If it seems like you’ve seen the NLCS between the Phils and Dodgers before it’s because you have. A lot has changed over the past year, though, and the most important among them is that the Dodgers have gotten a lot better. After going 84-78 in 2008, the Dodgers posted the best record in the NL in 2009 at 95-67.

The wins aren’t the only thing that improved for LA this year. Here’s a look at the runs scored by the Dodgers and Phils for this year and 2008:


Team

Runs Scored

NL Rank

’09 LA

780
4

’09 PHI

820
1
     

’08 LA

700

13

’08 PHI

799
3

The Phillies hit in both years compared to the other teams in the National League. The Dodgers were third in runs scored this year, but thirteenth in 2008.

LA was fantastic at preventing runs in both ’08 and ’09. The Phillies allowed 29 more runs in ’09 than they did in ’08 and their rank in the NL dropped from third to sixth:


Team

Runs Allowed

NL Rank

’09 LA

611

T-1

’09 PHI

709
6
     

’08 LA

648
1

’08 PHI

680
3

In 2008 the Phillies scored 799 runs and allowed 680. So they scored 119 more runs than they allowed. In ’09 they scored 820 and allowed 709, which is the difference of a pretty similar 111.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, scored 700 and allowed 648 in 2008, for a difference of 52 runs. This year they scored 780 and allowed 611, which is the difference of a pretty dissimilar 169.

I don’t think there’s much of an argument to be made that the Phillies were better than the Dodgers in 2009. They weren’t. The Dodgers were better. What I’m not sure about is how much it matters. A big part of why the Dodgers were better for the year is that they went 35-17 in April and May. That’s pretty awesome, but it’s also a long time ago. The Phillies are World Champs and if you watched game four of the NLDS it’s a little hard to deny that their magic is alive and well.

At the same time, the Dodgers won more games than the Phillies this year. Their offense was a little worse than the Phillies, but still among the best in the league, while their pitching was much better. They come off an impressive sweep of the Cardinals. They went 4-3 against the Phillies this year without a single plate appearance from Manny Ramirez.

I do think the Phillies will win the series, but it is going to be a tight one.

Here’s a look back at the series from last year:

Hamels started game one last year against Derek Lowe. The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead into the sixth, but Victorino led off the bottom of the sixth and hit a ground ball to Furcal and Furcal threw it away. Utley followed with a home run to tie the game at 2-2 and Burrell hit a solo shot two batters later, putting the Phils on top to stay at 3-2.

Brett Myers and Chad Billingsley faced off in game two. Myers threw behind Manny in the first inning and a Loney double in the second helped put LA up 1-0. A Myers single helped the Phillies score four times in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 4-1. Loney had another big hit off of Myers in the third, an RBI-single that made it 4-2. The Phils extended their lead to 8-2 with four more runs in the bottom of the third, which featured Chan Ho Park striking out Rollins for the second out of the inning. That should have been it for the game, but LA got back into it in the top of the fourth. With two outs and nobody on, Furcal struck out for what should have been the third out of the inning. Ruiz didn’t block the ball, though, and Furcal was safe at first. Martin followed with a single before Manny hit a three-run homer to make it 8-5. The lead stood up for the Phils, thanks to Durbin, Romero, Lidge and Madson, who combined to throw four shutout innings.

Game three was the game the Phillies lost, falling 7-2 in LA. Moyer got the start and the Dodgers scored five times against him in the bottom of the first. Five of the first six Dodgers hitters to face Moyer reached base before he struck out Kemp for the second out of the inning with the bases loaded. He looked like he was going to get out of it down 2-0, but Blake DeWitt cleared the bases with a three-run triple that made it 5-0. A leadoff double by Howard helped the Phils cut the lead to 5-1 in the top of the second, but Moyer didn’t make it out of the bottom of the second. Furcal led off the bottom of the second with a homer that made it 6-1. Nomar Garciaparra extended the lead to 7-1 with an RBI-single off of Happ in the bottom of the fourth. Burrell drove in Utley with a single in the seventh for the Phillies other run.

Coming off of Myers throwing behind Ramirez in game one, LA starter Hiroki Kuroda threw a ball near the head of Shane Victorino in game three. It led to a bench-clearing incident after Victorino grounded out to end the inning.

Game four changed the series thanks to a late home run from Matt Stairs. Utley and Howard drove in runs off of Lowe in the top of the first, giving the Phils a 2-0 lead. Blake homered off of Blanton in the bottom of the first, cutting the lead to 2-1. Blanton protected the one-run lead until LA hit in the bottom of the fifth. Furcal led off with a walk and moved to second when Ethier followed with a bloop single. Ramirez followed with an RBI-single (2-2) and a ground out by Martin brought in Ethier to make it 3-2. Howard led off the sixth with a walk and came in to score on a wild pitch by Park to tie the game at 3-3. Blake led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer off of Durbin, though, making it 4-3, and a throwing error by Howard on a bunt by Furcal helped the Dodgers score another run to extend the lead to 5-3. That score held till the top of the eighth, when Howard led off with a single. Victorino followed two batters later and lined a ball out to right off of Corey Wade, tying the game at 5-5. Feliz flew out for the second out, but Ruiz delivered a two-out single off of Jonathan Broxton and Stairs followed and connected for a mammoth homer to put the Phils up 7-5. Romero and Lidge kept LA off the board in the eighth and the ninth.

It was hard to imagine LA coming back from Stairs dagger. They didn’t. Hamels outpitched Billingsley in game five with the Phillies winning 5-1. Rollins was the first batter of the game and he put the Phils up 1-0 with a home run to center. Howard and Burrell had RBI-singles in the third, making it 3-0. Furcal had an inning to forget in the fifth, making three errors as the Phils extended the lead to 5-0. Manny Ramirez homered off of Hamels with two outs in the sixth to get LA their only run of the game.

Kendrick and Myers are off the Phillies roster for the NLCS and have been replaced by Chan Ho Park and Eric Bruntlett. Bruntlett and Cairo are a lot of similar guys to have on your roster, especially since it means going with 11 pitchers. I think that’s a bad decision — I would rather have seen them carry 12 pitchers and just one of Bruntlett and Cairo given the bullpen struggles and the fact that I would be pretty worried about Park since he hasn’t pitched for the Phils since September 16.

On the other hand, if they weren’t comfortable with letting Kendrick pitch they shouldn’t have him on the roster. You should try to have 12 pitchers in your organization you feel okay about putting into a game, though. Cairo and Bruntlett both is a lot of Cairos and Bruntletts. Condrey and Walker sure must be wondering what is going on.

My guess is that the thinking here may be to try to put another right-handed bat on the bench out of fear of the lefties in the bullpen for the Dodgers, Kuo and Sherrill. Those guys are scary, but if that’s the reasoning I think the Phils may have overthought this one. If it is about putting another righty on the bench, I wonder if they considered Mayberry instead of Bruntlett. It sure seems like he would provoke a bit more worry in the Dodgers since he can hit the ball out of the yard.

This article suggests Pedro Martinez may start game two. I am hoping for Blanton and Pedro in game four. Blanton was 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.29 ratio in three post-season starts in the post-season in 2008. Manuel’s seeming reluctance to start him is curious to me. It no doubt has a lot to do with fear of his bullpen, but I’d just let him start.

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