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HOW THEY MATCH UP

October 09, 2008|Kevin Baxter

* Offense: With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell batting in the middle of their lineup, the Phillies can overpower any pitching staff in their small park, which is why they were second in the league in runs scored. But if sinkerball pitchers such as Derek Lowe can keep the ball out of the bleachers, Philadelphia's hitters suddenly becomes mediocre, which is why even the Pittsburgh Pirates had a higher batting average than the Phillies' .255 in the regular season. But the Phillies can also run, with Jimmy Rollins (47) and Jayson Werth (20) combining to steal 67 bases in 71 tries. The Dodgers are much more balanced offensively, especially with Rafael Furcal back at the top of the lineup. Yet it's Manny Ramirez's bat that makes them go. In the three-game sweep of the Cubs, he reached base nine times, scoring five runs and hitting a pair of homers. Edge: Dodgers.

* Defense: Fielding isn't particularly a strength for either team, both of which finished in the middle of the league in fielding percentage during the regular season. The Phillies, with Rollins, Utley and Shane Victorino up the middle, can be flashy at times. But they can also be brutal, especially at first base where Howard led the majors with 19 errors. And while the Dodgers are generally solid on the routine plays, Ramirez in left and Matt Kemp in center can sometimes turn the easiest fly balls into an adventure. Edge: Phillies.

* Starting pitching: The Dodgers' rotation falls off steeply after Lowe and Chad Billingsley, who have gone 10-0 with a 1.78 earned-run average and 64 strikeouts in their last 14 starts combined, including one victory each against the Cubs. The Phillies, conversely, are deeper following the midsummer acquisition of Joe Blanton. Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, the Phillies' No. 1 and No. 2 starters, combined to give up two runs and four hits in 15 innings against Milwaukee in the division series. But veteran Jamie Moyer, who made his big league debut two years before the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw was born, was the only Phillies pitcher to lose in the division series and he has failed to make a quality start five times in his last eight outings. That could favor the Dodgers if Philadelphia gives Moyer the start against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3. Edge: Dodgers.

* Bullpen: Although these were the top two bullpens in the National League during the regular season, the Dodgers have been weakened by the expected loss of Takashi Saito. Jonathan Broxton has filled in admirably in the closer's role -- he had a 0.68 ERA in his last 14 appearances in the regular season, then threw 3 1/3 hitless innings against the Cubs in the division series. But the Dodgers' depth has been compromised without him in the setup role. And in any case, Phillies closer Brad Lidge has been even better, posting a 0.61 ERA in his last 15 regular-season games. He has converted all 43 of his save opportunities, including two in the playoffs. In front of Lidge, the Phillies are deep and versatile with lefties J.C. Romero (4-4, 2.75) and Scott Eyre (5-0, 4.21) and right-hander Ryan Madson (4-2, 3.05). Edge: Phillies.

* Bench: With Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs and either Pedro Feliz or Greg Dobbs on the bench, the Phillies have three experienced pinch-hitters, and So Taguchi can pinch-run or provide some late-inning defensive help in the outfield. But the Dodgers' bench is more versatile, offering game-changing power (Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra), speed (Juan Pierre) and defense (Angel Berroa). Edge: Dodgers.

* Managers: Charlie Manuel has never managed a losing team over a full season and has done a remarkable job in Philadelphia, guiding the Phillies to consecutive division titles for the first time in 27 seasons. But Joe Torre is the only manager in this series going to the Hall of Fame. Injuries in the bullpen and the infield forced Torre to manage more this season than he did in any of his 12 seasons with the Yankees, which is why winning a title with the Dodgers would probably be more satisfying than any of the four he won in New York. Edge: Dodgers.

* Prediction: Dodgers in five games.

-- Kevin Baxter

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