Keys to the Title Car

The Phillies have won a combined 99 games this season. But without 4 more, the season will feel incomplete. Four more wins will bring joy and pandemonium to the greater Philadelphia region (and probably some rioting, but I digress). If the Phillies want to take a celebration drive down Broad Street, they’ll need to use these keys:

Cole Hamels in Game 1: The fully rested Phillies have set up their rotation exactly how they like it. Their ace--and NLCS MVP--will get the ball in the opener. The first game of any series is always important, but that gets cranked up a notch for the Phils in game 1 because it’s the only game in which the Phillies will have the pitching advantage. Myers, Moyer, and Blanton don’t measure up to the like of James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and ALCS MVP Matt Garza. A loss in game one will create a massive hole in Philly’s title hopes.

Greg Dobbs: As has already been mentioned on this site, Greg Dobbs will play a big role. He is, by far, the best bat the Phillies have on their bench. And with an extra hitter in the line-up thanks to the DH, Dobbs should have his name written into the starting line-up a few times in this series. Dobbs hits .311 against right-handers this year, and deserves every opportunity to play, whether it’s as the DH or starting at third.

Shaking the Lay-Off: The Phillies needed only 5 games to get past the Dodgers. It saved us fans from getting too stressed out. But was it too easy? It will be a full week off when the Phils take the field on Wednesday night. History doesn’t favor such a long lay off. The last two World Series losers each had at least 6 days off. The Phils need to get off to a good start and prove that the rest isn’t rust.

Keeping the Rays in the Yard: The Phillies hit more home runs than any other team in the National League. But it’s the Rays who have used the long ball to get here. Tampa has pounded out 22 home runs this postseason compared to only 10 for Philly. Add in the Citizens Bank Park effect, and this series could turn into a slugfest. The Phils can play homer ball with the best of ‘em, but it’s probably a better idea to try and keep the Rays on this side of the wall.

Ryan Howard: Through 9 postseason games, Ryan Howard is hitting only .258 with 3 RBI. Even though Howard did go 6 for 12 with 4 runs scored in the final three games against the Dodgers, the MVP candidate will need to increase his productivity if he wants to hoist hardware. The Phils got this far without a whole lot of help from their first baseman, but the World Series is a whole different ball game.

A World Series title is within reach. A few hits here. A few runs there. It’s a simple formula: Win four games before you lose four games. Philly’s 25 years without a title could change if the Phils follow the keys to victory.

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