Before Manny Ramirez electrified the entire Dodger lineup and before Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent traded places on the Creampuff list to shore up the defense, the Los Angelese Dodgers were a vastly mediocre team in a vastly piss-poor division. Certain folks overlooked the team when making predictions about their series against the Cubs, but in retrospect, I don't look as dumb right now as the Cubs themselves, so no big whoop.
It behooves the Philadelphia Phillies, in that case, to not overlook the Dodgers because of their ho-hum 2008 record. The two teams are way too evenly matched. Over the last two months of the season, the Dodgers scored 250 runs and allowed 217. Over the last two months of the season, the Phillies scored 253 runs and allowed 211. This is not a coincidence, because both teams are built in a similar manner post-Manny.
Both teams have strong starting rotations, although the Phillies seem to fall off a cliff with their #4 guy Joe Blanton. Hamels, Myers, and Moyer match up well with Lowe, Billingsley, and Kuroda. Either team can choose to bring back their Game One starter on three days' rest for Game Four; doing so will allow that fella to come back in Game Seven on normal rest because of the extra off-day built in. Charlie Manuel has already said he'll go with Blanton for Game Four while Joe Torre is hemming and hawing about using crusty vet Greg Maddux or young stud Clayton Kershaw.
Both teams have strong bullpens, too, although the Phillies structure is far more defined. Brad Lidge is the closer. Chad Durbin comes in to face righties. J.C. Romero comes in to face lefties. Ryan Madson comes in when Myers gets shelled early. It's set in stone, folks. Meanwhile, the Dodgers scrambled with their closer Takashi Saito on the D.L. for part of the regular season. Over the course of the year, Saito and Jonathan Broxton split save opportunities with Joe Beimel and Hong Chih-Kuo doing their magic in the 7th and 8th. Torre is deciding now whether to put Kuo, sidelined of late with a triceps injury, on the postseason roster to replace Saito and his wonky elbow.
Both teams hit lots of taters and took a lot of walks in their NLDS wins. The top six fellas in the Phillies lineup are solid: Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Burrell, and Werth. Past that, it's a crapshoot with Feliz and catcher o' the day. The lineup that Torre trotted out for the NLDS was equally good: Furcal, Martin, Ramirez, Ethier, Loney, and Kemp as the top six, with DeWitt and Blake bringing up ther rear.
Both teams match up well defensively, on the bench, and with their crusty old managers. So how do we predict a winner? We don't. We just cross our fingers and hope this one goes to seven, because more baseball is more gooder.