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How They Match Up

October 01, 2008|Dylan Hernandez

* Offense: The Cubs led the NL with 5.3 runs per game. They had five players hit 20 or more home runs, and Jim Edmonds hit 19 for them (20 overall). Cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez hit .289 with 27 home runs and 111 runs batted in. Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano had 29 home runs, nine more than Dodgers home run leader Andre Ethier. The Dodgers averaged only 4.3 runs per game, which was 24th in the majors and worst among playoff teams. But the addition of Manny Ramirez at the July 31 trade deadline did wonders for their offense. Ramirez became only the second player to drive in 50 runs in both leagues in the same season, as he hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 runs batted in 53 games for the Dodgers. Edge: Cubs.

* Defense: The Cubs have given up fewer unearned runs than any playoff team. There are a lot of question marks for the Dodgers defensively, particularly in the middle of their infield. Shortstop Rafael Furcal recently came back from a 4 1/2 -month stint on the disabled list and second baseman Blake DeWitt was moved over from third base in the middle of the season. Center fielder Matt Kemp covers a lot of ground but occasionally misplays balls. Left fielder Manny Ramirez is, well, Manny. Edge: Cubs.

* Starting pitching: Both rotations are among the best in baseball, the Cubs' starters posting a 3.75 ERA (best among the teams in the playoffs) and their Dodgers counterparts a 3.87 ERA. The Cubs' rotation is deeper, which will allow them to use a four-man rotation consisting of Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96), Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91), Rich Harden (5-1, 1.77) and Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.09). Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, who probably will come back on short rest to pitch Game 4, was 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA over his last nine starts. Chad Billingsley (16-10, 3.14) matured a lot this season and Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73), though inconsistent, pitched some of the best games of any Dodger this season. Edge: ????

* Bullpen: The Dodgers were second in the NL with a bullpen ERA of 3.34. Closer Takashi Saito (2.49 ERA, 18 saves) missed two months because of a sprained elbow ligament but appeared to be close to regaining his All-Star form by the end of the regular season. The Dodgers' bullpen won't be the same without left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who had a 1.69 ERA in 69 1/3 innings and is out for the series. Rookie Cory Wade (2.15 ERA) emerged this season as a dependable arm. The Cubs' middle relief has struggled lately not only because their lead in the NL Central let them audition pitchers for playoff spots, but also because of an injury to Chad Gaudin, who is unavailable this series. Carlos Marmol (2.68 ERA) is excellent in the setup role. Kerry Wood (3.26 ERA, 34 saves) looks as if he's coming into his own as a closer. Edge: Dodgers.

* Bench: The Dodgers will be paying their bench players $26 million, about $11 million more than their eight starting position players combined -- and that's with Furcal, who earns $13 million, starting. (Ramirez's and Blake's salaries are being paid by their former teams.) Jeff Kent is less than a month removed from surgery but had no trouble hitting last week. Nomar Garciaparra can step in at first, third or short, if necessary. Juan Pierre is the fourth outfielder. The Cubs' bench is solid, counting Reed Johnson (.303 average), Mike Fontenot (.303) and Henry Blanco (.292) among their options off the bench. Edge: Dodgers.

* Manager: Joe Torre of the Dodgers and Lou Piniella of the Cubs are among the best in the business and have a combined 48 seasons of managerial experience. Torre won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees over the previous 12 seasons. Several Dodgers said that Torre's calm helped them get through several rough periods this season. Piniella has led the Cubs to consecutive NL Central titles. He won a World Series with Cincinnati in 1990. Edge: Even.

* Prediction: Cubs in four games.

Dylan Hernandez



Best-of-five series; all times Pacific; all games on TBS

* Game 1: Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.

Dodgers (Lowe, 14-11, 3.24) at Chicago (Dempster 17-6, 2.96)

* Game 2: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Dodgers (Billingsley, 16-10, 3.14) at Chicago (Zambrano, 14-6, 3.91)

* Game 3: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Chicago (Harden, 5-1, 1.77) at Dodgers (Kuroda, 9-10, 3.73)

* Game 4: Sunday, TBA

(Ted Lilly, 17-9, 4.09) at Dodgers (Lowe, 14-11, 3.24)*

* Game 5: Tuesday, TBA

Dodgers (Billingsley, 16-10, 3.14) at Chicago (Dempster, 17-5, 2.96)*

*if necessary



*--* P DODGERS AVG HR RBI SS Rafael Furcal 357 5 16 C Russell Martin 280 13 69 LF Manny Ramirez 396 17 53 RF Andre Ethier 305 20 77 1B James Loney 289 13 90 CF Matt Kemp 290 18 76 2B Blake DeWitt 264 9 52 3B Casey Blake 251 10 23 P Derek Lowe 138 0 5 *--*

*--* P CUBS AVG HR RBI LF Alfonso Soriano 280 29 75 SS Ryan Theriot 307 1 38 1B Derrek Lee 291 20 90 3B Aramis Ramirez 289 20 111 CF Jim Edmonds 235 20 55 C Geovany Soto 285 23 86 2B Mark DeRosa 285 21 87 RF K. Fukudome 257 10 58 P Ryan Dempster 164 0 2 *--*

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