Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Can L.A. Dodge the SI Cover Curse?

I am so excited about the Dodgers being in the National League Championship Series that I can’t even tell you. I have waited 20 years for this to happen and tomorrow it is finally here. I was very hopeful of their chances against the Phillies until I went down to collect the mail this afternoon. When I saw Manny Ramirez on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I nearly lost control of my bowels.
Nothing will kill a team worse that the SI cover curse. You think the Chicago Cubs are cursed? Steve Bartman is their guardian angel and the legendary goat is a blessing compared to the Sports Illustrated cover curse. It has ruined careers, caused teams to fold like omelets and wreaked havoc on sports stars and their teams for well over 5 decades.
My only hope is that none of the Dodger players will see the SI cover. But, what are the chances of that? Joe Torre needs to hold a meeting and address the situation immediately. Why couldn’t they have put the Bosox or the Rays on their cover! This is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen.
This is an interesting article that appeared yesterday on the Sports Network:
An old rivalry will be renewed when the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers square off on Thursday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
These teams have met in this round on three other occasions, but this will be their first playoff meeting since the Wheeze Kids Phils defeated the Dodgers, 3-1, to advance to the 1983 World Series.
Los Angeles, though, defeated the Phillies the first two times these teams squared off in NLCS play.
Unfortunately, the winner of the past three LCS matchups between these two has gone on to lose the World Series.
These teams split their eight meetings in the regular season, with each squad capturing a four-game sweep at home.
As an introduction to this NLCS matchup, let's take a look at the keys to winning the series for both clubs:
As has been the case since he arrived in Los Angeles, as goes Manny Ramirez, so go the Dodgers. Ramirez continued his strong play down the stretch into the NLDS, where he hit .500 in the sweep of the Cubs, belting two home runs with three RBI.
The Dodgers hope Ramirez can duplicate his numbers from last year's ALCS, when he hit .409 with a pair of home runs and 10 RBI for the Red Sox in their seven-game win over Cleveland. He is a lifetime .319 hitter in LCS play with 10 home runs and 23 RBI in 39 games.
If Joe Torre has his way he is going to pitch Derek Lowe three times this series. There were few pitchers hotter down the stretch than Lowe, who won six of his last seven decisions. He carried that strong finish into his Game 1 effort against the Cubs, who managed just two runs in six innings.
The lefty- heavy Phillies lineup has traditionally battered right-handed pitching. However, despite Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell all boasting averages better than .300 against Lowe, none of them has taken him deep.
Now if these two still aren't hitting this might not be much of a problem, but either way, who on the Dodgers' staff is going to face them late in a game? How about 20-year-old phenom Clayton Kershaw?
Kershaw has electric stuff and won his final three decisions of the year, but was not used in the NLDS. Torre could use Kershaw in a Game 4 start, but depending on the situation he may opt to use Lowe on short rest in that spot.
If the Philadelphia Phillies have one question heading into this series, it is what the heck is going on with Utley and Ryan Howard?
After going 2-for-11 in last year's sweep at the hands of the Rockies, Utley has again seen his bat go silent, managing just two hits in 15 at-bats against the Brewers. However, he had perhaps the biggest hit of Game 1, a two-run double that probably should have been caught by center fielder Mike Cameron.
The Dodgers could be the perfect team for Utley to break out against. He batted .355 with two homers against the Dodgers this year and is .339 lifetime against them for his career.
Howard, meanwhile, had another MVP campaign, basically strapping the Phils to his back in September. But, once again he is struggling here in October. Howard managed just two hits in 11 at-bats. Unlike Utley, though, he rarely got a pitch to hit and walked five times against the Brewers
Facing Lowe won't be an easy task for Howard, who is just 2-for-16 lifetime against him.
As much as Utley and Howard struggled in the NLDS, Rollins and Shane Victorino thrived. Rollins batted .375 with two runs scored, while Victorino hit .357 with a grand slam in Game 2.
If those two continue to get on base and Utley and Howard come around, this could be a short series.
Brad Lidge has made things interesting lately for Philadelphia. Rarely does he get a 1-2-3 inning, but he still hasn't blown a save and is a perfect 43- for-43 in save opportunities this season.
However, a lot of people still remember that mammoth home run Albert Pujols hit off of him in the 2005 NLCS. Could we have another moment like that should he have to get Ramirez out in a big spot?
Lidge has been bending an awful lot as of late, but until he breaks you can't complain.
10/08 10:53:52 ET

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