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Phillies Take Game One of NLCS Against Dodgers

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I am running out of adjectives to describe this Phillies team.  To say the last three games have been extremely gut wrenching is a vast understatement at best.  It wasn't pretty, but it was memorable. And at the end of the day, the Phils have a 1-0 lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2009 NLCS. Because it's two o'clock in the morning, and I have to leave early for a wedding in Maryland tomorrow, I am quickly recapping my keys to beating the Dodgers from the other day to see how accurate I really was.  Don't worry, I'll only include the important things:

Pre Game One: Cole Hamels MUST be the old Cole Hamels:

Simply put, Cole Hamels can set the tone for this entire series by throwing an absolute gem at Dodger Stadium tonight. Brad Lidge (knock wood) has shown "some" signs of getting his groove back, and now it's Hamels turn to do the same.

Post Game One

To be blunt, Hamels was probably the least deserving winning pitcher of any NLCS game ever played.  Hamels repeatedly fails to have that "shutdown" fifth or sixth inning, mostly when there are two outs.  The Phillies rallied for five runs of losing pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the top of the fifth inning. So what does Hamels do? He gives it right back to the Dodgers in the next half inning. 

Pre Game One: Neutralize the big bats of the Dodgers:

Despite his fall from grace, Ramirez can still pop one out at any time, so he is not to be taken lightly. These guys make pitchers throw pitches, and this could be a potential nightmare for Phillies starters, who need to go into the latter innings of these games if they are going to win anything.

Post Game One

WHAT was Hamels thinking throwing an 2-0 changeup to Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the fifth inning?  Hamels didn't even make it through the sixth inning, and that is unacceptable for your Game One starter. James Loney, who has only homered at Dodger Stadium once all season, takes Hamels deep? The way he is pitching, he is a number four starter at best if they advance to the World Series.  There, I said it. You all want to!

 

Pre Game One: Attack the Dodgers' starting pitching. Score often and early.

The team has proven once again that they can win without the long ball. The Phils bullpen is still a question mark, which is unfortunately not something you can say about the Dodgers. Joe Torre has to feel pretty good about Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill (who I REALLY wanted the Phillies to pick up), and Jonathan Broxton because they are absolutely nasty. In other words, if you go toe to toe with the Dodgers bullpen, chances are you will lose.

 

Post Game One:

The Phillies didn't put any runs on the board until Carlos Ruiz took Kershaw deep for a three-run blast in the fifth.  After Ryan Howard's two-run double, many thought (including yours truly) that this would finish the scoring portion of the evening for the Phillies due to the Dodgers nearly "unhittable" bull pen.. Boy was I wrong.  Raul Ibanez hit the first homer off Sherrill by a left handed batter this year.  One would have to imagine that this gives the Phils an incredible psychological edge in regards to Sherrill.  Ryan Madson continues to struggle this postseason, but Brad Lidge continues to improve and seems to have newfound confidence. Will it always be a circus? Absolutely, but with his save tonight, Lidge moved into 2nd place all-time in postseason saves with 16. Mariano Rivera of the Yankees is first with 786. Not really, but you get it.

Here are the final tallys for the two teams respective bull pens.  When you look at the numbers it's pretty even, but Ibanez was the difference maker.

Phillies: 3 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs

Dodgers: 4 1/3 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs

Pre Game One: Don't give a team four outs in an inning.

Although an error was charged to Jimmy Rollins on the "Dexter Fowler high jump debacle" Monday night, that was not a common play where one person remains necessarily accountable. In saying this, that "freak play" led to three Colorado Rockies crossing the plate. The Dodgers were victims of a Matt Holiday "gift" last week. It can happen.

Post Game One:

It happened. I'm not real sure why it took so long for Jimmy Rollins to get Andre Ethier's ground ball out of his glove, or why Chase Utley even bothered to throw to first base after Rollins' relay.  I do know however, that it was sloppy, and Manny Ramirez made them pay for it.

 

Final Word:

I am going to scramble like crazy to find a bar in Bethesda who has Game Two tomorrow.  My wedding rehearsal dinner is at 6:30, so I should be able to catch the first few innings. After Game One's heart pounder, I can't take too much more of this. I'd like Pedro Martinez to pitch a nice, relaxing game.

The last three games the Phillies have played were arguably just as intense if not more intense than any individual game on their run to last year's title. In the playoffs, the competition gets tougher because the stakes are higher. These games can prepare you for what is to come if or when the Phillies get to the next stage.  So far, they've passed every test.

image: www.nymag.com