have to decide it, because as you know, games are not played on paper or in story books; they are played on the baseball diamond.

That means Ramirez and his Dodgers have to go into Philadelphia first and topple the dangerous Phillies.

Getting back to the odd title of the article, which is definitely a play off the show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which coincidentally has new episodes every Thursday, the same day the NLCS starts.

I don't know the weather today in Philadelphia; it could start raining for all I know. But I'm pretty sure in Manny's head, it's nothing but sunshine. Everyday and all the time, "Mannywood's" forecast has nothing but sunny skies and green grass.

At least, with the Dodgers and as long as they keep winning, it's just going to get brighter and brighter by the day.


NLCS Game One: Dodgers (Lowe) @ Phillies (Hamels)

The last thing you want as a Phillies team is a sunny day, especially with Derek Lowe on the mound. Lowe's sinkerball repertoire works well in the warmer weather, and either way, he could pose problems for the Philadelphia lineup that builds their offense off the long ball.

Lowe and the entire Dodgers rotation are experts at not giving up the home-run ball. The Phillies have to find some different ways to score, because not all their runs will come off home runs.

Los Angeles has surrendered just 123 home runs as a pitching staff this year, the least amount in all of baseball.

Coincidentally the Phillies have hit 214 home runs, the most in the National League. So obviously, something has to give.

I'll always take pitching in that instance; I think it’s tougher to get the big hit in the postseason, especially a home run.

The Phillies will send Cole Hamels to the mound, and he's coming off an electric performance against the Brewers in Game One of the NLDS. Hamels settled into his position as Phillies ace, rebounding from his one start last year against Colorado.

Oh what a year of experience will do for you as a young pitcher.

Still, Hamels doesn't match the experience of Derek Lowe, who's been perhaps one of the hottest pitchers in baseball as of late.

This game will probably go much like the one the Dodgers played in their first game of the NLDS against the Cubs. Lowe could get off to a little bit of a rocky start, settle in, get a lead and go from there. Hamels needs to control his emotions in front of a Philadelphia crowd as well.

I think the first game is especially crucial for Philadelphia, being at home and having the advantage. They need to take a quick lead or the Dodgers could run away with this sooner than we all think.

Officially, I have the Dodgers in six games, but if they win this especially, I wouldn't be surprised to see it go quicker.

I'm going to take the Dodgers to win this first game. Lowe is just pitching way too well, and I think he shuts the Phillies down for the most part. I fully expect to see both pitchers in the seventh inning, which is great for all because the bullpens will be sharp if they get minimal use.