It’s a rematch of last year’s NLCS. This year, the Dodgers are thinking revenge while the Phillies are thinking repeat. I’m thinking more confrontations. The ALCS may boast the best teams, but this series has all the intangibles. As I did for the American League, I will recap the Division Series’ before I preview the Championship Series. No time to waste. I still have to start my NFL Week 6 preview before 3AM. Two minute offense starts now.
Rockies vs. Phillies
- Cliff Lee was a stud for the Phillies. Regardless of how far the Phils go from here, first year GM Ruben Amaro Jr. deserves some praise for the move that brought Cliff Lee and the underrated Ben Francisco to Philadelphia. The Phillies could easily be at home right now if not for Lee.
- Games three and four were two great examples of playoff baseball. It was around 1:40AM ET during game three that I first believed the Phillies were intent on repeating as champions. All season long they casually took care of business. Despite the wins and the division lead, I still didn’t believe they had the same fire that was there throughout all of last year. Apparently, winning the World Series last year taught the Phillies how to apply that intensity at the right time. Coming off a championship, there are few teams that would continually battle back on the road in sub freezing temperatures, but that’s what the Phillies did. Carlos Ruiz stepped up and ripped two big hits that gave the lead back to the Phils on both occasions. I had no one to share this excitement with, so I tweeted “CHOOOOOOCCCCHHHH” each time in the wee hours of Monday morning. Aren’t the playoffs great? Also, great job by Ryan Howard in the 9th inning on Monday morning. It’s no secret that Howard is a strike out candidate in that situation. To get the sac fly there was absolutely huge. That’s what you expect from the leading RBI guy in Major League Baseball.
- Rockies Manager Jim Tracy must have lost some weight after running out to argue with the umpires every 20-25 minutes in games three and four.
- Game four had all the makings of an instant classic; great pitching, intensity, clutch hits, amazing plays, and multiple comebacks. It also had horrible announcers. TBS executives put together a team of Phillie haters that failed miserably at concealing their disdain for the Fightin’s. Note to play-by-play man Brian Anderson (of the Milwaukee Brewers), it’s Chase Utley. Yes, that’s a “T” there. No, it’s not “Uddley” or “Uggly.” Since you made so little effort to correctly pronounce his name, I will now make fun of you for the next few sentences. Congratulations, you’ve certainly earned it. First, Mr. Anderson, when most of us refer to baseball’s season prior to the playoffs, we use the term, “regular season.” Einstein referred to it as the “regular year.” Niiiccce. And you call baseball games all year? Later in the game, Anderson along with his sidekick, Joe Simpson (of the Braves, not Jessica’s dad), and the TBS staff somehow calculated 1.8 + 2.0 to equal 3.6. I tried to figure out how I could be interpreting this incorrectly and finally gave up. As the game continued, they grew increasingly excited as the Rockies mounted their comeback and I despised them all the more. Dear TBS, next time, just send Jose Reyes and David Wright to call the games. Ok, that took too long. Quick game four recap: Cliff Lee = good. Francisco’s catch = great. Charlie Manuel’s substitution of Francisco prior to the catch = obvious, why does Charlie have a “we love you” pass after one championship? All I’ve heard this week is how brilliant a move that was. Let me ask you this, who DOESN’T make that move? Ryan Howard’s double was the biggest hit I can remember in my Phillies lifetime. Before that, numbers 1-87 all belonged to Joe Carter. Not be forgotten, Star Fox’s (Jayson Werth) game winning single was clutch as well. It was also nice to see Lidge close out the game even though I shouldn’t have used the term, “see.” I actually listened with a pillow over my face.
- By the way, this game was so exciting that my wife actually watched the final three innings with me AND almost clapped when Howard crushed the game tying double. She’s more likely to order a UFC Pay-Per-View event than watch baseball. She hates baseball. I bought her a Phillies playoff hoody last year to bribe her to watch the games with me.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers
OK, there were only three things from this series that are worth mentioning.
