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BILL PLASCHKE

Two can play at this game

Dodgers and Angels go into the postseason with similar points to prove.

October 07, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

They may be 31 miles apart, but they're in this together.

Their postseason journeys may be vastly different, but their luggage is much the same.

At the outset of yet another search for a first true Freeway Series, the Dodgers and Angels are more alike than they seem.

TWO MANAGERS IN A SLUMP

Since winning the 2002 World Series championship, Mike Scioscia's Angels have gone 5-15 in the postseason amid questions about their October intensity.

Since his New York Yankees' historic collapse against the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 postseason, the Dodgers' Joe Torre has gone 8-13 in playoff games amid questions about his handling of pitchers.

TWO KIDS WITH A CHIP

Last October, the Angels' Erick Aybar blew a suicide squeeze bunt that haunted the Angels all winter.

Last October, the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley blew two starts against the Philadelphia Phillies that may haunt him still.

TWO PEES IN A CUP

Still dogged by reports that he once received a shipment of human growth hormone, Angels reserve Gary Matthews Jr. has hit two home runs since June 20.

Still smarting from a 50-game suspension this season for violating drug policy, Dodgers star Manny Ramirez hasn't had a big hit in forever.

TWO GASPING GIMMICKS

Remember that lovable Rally Monkey that cuddled the Angels so well in 2002? He's still there, but the Angels have lost their last six playoff games at home, and haven't had a postseason comeback victory in the seventh inning or later since Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

Remember Mannywood? Yeah, well, the citizens now vote with their boos.

TWO TENUOUS TEXANS

For the Angels to survive, Abilene-born starter John Lackey will have to control his emotions

For the Dodgers to survive, Dallas-born starter Clayton Kershaw will have to control his curveball.

TWO BURDENS AT THE PLATE

The Angels could use Vladimir Guerrero's productive bat, yet he has but one RBI in his last 17 postseason games.

The Dodgers could use Andre Ethier's clutch bat, yet he has a .182 average in two postseasons, with no RBIs in 10 games.

TWO OHHHS IN CENTER FIELD

The Angels' Torii Hunter is good for at least one leaping catch that will drop your jaw, and is batting .316 in 25 postseason games.

The Dodgers' Matt Kemp is good for at least one diving catch that will drop your jaw, and batted .333 in last year's National League Championship Series.

TWO AWWWS ON THE MOUND

The Angels' best starter, Jered Weaver, was born in Northridge.

The Dodgers' best starter, Randy Wolf, was born in Canoga Park.

But will they have their classic cool? Weaver has one postseason start, and this will be Wolf's postseason debut.

TWO INFIELDERS OUT OF EXILE

Can the Angels' Howie Kendrick, who was sent to the minor leagues this season, redeem himself for last year's .118 average in the division series?

Can the Dodgers' Ronnie Belliard, who spent time with the Washington Nationals, redeem himself for his last postseason appearance, in which he was 0 for 12 for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 World Series?

WHO'S ON FIRST?

The Angels will learn a lot about MVP candidate Kendry Morales, whose 34 homers and 108 RBIs this season will mean nothing until he performs in his first postseason as a regular.

The Dodgers will continue to learn about James Loney, who, since last October's celebrated grand slam against the Chicago Cubs in the division series, has hit only 13 homers, exactly one at Dodger Stadium

BULLPEN FIRSTS

Two of the Angels' two main setup men, Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger, have yet to pitch in a major league postseason game.

Which gives them exactly the same October experience as Dodgers setup men Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario and George Sherrill.

CUTE NICKNAMES THAT AREN'T 'MR. OCTOBER'

Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, known universally as Figgy, has a postseason average of .207 in 26 games.

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, known universally as Raffy, has a postseason average of .234 in 33 games.

COLUMN CLOSER, BUT GAME CLOSERS?

Can the Angels trust Brian Fuentes, who was 0-2 with two blown saves and a 4.50 ERA in September?

Can the Dodgers trust Jonathan Broxton, who gave up three runs in his last save situation and still must overcome last October's memory of Philadelphia's Matt Stairs' taking him deep?

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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