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Dodgers had twist of faith in Philly

October 06, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

For the first two games of the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers will head back to Philadelphia, the site of a four-game sweep by the Phillies in late August that started a season-long eight-game losing streak for the Dodgers.

But memories of Philadelphia don't necessarily elicit negative emotions for the Dodgers, who were outscored 27-5 by the Phillies in that series. Because of the beatings they absorbed, the players say, they found out how much Manager Joe Torre believed in them. Or how crazy he was.

The Dodgers were outplayed by such a wide margin in Philadelphia that Torre called a team meeting in Washington, where they were about to start the next segment of their 10-game trip.

"You're going to win the division," Torre told them.

Um . . . OK . . .

"Where is this faith coming from?" pitcher Derek Lowe said he recalled thinking at the time.

But, Lowe added, "It was important to have our leader feel that way."

Because soon the players felt that way. They passed Arizona in the NL West, won the division title, swept the Chicago Cubs to win a playoff series for the first time in 20 years and punched their ticket to the NLCS, which opens Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

Their faith in themselves will be tested again.

Before the NL division series opener in Chicago, the Dodgers said they weren't the same team that lost five of seven games to the Cubs in late May and early June. And they were right.

Manny Ramirez wasn't there in May. Casey Blake wasn't either.

The same isn't true of their previous encounters with the Phillies.

Ramirez was there. Blake was there.

The results were dead even, as the Dodgers won the four games at Dodger Stadium and the Phillies won the four at Citizens Bank Park.

What Torre might find disconcerting is how the Dodgers' pitching fared against the NL East champion Phillies, who secured their berth in the NLCS by beating the Milwaukee Brewers in four games in their division series.

Torre has long insisted that with or without Ramirez in his lineup, pitching will dictate the Dodgers' postseason fate. Pitching was what lifted them to their victory over the Cubs, as starters Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda combined for a 1.42 earned-run average in the three-game sweep.

The Cubs' lineup consisted almost exclusively of right-handed hitters -- Jim Edmonds was the only left-hander who started every game in the series for Manager Lou Piniella -- and the Dodgers used that to their advantage. The Dodgers faced the Cubs 10 times this year, including the postseason, and in those games Dodgers left-handers did not throw a single pitch.

The Phillies, on the other hand, have plenty of left-handed bats that could trouble the Dodgers' pitching staff.

MVP candidate Ryan Howard (48 home runs, 146 runs batted in) and Chase Utley (33 homers, 104 RBIs) bat from the left side; Jimmy Rollins (38 doubles, nine triples, 47 steals) and Shane Victorino (.293 average, 102 runs, 36 steals) are switch-hitters.

The Dodgers' earned-run average against the Phillies was 5.48, higher than it was against any other NL opponent. The only other team against which the Dodgers had an ERA above 5.00 was the New York Mets, whose lineup was also sprinkled with lefties and switch-hitters.

If Hong-Chih Kuo is unavailable for the NLCS -- he missed the division series because of elbow problems -- the Dodgers figure to have only two left-handed pitchers, Joe Beimel and 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw.

Beimel, a situational lefty, held the Phillies to one run in 4 1/3 innings over five games in the regular season. Kershaw started twice against the Phillies and was 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA, giving up nine runs in 10 innings.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who won Game 3 of the division series for the Dodgers, had the most success against the Phillies, posting a 1-0 record in two starts and limiting them to two runs in 13 innings.



Dodgers vs. Philadelphia

All times Pacific; All games on Channel 11.

Game 1: Thursday, 5:15 p.m.

Dodgers (Derek Lowe, 14-11, 3.24)

at Philadelphia (Cole Hamels, 14-10, 3.09)

Game 2: Friday, time TBA

Dodgers at Philadelphia

Game 3: Sunday, time TBA

Philadelphia at Dodgers

Game 4: Oct. 13, time TBA

Philadelphia at Dodgers

Game 5*: Oct. 15, time TBA

Philadelphia at Dodgers

Game 6*: Oct. 17, time TBA

Dodgers at Philadelphia

Game 7*: Oct. 18, time TBA

Dodgers at Philadelphia


*if necessary

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