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NLCS Preview Part VII : Prediction

2008 National League Championship Series Preview

Part VII : Prediction

I wrestled with a prediction for this series because, as we all know, it’s way too tight to call clearly. But predictions are predictions for a reason.

When the Dodgers took out the Cubs, and the Phillies were still hoping to win game four, I thought, “the Dodgers are the National League champions.” When the Phillies took out the Brewers 18 hours later, I thought, “the Phillies can beat the Dodgers, but it won’t be easy.” After a day of mild celebration and heavy rest, I thought, “the Phillies will win this series.” Sometimes you need clarity.

Okay, I won’t be surprised at all if the Dodgers win. In four, even. While these teams are extremely even, we’ve seen the Phils bats go cold, we’ve seen pitching evaporate (though not much). And the Dodgers could be guilty of the same exact things. We saw that when they came to Philadelphia (their situational hitting was horrendous). At that time, most of us fans and critics thought the Dodgers were cooked. How wrong we were. (Remember how we thought the Phils were cooked? Exactly.)

Anyway, game two is the key to the series. I expect Cole Hamels to pitch well, and for Derek Lowe to match him until the end. It’ll take a key hit or two sometime around the sixth or seventh to overcome Lowe, and if it happens, the Phils win the game. If not, we’re looking at a long, tedious, late night, and advantage Los Angeles.

Whatever happens in game one, Brett Myers must be focused in game two. If he comes out firing and puts down at least six innings of solid pitching, the Phillies win. I feel confident the offense will get a couple runs off Chad Billingsley; it’s Myers that makes me most nervous. Still, in such a pressure situation in front of practically the whole world, I see him thriving. More on that later.

When the series turns to Los Angeles, the Phils will have to play small ball. I don’t see them doing that against game three starter Hiroki Kuroda. Jamie Moyer, while turning in a better performance than in Milwaukee, won’t be able to match. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will come up short against Kuroda, and of all games, I see this one as the most likely loss.

I see the Phils winning one game out in Los Angeles. It might be four or five, depending more on which game Lowe doesn’t start. The other start will be by either Clayton Kershaw or Billingsley, guys the Phillies know they can hit. In that one win, look for team leader Jimmy Rollins to come up huge with a triple, or something of that ilk. He’s destined to come alive in this set. So, if my prediction is right, the Phils will hold a 3-2 lead coming back home.

That’s when Myers hits the hill again. I don’t know why, but I see him carving his place in history in a clinching game. Maybe it’s the Curt Schilling in him. Maybe it’s a drunkenness in me. Whatever the case, after wrestling with the prediction for some time, I see the Phils winning 4-2, with Myers as the winning pitcher in game six, Lidge closing it out.

Winner: Phillies, 4-2.

So that’s the pick. Sure every expert is touting the Dodgers and giving them the six- or seven-game win. That’s fine. I’m a Phillie fan. I know what I’ve seen. And I’ve been stuck on “Phillies in six” for three days. I’m pretty confident in the prediction — I don’t know why, I just am. Of course, of course, of course, I can see the Dodgers winning too. I can see Manny getting a heroes welcome in his Dodger grays while the camera pans deep and Joe Buck takes a moment. I can almost see that too clearly. But then I see Howard, lining up a swing with that short green backstop behind him, those jeering red-clad fans mouthing off. And that’s just as clear.

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