The Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Joe Torre have done their best impression of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots by withholding the order of the starting rotation until late Wednesday afternoon and not releasing their LCS roster until the 11th hour on Wednesday evening.
The release of the starting rotation surprised some, with LDS Game One starter Randy Wolf falling all the way to fourth in the pecking order and youngster Clayton Kershaw taking on the opening game duties.
Hiroki Kuroda, who missed the LDS with a herniated disc in his neck, and Vicente Padilla, who dazzled in the series-clinching Game Three win in St. Louis, also jumped Wolf.
When the roster finally came out, there was just one thing that sticks out.
Jon Garland went 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA for the Dodgers after being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he was left off the league championship series roster in favor of the fallen ace, Chad Billingsley.
Billingsley led the team in wins during the regular season, but will be working out of the bullpen against the Philadelphia Phillies because his inability to navigate through a start without experiencing a collapse.
Garland also possesses a World Series championship ring from his time with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, and also a postseason ERA of 2.25 in two career starts.
I don’t think the move is really a deal-breaker. Both pitchers probably have about the same amount to offer, and if Billingsley were called upon, I would expect him to pitch decently.
Everywhere else, there were no surprises.
Here is the projected lineup for the Dodgers in Game One tomorrow evening.
1. Rafael Furcal (SS)
LDS: 6-for-12, triple, RBI
The leadoff hitter’s late-season surge has provided middle of the lineup with more than enough opportunities to knock in runs.
And things are looking up for the LCS this season. I mean, he can’t make three errors in one inning again, can he?
2. Matt Kemp (CF)
LDS: 2-for-14, HR, two RBI
After belting a first inning home run in Game One of the LDS, Kemp went silent for the remainder of the series.
The culprit was his arch-nemesis: the breaking ball.
3. Andre Ethier (RF)
LDS: 6-for-10, two HR, three RBI
Mr. Miracle better have a couple of tricks left in the bag, because his performance will dictate the fate of the Boys in Blue.
Fortunately, Ethier does yoga to relieve all of that pressure on his shoulders (seriously, he held a class at Dodger Stadium).
4. Manny Ramirez (LF)
LDS: 4-for-13, three doubles, two RBI
One of the most successful hitters in postseason history, with 28 home runs and 76 RBI, Ramirez finally showed signs of life in the series finale versus the Cardinals (3-for-4, two doubles).
Dodger fans will be looking to make sure he has his multi-colored mouth guard in place, because I’m pretty sure that’s his power source.
5. James Loney (1B)
LDS: 3-for-12, walk
Loney hit 12 of his 13 home runs on the road this season; so needless to say, he is not stoked about having home field advantage.
Maybe the Dodgers should give him some virtual reality goggles so he can envision Citizens’ Bank Park.
6. Casey Blake (3B)
LDS: 3-for-11, RBI, two walks
Blake’s presence on the defensive side has been invaluable, but he can explode at any time for a big extra base hit.
Not to mention he has a top-level playoff beard working.
7. Ronnie Belliard (2B)
LDS: 3-for-11, RBI
Since taking over for All-Star Orlando Hudson at second base, Belliard has continued to come through in clutch situations.
Next opportunity for a clutch performance: apologizing to Hudson for stealing his position.
8. Russell Martin (C)
LDS: 1-for-9, RBI, three walks
Wait, he played in the LDS? I hardly noticed.
9. Clayton Kershaw (SP)
LDS: 6.2 IP, nine hits, two runs, four strikeouts, walk
The 21-year old will pitch the biggest game of his life in front of 50,000+ screaming Dodger fans.
I hope his mom signed the consent form.
Juan Pierre (OF), Orlando Hudson (IF), Juan Castro (IF), Mark Loretta (IF), Brad Ausmus (C), Jim Thome (PH)
Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Hong Chi-Kuo, Ronald Belisario, Jeff Weaver, Ramon Troncoso, Chad Billingsley