Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers 10-15-09

October 15, 2009

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Philadelphia Phillies (3-1) at Los Angeles Dodgers (3-0), 8:07 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia – Cole Hamels (0-1, 7.20) Los Angeles – Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 2.70)

(Sports Network) – For the second straight year, the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers will battle for the right to represent the National League at the World Series when the best-of-seven NLCS gets underway this evening at Dodger Stadium.

This is the first NLCS rematch since Houston and St. Louis met in 2004 and ’05, and only the third repeat series since Atlanta and Pittsburgh squared off in 1991 and ’92.

Philadelphia, of course, needed five games to get past the Dodgers a year ago en route to its first World Series title since 1980. This will actually be the fifth time these teams are meeting in the postseason. The Phils beat LA in 1983 to advance to the World Series, while the Dodgers defeated them the first two times they met (1977-78).

The Phillies, who have won the NLCS in each of their last four appearances, followed up their second-ever championship with their third consecutive NL East title, going 93-69 in the regular season.

Philadelphia, which is in this round for the eighth time in team history, started its title defense by beating the Colorado Rockies in four games. After splitting the first two games of the set in Philadelphia, the Phillies won the last two in Colorado, winning Game 4 in dramatic fashion, as they overcame a two-run deficit in the ninth to pull out a 5-4 win.

“We knew going into the ninth inning we had the right guys coming up at the top of the order and we had gotten to Street the night before. We knew we had a shot to make some things happen,” stated Ryan Howard, who tied the game with a two-run double.

Brad Lidge nailed down the save in that win and was 2-for-2 in save opportunities after blowing 11 of them during the regular season.

Heading to the hill tonight for Philadelphia will be new father Cole Hamels, who has dominated the Dodgers over the course of his career. Hamels, though, was charged with the loss in Game 2 of the NLDS, but you can’t blame him if he may have had other things on his mind, as his wife went into labor during the contest.

Hamels, who was 10-11 in the regular season with a 4.32 ERA, wasn’t informed until after he was taken out following the fifth inning, but he surrendered four runs and seven hits. He has now lost his last three starts.

“Best cop ride I had ever been a part of when I wasn’t in the back,” Hamels said. “Just being able to be there with my wife and my family and then to go through that process of the labor and then all of a sudden the birth — it was definitely an emotional day.”

The start was a sharp contrast to his performance in last year’s postseason, when he nabbed both NLCS and World Series MVP awards. Hamels, who shut out the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 4, went 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against them in last year’s NLCS.

Hamels, who hasn’t won on the road since July 28 in Arizona, has been brilliant at Dodger Stadium, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts including the postseason.

“It’s just a nice field to play at,” Hamels said. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to pitch here for Game 1.”

Los Angeles, meanwhile, is back in the NLCS for the ninth time in team history after an impressive three-game sweep of the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

“We put all these games in the season, 162 behind us, we put these three behind us, and we’re that much closer to achieving that goal (of winning the World Series),” Andre Ethier said. “This series behind us, this win, this clinch, just closer to our goal, which we stated day one of spring training, which was win the World Series.”

Ethier was the offensive catalyst in the Dodgers’ win over the Cards, hitting .500 (6-for-12) with two home runs and three RBI. Ethier, though, hit just .194 against left-handers this season.

Los Angeles led the NL West for most of the season, but did not clinch a division title until the final weekend of the season, despite finishing with an NL-best 95 wins.

The Dodgers will hand the ball tonight to 21-year-old left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who was terrific for them in his NLDS start, as he held the Cardinals to two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

But he did not factor in the decision, and regardless of how well he has pitched of late, he is still winless in his last 12 starts.

However, he has given up more than three runs just once since May 12.

Kershaw, who pitched two games in relief in last year’s NLCS, is also 0-3 lifetime against the Phillies with a 6.64 ERA in four starts.

“I think I got to experience it last year out of the bullpen,” said Kershaw. It’s not obviously the same starting Game 1 of a series or anything like that, but just to have the experience to get out there and pitch against them a little bit, you know, is definitely going to help me out tomorrow.”

Los Angeles won the season series with the Phils, 4-3, as it took two of three at Citizens Bank Park and split the four games at Chavez Ravine.

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