For much of the season, the Dodgers and the Phillies were penciled in as the top teams in the National League.
And because the two clubs met in last season's NL Championship Series -- which the Phillies won in five games -- it felt as though everything that happened this year was building toward another clash with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Well what once was the in vogue pick for an NLCS matchup has become a reality. The Dodgers and the Phillies will resume their history of postseason matchups beginning at 8:07 p.m. ET on Thursday night on TBS at Dodger Stadium.
Philadelphia is in the NLCS for the eighth time since it was introduced in 1969, and the Phillies will play Los Angeles for the fifth time.
This is the Dodgers' ninth trip to the NLCS.
This year's series affords the Dodgers the opportunity to avenge their loss to the Phillies in 2008, while the Phillies have another chance to end the Dodgers' season and advance to the World Series in one fell swoop.
Many might look at the Phillies' 4-1 triumph last year and think that they steamrolled the Dodgers to reach the World Series, but a closer look shows that the series could have gone either way.
The Dodgers held a lead in each of the first four games, but three times they let it slip through their fingers.
The most painful loss came in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium when the Dodgers had a chance to even the series at two games apiece.
The Dodgers led, 5-3, in the top of the eighth, but the Phillies' Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs hit a pair of two-run homers off relievers Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton.
"It was right over the middle and they capitalized on it," Broxton said at the time.
After the demoralizing Game 4 loss, the Dodgers dropped Game 5 by a score of 5-1 and watched the Phillies celebrate on their home field.
Last season's series and all of its drama fits in well with the history of Phillies-Dodgers postseason matchups.
It was 1977, and the Dodgers had a chance to close out their best-of-five NLCS against the Phillies on the artificial turf at old Veterans Stadium, but the game was delayed two hours because of a steady downpour that didn't let up all evening.
After Commissioner Bowie Kuhn decided that the game should begin, he and Chub Feeney, then the NL president, sat in their lower box seats all night, sans raincoats, defying the weather.
Tommy John defied the Phillies and eventual Hall of Famer Steve Carlton, pitching a complete-game seven-hitter to win the contest, 4-1, and the NL pennant.
"That was a heartbreaking series," said Dallas Green, who was in the Phils' front office then and went down to the field in 1980 to manage the first World Series winner in franchise history. "I think we had the best team in the NL by far, if not baseball."
The first three clashes went four games with the Dodgers winning in 1977 and '78 and the Phils prevailing in '83. This is only the third time the Phils have been back to the NLCS since and the fourth time for the Dodgers.
Whose heart will be broken this time around is still a matter of conjecture.
"There's always been the history there and there's always been a rivalry," said Fred Claire, the Dodgers' vice president of communications during the late '70s and general manager from 1987-98. "And I'd like to think there's been a mutual respect at all levels. It's extremely exciting. It's East Coast-West Coast and two storied franchises that some people thought weren't going to be there."
The teams that played each other all three times back in the day include a roster of Hall of Famers: Carlton and Mike Schmidt for the Phillies ('77, '78 and '83), Don Sutton for the Dodgers ('77 and '78), Joe Morgan and Tony Perez for the Phillies ('83) and Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda ('77, '78 and '83).
The non-Hall of Famers are a plethora of big names for both teams, too: For the Phils, there's Larry Bowa, now the third-base coach for the Dodgers ('77, 78); Pete Rose, the Major League's all-time hits leader ('83); and Bob Boone ('77 and '78). For the Dodgers, there's John ('77 and '78), Fernando Valenzuela ('83) and the infield of Steve Garvey, Dave Lopes and Ron Cey ('77 and '78) and Bill Russell ('77, '78 and '83). Lopes is now the first-base coach for the Phils.
And that doesn't include players like Rick Monday, Reggie Smith, Pedro Guerrero, Dusty Baker, Tug McGraw, Garry Maddox and Gary Matthews Sr.
The Dodgers and Phillies have faced off in the NLCS four times before this season.
Dodgers win in four games
Game 3, two outs, top of the ninth, one run in, Gene Garber pitching and Manny Mota on third. Davey Lopes hits a grounder to third that hits a seam in the artificial turf at Veterans Stadium, deflects off third baseman Mike Schmidt's glove and is grabbed barehanded by shortstop Larry Bowa, who throws to first. Umpire Bruce Froemming calls Lopes safe, but replays from all angles seem to indicate that he was out.
Mota scored the tying run, and Bill Russell ultimately knocked in Lopes with a single for the 6-5 win. The next night, Tommy John defeated Steve Carlton in the pouring rain to win the series, 3-1.
Dodgers win in four games
Game 4, two outs, bottom of the 10th, Tug McGraw pitching and Ron Cey on first at Dodger Stadium. Dusty Baker hits a line drive to center that was dropped by Garry Maddox, putting runners on first and second.
Russell (again) singled home Cey to win the game, 4-3, and the series.
