Every baseball fan knows the history: The Philadelphia Phillies, on their way to an eventual World Series title, in the 2008 NLDS series, beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games of the best-of-seven series.
That was last year. The two teams meet again in the 2009 NLCS.
The Dodgers' top hitter, Manny Ramirez (.290, 19 homers, 63 RBI), was not the same player he was a year ago, but Andre Ethier led the Dodgers in home runs (31) and RBI (106). Add Matt Kemp, who had 26 home runs and 101 RBI, and you have some impressive power in the middle of the lineup.
The Phillies had one player with more than 100 RBI, Ryan Howard (141). But three Phillies had 90 RBI or more: Jayson Werth (99), Chase Utley (93) and Raul Ibanez (93). The same four players all had 30 home runs or more, with Howard leading the way with 45 homers.
Player by player, these teams are even.
Howard/Ramirez, Werth/Eithier, Kemp/Ibanez, Utley/Rafeal Furcal are similar in ability and production numbers.
The Dodgers swept the Cardinals in part by not letting Albert Pujos beat them. The Phillies are too deep offensively to make that an effective move by Dodgers manager Joe Torre.
I think the Phillies starters are better than the Dodgers.
The Dodgers' staff is Clayton "Chinstrap" Kershaw, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland.
The Phillies counter with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez.
The Dodgers have the edge in the bullpen. Closer Jonathan Broxton (36 saves) anchors a bullpen that had a 3.14 ERA.
For the Phillies, Brad Lidge collected two saves in the divisional series, but had a horrible regular season with 11 blown saves. The Phillies bullpen may get a boost with the possibility of Chan Ho Park's return.
The Dodgers' pitching staff held the high-powered St. Louis offense to six runs in its three-game NLDS sweep. Kershaw is the stud of the staff with an 8-8 record and a 2.79 ERA.
The Phillies chances lay on the postseason dominance of Cole Hamels (pictured.)
Along with Cliff Lee, who had an outstanding NLDS, Hamels return could spell another Phillies trip to the World Series. A shutdown of the Dodgers offense would spell a Phillies win.
That is a lot of ifs by the Phillies, starting with the bullpen and Hamels, who recently became a first-time father. Hamels had an average season, going 10-11 in the regular season.
Anything is possible and the Phillies showed their comeback ability in the regular season and the last two games of the NLDS.
The Dodgers won the regular season head-to-to head, four games to three, highlighted by two Ethier walk-off home runs against the Phillies, June 5 and 6.
The Phillies led the majors with 43 comeback wins, while the Dodgers had had 42.
Two high powered offenses should make for an impressive show.
But this isn't 2008.
The Phillies return as defending World Series champions, while the Dodgers can draw from their 2008 championship round experience.
As much as it hurts me, as a Phillies fan, the facts point to a Dodgers' series win.
I think even Matt Stairs' bat is a bit slower. It seems to me that Jim Thome is more likely to hit a go-ahead home run than Stairs.
But then again, I am not Charlie Manuel.