Friday, August 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A thin line between 2-1 and 3-0

Thus far this series, Charlie Manuel has gotten the best of Joe Torre. Torre's decision to start 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 over experienced veteran Randy Wolf? Questionable. His decision to let Kershaw try to work his way out of trouble during that game? Unbelieveable.

A thin line between 2-1 and 3-0

Thus far this series, Charlie Manuel has gotten the best of Joe Torre. Torre's decision to start 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 over experienced veteran Randy Wolf? Questionable. His decision to let Kershaw try to work his way out of trouble during that game? Unbelieveable.

But Torre is a wise baseball man, and following his Dodgers' 11-0 pasting at the hands of the Phillies in Game 3, he dropped a little knowledge that could very well turn out to be prescient.

"They scored 11 runs," Torre said, "but they only beat us once."

If the Phillies had maintained the 1-0 lead they took into the eighth inning of Game 2, this series would be over. As it is, they only lead 2-1, and they are expected to finish the final two games of this three-game home set against a pair of starters who have given them trouble in the past -- Randy Wolf tonight, and Vicente Padilla in Game 5 on Monday.

If you've watched this team with any regularity over the past couple of seasons, you'll know that often times a big offensive outburst is an epilogue, rather than a prelude.

During the 2009 regular season, the Phillies scored 10 runs or more in 18 games. But in the games following those offensive outbursts, they went just 9-9, and scored fewer than five runs on 10 occasions.

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Apart from Hiroki Kuroda, who had not started in 20 days and obviously was not ready to pitch in a cold postseason game, Wolf is the pitcher who, in my opinion, matched up best against the Phillies heading into this series.

Wolf will provide an interesting change of pace for a Phillies line-up that has faced three hard-throwers in the first three games of this series. Wolf's fastball has averaged 89 miles an hour this season, according to FanGraphs.com, but he throws three different off-speed pitches -- a curveball, slider and change-up.

Kuroda, whom the Phillies faced last night, throws mostly a low 90's fastball mixed with a slider. Kerhsaw, whom they faced in Game 1, throws his mid-90's fastball 70 percent of the time, relying mostly on a plus curveball to fill the void (Kershaw does occasionally throw a change-up and slider.

Wolf, however, has the type of repetoire that has given the Phillies problems in the past. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are a combined 2-for-17 with one extra base hit and eight strikeouts in their careers off of him.

So if numbers are any indication -- sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't -- the Phillies might not be able to rely on Howard, who set an MLB record last night by driving in a run for the seventh consecutive postseason game.

The Phillies recipe for offensive success tonight? Either power from the bottom of the order, or RBIs from the top, or hope that Wolf struggles with his command and is forced to throw more fastballs than he would like.

Senor Octubre, Carlos Ruiz, is 4-for-6 with a home run in his career off of Wolf. Pedro Feliz, who hit an RBI triple last night, is 5-for-17 with three home runs. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 6-for-15 with two home runs off of Wolf.

In my opinion, the two biggest offensive keys tonight are Victorino and Rollins and what they end up doing with their RBI opportunities.

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At the start of the series, I predicted the Phillies would win in six games. My thinking was that they'd handle Kershaw and Padilla, then lose a low-scoring game against Kuroda, then suffer a no-doubt-about-it loss against Wolf, before rebounding to win Games 5 and 6.

That scenarios - exchanging the Kuroda and Padilla games - still seems most likely to me. This Dodgers team is much more mentally tough than the one the Phillies faced last season. I wouldn't be surprised to see L.A. win the next two, although the cold and the crowd will make it ough on them, and take this series to seven games.

Of course, Joe Blanton can off-set this projection by pitching a gem tonight, setting them up to win in 5.

Should be fun.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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