Phillies win in four games
Game 1, two outs, top of the first, none on, Jerry Reuss pitching for the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium and Schmidt at the plate.
Schmidt homered for the only run of what was the only close game of the series. Carlton allowed seven hits. Aside from losing Game 2, the Phils dominated with 7-2 wins in Games 3 and 4 at the Vet.
Phillies win in five games
Game 4, one out, top of the eighth, one on, Cory Wade pitching for the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium and Shane Victorino at the plate.
Victorino hits the first pitch for a two-run, game-tying homer. Later in the inning, with two outs and a runner on base, Matt Stairs hits a two-run, pinch-hit homer off closer Jonathan Broxton for the 7-5 victory and a 3-1 series lead. The Phillies would close the series out two nights later in Game 5.
"I have many fond memories of this rivalry," said Bill Giles, the Phils' chairman who's been with the team since 1969, but watched it even further back as a kid when his father, Warren, was president of the NL. "It goes all the way back to when they were in Brooklyn with [Don] Newcombe and [Robin] Roberts and all those guys."
There was the closing regular-season game in 1951 at Connie Mack Stadium in North Philly that the Dodgers just had to have to tie the Giants for the lead in the NL standings and force what was then a three-game playoff for the pennant.
The game went into extra innings, and Jackie Robinson proved to be the overwhelming difference. In the bottom of the 12th inning, the Phils loaded the bases with one out when Robinson dived for a soft liner to his right. Although he injured his elbow as he dived flat out for the catch, Robinson was able to turn it into an inning-ending double play.
For added measure, in the 14th, Robinson hit a home run to win the game, 5-4. The Dodgers, however, lost the three-game playoff to the Giants on Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" at the Polo Grounds in Game 3.
But it wasn't until that 1977 series that the Dodgers and Phils would play for anything serious again.
The teams split the first two games at Dodger Stadium and the Phils held a 5-3 lead at the Vet in the ninth inning of Game 3, with reliever Gene Garber on the mound and two outs.
What happened afterward is one of the greatest postseason collapses in Phillies history, and certainly the most controversial half-inning in the recent playoff rivalry between the two clubs.
Vic Davalillo pinch-hit and beat out a drag bunt. Manny Mota also pinch-hit and lifted a routine, very catchable fly toward the warning track in the left-field corner. It probably would have been caught if then-manager Danny Ozark had removed the lumbering Greg "The Bull" Luzinski and replaced him in left as usual with defensive wiz Jerry Martin.
"I never understood that," Bowa said. "All year long, Danny is taking Bull out for a defensive replacement late in the game. Wouldn't you know it? A fly ball goes out there that Martin just sucks up. If he's out there, we win the game."
It was a formidable mistake. Luzinski missed the ball, Mota had a double, Davalillo scored and Mota went to third when the relay throw skipped through second baseman Ted Sizemore for an error. It was now 5-4 with Lopes coming to the plate.
The next play was the season's pivotal one. Lopes smashed a grounder toward Schmidt at third, which apparently hit a seam on the artificial surface and kicked off Schmidt's glove. Bowa, at short, was right behind him in the hole to grab it with his bare hand, a remarkable heads-up play.
In one fluid motion, Bowa caught the ball and threw it to first baseman Richie Hebner. First-base umpire Bruce Froemming spread his arms wide to signal the speedy Lopes safe in a call that would be countered by every television replay angle. A huge argument ensued.
"I'll never forget that," Bowa said. "Man, Froemming anticipated that just because Schmidty didn't catch the ball, I couldn't throw Lopes out. I went crazy. That was the game. We win that game, we win the series."
As it turned out, the Dodgers won the game, 6-5, when Lopes went to second on Garber's errant pickoff throw and scored on Russell's single. A soggy John wrapped up the series the next night.
"I'll never forget the reaction Bowa made and the great throw he made. It was unbelievable," Giles said. "And the guy was out."
Claire said he thinks those Phillies who took part in that series should get over it after all these years.
"Well, maybe it's selective Philadelphia memory," he said. "For some reason what I remember most about the '77 series is Tommy John winning the final game in as much rain as I've ever sat through in a stadium in my entire life."
In the 1978 NLCS, the Phils lost the first two games to the Dodgers at home, and despite winning Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, they were never quite in that series.
Game 4 and the NLCS ended in the bottom of the 10th inning, when the usually unflappable Maddox dropped Baker's routine liner to center field just before Russell won it again with a two-out single.
And in 1983, it was the Dodgers who were never really in it despite splitting the first two games at Dodger Stadium. Back at the Vet, the Phils slammed the Dodgers, 7-2, in Games 3 and 4.
Matthews led the charge for the Phils, batting .429 (6-for-14) with three homers and eight RBIs. And Schmidt started it all with a first-inning Game 1 homer off Jerry Reuss that stood up, as Carlton outdueled Reuss in a 1-0 victory.
Now, these two teams can make some history again.
David Ely is an associate reporter and Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.