- The MLB playoff gods went overboard with their revenge on Matt Holliday. It wasn’t his fault he was called safe two years ago. Making him drop that game winning soft fly was even more humiliating than needing stitches in his chin because he couldn’t slide correctly into home plate. To add insult to injury, poor Holliday took a shot to the groin from that fly ball. If I were you, Matt, I would walk around with St. Louis Rams paraphernalia on at all times. That way, when people see you, your clothing immediately reminds them that you are not the worst sports debacle in the city. Let me know if you need anything else. I’m here for you.
- The aforementioned tragedy ruined a pitching gem by Adam Wainwright.
- Cardinals SS Brendon Ryan’s mustache gave me nightmares. I’m almost positive I saw him on America’s most wanted a few years ago.
Looking ahead to the National League Championship Series
Prior to the start of the LCS, make sure you apply this rule to your TV viewing schedule: Always, always tune in to a game with a 1 to 3 run differential after the 6th inning. Those final three innings are full of drama, excitement and unmatched intensity. It’s the equivalent of LOST, House, CSI, Heroes, and whatever else is on, all rolled into one show.
- Shane Victorino will awkwardly chase down a fly ball and look as if he has no idea what he’s doing until the last second as he makes an unconventional catch. It’s also possible that he inexplicable watches a two out hit and therefore runs past third pass in the biggest moment of the 2009 season to date. Could you imagine if Utley passes him there? Matt Holiday would be doing somersaults in his living room.
- While it’s a shame, none of the games in LA will be starting under the night’s sky. Playoff baseball is always better under the lights.
- TBS will experience a drop in ratings every time one of Cole Hamels’ Comcast commercials comes on the television. Trust me, change the channel. He’s so bad that it’s impossible to laugh. My naturally reaction was to quietly nod my head like a supportive parent whose kid is just embarrassing himself and yet has no idea. I got so nervous and uncomfortable that I was consistently looking over my shoulder to make sure no one else was watching the catastrophe.
- Speaking of commercials, I’ve seen the “Saw 6” commercial so many times already that I’ve begun to prepare myself for the future. Twenty years from now my teenage kid is going to come ask me if he/she can go see “Saw 37” with his/her friends. It will take all my energy not to ground him/her for even asking. You think it’s funny, but I’m legitimately concerned because the franchise has made it this far. It should have been stopped at “Saw ¾.”
- This series will ultimately come down to which team will get the better performance from the third, and maybe fourth, guy in their rotation. As it stands now, the Dodgers have the advantage. J.A. Happ didn’t fare well in the NLDS and Blanton and Pedro may not even pitch. Hopefully the Phillies give the ball to Joe Blanton for game three or four as he was our most consistent pitcher all year.
- Where do you think the Mets will watch the playoffs from? No offense, but 23 games back might be too far to see.
- The Dodgers have a flare to them this year that wasn’t there a year ago. They’re confident, and I would be shocked if the series didn’t go six or seven games. The Dodgers definitely won’t lose in five games this time around.
- The Phillies will need more offense from Jimmy Rollins to beat the Dodgers.
- I hope Brett Myers makes an appearance. If for nothing else, put him into a game just to throw at Manny. Other than the Stairs/Victorino homerun platter in game two, that was the most exciting part of the series last year.
- The Dodgers youth, speed, and Manny-esque attitude will make them a much better opponent than the Phillies beat in 2008.
- Remember, you heard it here first. Tim Allen will occupy his seat behind home plate for game two just as he did last year. Only, at some point during the game, he’ll return to his seat dressed as Buzz Lightyear to promote the upcoming release of “Toy Story 3.”
- TBS commentators will drive you crazy. Joe Buck is the best voice in baseball right now and he’s calling the ALCS.
- If it’s a tight game, pay special attention to any instance where a runner(s) is in scoring position and there are two outs. These are great playoff baseball moments. The crowd is going crazy and momentum is up for grabs. An out gives the momentum to the pitcher and his team, and vice versa. How often do you see a team blow a scoring opportunity only to see the opponent put up runs in the next half inning? It happens all the time.
- The familiarity, history, and animosity will make this series the more exciting one to watch.
- The Phillies hit nearly 80 more home runs than the Dodgers did throughout the 2009 season. However, the Dodgers batted 12 points higher. In the playoffs, I think the better average has the advantage.
- My National League World Series pick bailed already so I don’t have a pick available. I will say that I am a lot more concerned than most of the Phillies fans around here.