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Phillies-Dodgers matchup: Starting pitcher

Phillies-Dodgers matchup: Starter

Heading into the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and Phillies, beginning Thursday at 8:07 p.m. ET on TBS, MLB.com looks at the position-by-position matchups and dissects which team has the advantage.

Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, LHP (8-8, 2.79 ERA)
Vicente Padilla, RHP (12-6, 4.46 ERA)
Randy Wolf, LHP (11-7, 3.23 ERA)
Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (8-7, 3.76 ERA)
Chad Billingsley, RHP (12-11, 4.03 ERA)

Power pitching is deemed invaluable in the postseason and with Kershaw and the surprising Padilla, the Dodgers boast the best left-right one-two punchout in this series. Kershaw is still feeding off the confidence he gained in starting the division-clincher against the Rockies, and if you thought Padilla had a little extra incentive against St. Louis in the first postseason start of his career ... well, going against his former Philadelphia teammates should motivate him even more.

After lasting only 3 2/3 innings in his Game 1 start against the Cardinals, Wolf promised manager Joe Torre he would be better his next time out, and there's no reason to doubt that given his track record. His actual record is misleading: The Dodgers bullpen blew seven of his leads, and his 23 quality starts ranked behind only Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren among NL starters.

Assuming the typical four-man NLCS rotation, Torre will have an easier decision to make on the fourth starter if Kuroda is recovered from the bulging disk that has had him inactive since Sept. 28. Look for Kuroda to be the choice, not only because he earned the Dodgers' lone NLCS win over the Phillies last year, but also because Billingsley has more experience pitching in relief, which would be the role assigned to whoever is omitted.

Phillies
Cole Hamels, LHP (10-11, 4.32 ERA)
Cliff Lee, LHP (14-13, 3.22 ERA)
J.A. Happ, LHP (12-4, 2.93 ERA)
Pedro Martinez, RHP (5-1, 3.63 ERA)
Joe Blanton, RHP (12-8, 4.05 ERA)

Hamels had an annoying season off his 2008 postseason heroics, but can now regroup in the Second Season and with his first child, born just last season. You've got to give him some slack. It is easy to forget that, despite all his successes, at 25 he is the youngest member of the Phillies' staff.

Yes, even younger than the rookie Happ, who will turn 27 during this series. He was the rotation's most dependable for much of the season, yet manager Charlie Manuel may choose to lose him if he feels the Phillies, with Lee a given, are beginning to give the Dodgers too many lefty looks. That would create an opportunity for Blanton, who actually was the rotation's workhorse with 195 1/3 innings but got to make only a couple of relief appearances in the NLDS against the Rockies.

As intriguing as is Martinez, who began his career with the 1992-93 Dodgers, Manuel may have to resist feeding the muses. Due to a stiff-neck issue and the postponement of the Division Series game he was scheduled to start in Denver, Martinez has worked a total of seven innings in a month. Still, plenty of people might want to see a Padilla-Martinez match, which neither team might lose: The Phillies are 8-1 in Martinez's starts, and the Dodgers have won seven of Padilla's eight starts.

None of the Philadelphia pitchers throws hard enough to be able to chase a strikeout (although pinpoint control enables Lee to get them when he needs them), but they are nonetheless tough to beat. Taking their cues from pitching coach Rich Dubee, all confidently pitch to contact and are tight-fisted with walks.

EDGE: Dodgers

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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