The Dodgers come into this best-of-seven NLCS convinced they are a better team than last year. Both teams have added and subtracted players over the course of the year but the Dodgers believe a year of experience plus home-field advantage will make a big difference this time around."I think the guys are more ready this time," Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez said. "But we're going against the best team in the National League. So let's just wait and see what happens." The Phillies come into this series just knowing they are a good team. They moved into first place in the National League East on May 29 and were there for the rest of the season. They were tied with the Marlins on July 2 but then won 14 of 15 to take control of the division. They also signed Pedro Martinez and traded for Cliff Lee in July, the likely Game 2 and 3 starters, respectively. "This team has never focused on repeating," said Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez, who wasn't a part of last year's title team, signing as a free agent in the offseason. "We've focused on competing every day and every game. The ultimate goal is to win the World Series, but if your focus is too far out, then you lose contact on the immediate future and the present. What our team does best is focus on the present." The Dodgers, on the surface, also focus on the present. They downplay the motive of revenge. "It's just another opportunity," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said. "This team is different, that team is different. It's not about revenge. It's about the team we're facing and being four games closer to our goal."
Philly, LA have history
|1977||Dodgers 3||Phillies 1||Lost to Yankees|
|1978||Dodgers 3||Phillies 1||Lost to Yankees|
|1983||Phillies 3||Dodgers 1||Lost to Orioles|
|2008||Phillies 4||Dodgers 1||Defeated Rays|
The Phillies won last year because Hamels dominated the Dodgers in his two starts to win series MVP honors and because their bullpen dominated. Led by Brad Lidge, who had three saves, the Phillies bullpen allowed just three runs in five games.Hamels and Lidge are not the same pitchers they were in 2008. Hamels went from 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA in 2008 to 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 2009 and lost his only Division Series start against the Rockies. Lidge had two saves against the Rockies but eight losses, 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA in the regular season left much doubt if he would remain the Phillies closer. Lee and Martinez provided the biggest boost to the Phillies staff, combining to go 10-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 21 starts down the stretch. Lee was 1-0 with a 1.10 ERA in two starts against the Rockies but won't pitch until Sunday in Game 3 in Philadelphia. The Dodgers have some uncertainty about their rotation but none about their bullpen. Dodgers relievers had a 3.12 ERA during the regular season, best in the NL, and were 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in the sweep of the Cardinals. Adding George Sherrill at the Trade Deadline was as important to the Dodgers bullpen as the Phillies picking up Lee. He and Jonathan Broxton form a formidable 1-2 combination at the back of the bullpen with Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso setting them up. "Sherrill really made a difference in our bullpen, there's no doubt about it," manager Joe Torre said. "He sort of put things in order." Offensively, the Phillies led the league with 820 runs scored while hitting an NL-leading 224 home runs. The Dodgers scored 780 runs while hitting only 145 home runs. Ramirez's 50-game absence didn't help, plus he hit just .219 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 25 games during the regular season. Breakthrough seasons by Ethier and Kemp made up for Ramirez. They combined to drive in 55 more runs than they did the previous season. The Dodgers believe they have a team that can end a 21-year World Series drought. But they also know it won't be easy to unseat the defending champions. "I think the main thing about Philadelphia is how resilient they've been," Torre said. "They are a ballclub that has a purpose. They have a purpose out there and we are certainly aware of it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.