Phillies-Dodgers 2009 NLCS Preview

Phillies No love is lost between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers. Most NELADodgers logo readers know that the Dodgers ruined my childhood so I won't spend too much time denigrating the Blue Crew.  Both teams were pugnacious in last year's playoffs but the Phillies, aided by Matt Stairs' Gibson-like homer, advanced to eventually win the World Series.

That's all ancient history.  Tomorrow night, the 2009 NLCS starts at Chavez Ravine.  Here's a breakdown of both teams and my prediction for the NLCS:

Pitching:

The Dodgers have suffered with their starting rotation while The Phils have gotten stronger.  Starters Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez should provide an edge over Kershaw and Vicente Padilla.  Kershaw is undefeated at Dodgers Stadium but the Phillies have his number.  Padilla is red-hot but so is Pedro at this point. 

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee should be unbeatable in Game Three.  Edge:  PHILLIES

Bullpen:

The Dodgers excel out of the bullpen while the Phillies have had their trials and tribulations with Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge.  Both performed well against Colorado but the ghost of 11 blown saves continues to haunt the Phils.  Brett Myers just can't pitch on the road and LA has the home field advantage. If it comes down to the late innings, Jon Broxton is about as good you can have on the hill.  EDGE: DODGERS

Offense:

Manny Ramirez is the best hitter of this generation but continues to be a head case.  Phillies slugger Ryan Howard is all business.  The Phillies have perhaps the best offensive punch in baseball unless facing a dominant pitcher.  If the Dodgers get behind early, and can't produce runs, the Phillies should be able to hold on.  EDGE:  PHILLIES

Defense:

The Phillies oufield and right side of the infield matches up better than the Dodgers.  The Dodgers edge the Phillies behind the plate and on the left side of the infield.  The Phillies bats are mostly left-handed so this could be a slight edge to the Phillies.  I'll call it a push.

Bench:

On paper, the Dodgers are much deeper than the Phillies but the bench shouldn't be a factor in this series.  If we have extra inning games, expect the Dodgers bullpen and deep bench to prevail.  EDGE: DODGERS

Grit:

Hands down, Phillies.  While the Dodgers were all business against the Cardinals, the Fightin' Phils earned their nickname in the Rockies series.  That intangible called heart is the one thing that can keep the Phillies alive if the games come down to the late innings.  As good as the Dodgers bullpen is, the defending World Champions find ways to win ball games when the title is on the line.  EDGE: PHILLIES

Environment:Phanatic_lasorda

Phillies fans are known for their no-nonsense passion but Dodgers fans of today are not the sushi-eating dilletantes of years past.  Dodgers baseball is a WAY OF LIFE to today's fans.  With no football team, Los Angelenos have nothing other to distract them from their mission to make the Phillies players as miserable as possible when in Chavez Ravine.  Considering the bean-ball war of 2008, both fans will be trying to give their team the edge.  As the Dodgers have home field advantage-  EDGE: DODGERS

In my opinion, these teams are evenly matched with unique strengths.  The secret to the Dodgers success will be to keep the Phillies early-inning run production down while building up leads to take to the late innings.  Consequently, the Phillies will have to get to the Dodgers pitching early and often.  I expect the Phils to pull one late-inning victory out of their hats on pure heart which is why I predict:

Phillies in 7