The Phillies should start out with the same four starters they used against the Brewers, going with Hamels, Myers, Moyer, and Blanton. I would assume Hamels would pitch game 5 if necessary, and Myers game 6, then who knows how they would work it for Game 7, probably Moyer. The Dodgers have some very good starters of their own, who have all been pitching well lately. Their first three starters will be Lowe, Billingsley, and Kuroda. The Phillies do not have much success off of that trio of right-handers. The pitching appears to be fairly even and will come down to which starting pitching staff is pitching well at the right time. Both starting pitching staffs were impressive in the teams' first round series. Both teams bring to the series a very good bullpen, and in a 7 game series matching two teams that appear to be fairly equal, the bullpen is sure to decide a game or two. The Dodgers have multiple lefties in their bullpen, who will no doubt be called upon to get Utley and Howard out at critical times in the series.
The Phillies offense was the superior offense throughout most of the season. But with the Dodgers mid-season acquisition of Manny Ramirez, their offense has been hitting on all cylinders late in the season and into the playoffs. The Dodgers lineup features a few playoff-tested veterans, and some very young players, who have never been this far in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers young players look in a hostile playoff environment. It will also be interesting to see how the Phillies approach Manny Ramirez, who has two world series rings, and can get it done in the postseason. Andre Ethier batted behind Ramirez in their series against the Cubs, and is one of the aforementioned young players in the Dodgers lineup. The Phillies throw out a very inconsistent offense, which is usually very good from batters 1-6, and pretty bad from batters 7-9. Obviously, going six batters deep in any lineup is not too shabby, both all six of those players (Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Burrell, and Werth) need to produce if the Phillies want to win. Just as the Phillies have decisions to make on how to approach Ramirez at the plate, the Dodgers have to figure out how they are going to pitch to Utley, and Howard. The two lefties have not gotten off to a good start in the first series against the Brewers, both batting under .200. However, both of them faced more than half of their at-bats against left-handed pitching.
The managing has to favor the Dodgers. It's not a coincidence that the Dodgers have gotten this far with Joe Torre as their manager, and the Yankees did not even make the playoffs for the first time in forever. Joe Torre has been here before, many times, and knows the right moves to make, and will approach this as just another game on his way to another world series. Charlie Manuel is mostly untested in the playoffs, especially as Phillies manager. I give Uncle Charlie a lot of credit for the way he has managed this season, and in the first round of the playoffs. Manuel may make questionable decisions on when/who he pinch hits, and who he brings out of the bullpen, but the team played very loose against the Brewers, and that is a credit to Manuel. Manuel has to do his best to try to match Joe Torre now, but Manuel should stick to what he does best - adjust his hitters when he sees something they are doing at the plate, and keep the players loose; do not let the players get wrapped up in the fact that they are four wins away from appearing in the World Series.
The home field I think is very important in baseball, and the Phillies will get 4 out of 7 games at home, which is a big deal. Our home crowd was unbelievable in the NLDS, and I feel like we really gave a boost to the players on the team. Players such as Rollins, Victorino, Myers, and Burrell seem to feed off the crowd's energy, and there are no better fans than here in Philadelphia, especially when the energy coming from the fans is positive. Most important in regard to the home field advantage, are Games 1 and 2. The Phillies have to use their knowledge of the park, and hopefully get some good umpiring, and some help from the fans to hold down our fort, Citizens Bank Park.
Game 1 of the NLCS is Thursday night at 8:00 EDT, on Fox. The starting pitching matchup is Hamels vs. Lowe.