20 things to ponder about the Dodgers

Manny Ramirez had hot '08 NLCS.
Manny Ramirez had hot '08 NLCS.
Posted: October 13, 2009

WHOEVER WROTE the script for the 2009 Los Angeles Dodgers season should be nominated for an Academy Award, because most movies made in Hollywood just don't feature this type of drama.

The Dodgers got off to a torrid 21-8 start and looked, at least early on, like the best team in baseball. But, like with many Oscar-winning films, there needed to be a shocking twist of events.

You see, just like the biceps of star Manny Ramirez, appearances can be deceiving.

Riding the heels of a seven-game winning streak, Los Angeles was dealt a devastating blow when it was announced May 7 that Ramirez had tested positive for steroid use and would receive a mandatory 50-game suspension. LA survived without its slugger, going 29-21 over that span, while having to deflect persistent questions from the media about his wrongdoing.

Even when Ramirez finally returned, the Dodgers were never the same. They struggled to a 45-38 finish and were nearly overtaken by the Colorado Rockies for the National League West Division title.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they still managed to stay on top, due in large part to manager Joe Torre's tutelage and leadership, and finished with the best record in the NL (95-67), gaining homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

Then, thanks to the waving white rally towels at soldout Dodger Stadium and a pivotal dropped flyball by Matt Holliday that will live forever in Dodgertown, they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS and earned some much-needed rest.

Now the Dodgers and Phillies meet for the second straight NLCS.

The sequel is shaping up to be just as good, if not better, than the original.

While you wait for the series to premiere - Game 1 is Thursday at 8 p.m. in Los Angeles - here are 20 things about the Dodgers:

1 Ramirez continued where he left off in the 2008 postseason, hitting .348 over his first 29 games. But once he came back from his suspension, Ramirez wasn't himself. He batted a rather pedestrian .269 with just 13 home runs in his final 260 at-bats. However, Ramirez may have finally righted himself at the plate. He was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI in the series clincher against the Cardinals.

2The Dodgers led the majors with a 3.41 team ERA. Opponents also batted a major league-low .233 against them. The Dodgers' staff held the high-powered St. Louis offense to six runs the entire series. That's why they were able to bust out the brooms.

3 This is the first time the Dodgers are appearing in back-to-back NLCS since 1977-78. They haven't won the World Series since 1988.

4 In this sequel, the Dodgers will be out for revenge. The Phillies beat them in five games last year to capture the NL pennant.

5It remains to be seen if "The Wolfpack" or "Padilla's Flotilla" will be represented in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. However, the two ex-Phillies will definitely be in the dugout – or on the mound. Both Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23 ERA) and Vicente Padilla (4-0, 3.20 with Dodgers) will be counted on to pitch deep into games. Padilla threw seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the NLDS, while Wolf is expected to start Game 1 of the NLCS.

6 Clayton Kershaw was a relative unknown as a rookie at this time last year. But if this past season was any indication, the 21-year-old southpaw could become the ace of the Dodgers' starting rotation in the near future. Kershaw's 2.79 ERA ranked fifth in the NL. He's definitely playoff tested, having scattered nine hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings during his Game 2 start against St. Louis.

7 Phillies fans hope Charlie Manuel learned his lesson. Ramirez was the only Dodger to inflict any sort of damage against Phillies pitching in the 2008 NLCS. He hit a scorching .533 (8-15) with two homers and seven RBI.

8 Torre is the last manager to repeat. He won three consecutive World Series championships with the Yankees (1998, '99, 2000) snf won another with the Yanks in '96.

9The Dodgers took the regular-season series, 4-3, outscoring the Phillies just 26-25.

10 Someone had to step up in Mannywood's absence. Enter Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. The duo of young mashers stabilized the middle of the Dodgers' order, coming through countless times and driving in runs. Ethier, 27, led the Dodgers in both homers (31) and RBI (106), while Kemp, 24, had 26 homers and 101 RBI. Ethier hit a team-best .500 with a pair of homers in the NLDS.

11Flamethrowing closer Jonathan Broxton (36 saves, 2.61 ERA) anchors a bullpen that had a 3.14 ERA, tops in the majors.

12Who will be the Dodgers' fourth starter during this series? Good question. It will likely be either the erratic Chad Billingsley (12-11, 4.03), loser of last five regular-season decisions, or recently acquired Jon Garland (3-2, 2.72 ERA with Dodgers).

13The Dodgers had no regular (500 or more at-bats) hit above .300 (Kemp, .297) and no player score 100 runs (Kemp, 97). Plus, none of their starters won more than 12 games (Billingsley) despite having the second-best ERA (3.58) in the majors.

14Ethier led the majors with six walkoff hits this season. Two came in back-to-back days against the Phillies in Chavez Ravine on June 5 and 6.

15The Dodgers had 42 comeback wins during the regular season, second in the NL. The Phillies lead the NL with 43.

16Veteran speedster Juan Pierre might not get a lot of at-bats - or playing time - during the series. But he kept the Dodgers afloat during Ramirez' suspension. Over that 50-game stretch, he hit .318 with 21 RBI and 21 stolen bases.

17The Dodgers feel comfortable at home. They were 50-31 at Dodger Stadium during the regular season, 2-0 in postseason play.

18Phillies fans probably will have no fingernails left if Brad Lidge faces the Dodgers in this series with the game on the line. He had a 7.36 ERA against the Dodgers in the regular season, blowing saves both games that ended in walkoffs by Ethier.

19Cliff Lee did not face the Dodgers this season. However, Cole Hamels dominated the Dodgers this season, giving up just one earned run in 16 innings in two starts.

20 Keeping with the Matt Stairs theme at 20, the hefty slugger delivered arguably the biggest hit for the Phillies during the 2008 postseason. He cranked a tiebreaking, pinch-hit two-run homer that propelled his team to a 7-5 victory in Game 4 of the NLCS last Oct. 13 against the Dodgers.

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