Paul Maholm. Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Series Preview

After an odd series in Colorado, the Phillies head to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers.

Brief overview of the Dodgers

With their star-laden roster (and not coincidentally, the highest payroll in the National League), the Dodgers are the favorites to win the National League West.  They’re off to a good start so far with a 12-7 record.

The Dodgers have been powered by their infield, with all four starters hitting well. Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez, and Juan Uribe are all putting up good numbers at the plate.

The pitching staff has taken a hit with the injury to ace Clayton Kershaw, but the surprising 3-0 start by free agent pickup Dan Haren has helped compensate for his absence.

Click here to read my preseason prediction of the Dodgers.

Phillies vs. Dodgers: The rivalry

Some bad blood developed between the teams when they faced off in two consecutive NLCS in 2008 and 2009. Many of the key players from those series have since moved on, but I’m sure the fans of both teams still get a thrill out of beating the other.

One person who will probably enjoy the series is Phillies broadcaster Matt Stairs. Thanks to his 2008 heroics, Stairs may never have to buy a beer in Philadelphia, but I’m guessing he is remembered much less fondly in Los Angeles.

Dodgers player who isn’t entirely horrible

Adrian Gonzalez. Image Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Gonzalez. Image Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Gonzalez began his career with the Padres. Playing his home games in spacious Petco Park, Gonzalez was still able to put up big offensive stats. After he was traded to the Red Sox, it was expected that his numbers would explode.

But after signing a massive contract extension with the Sox, his numbers began to trend in the wrong direction. He was soon held up as another example of why signing power hitting first basemen to long-term deals is a bad idea.

He’s proving the critics wrong so far this season. With five home runs and a .969 WAR, Gonzalez has been one of the best first basemen in the National League.

Today’s Game

Game time: 10:10 PM ET

TV: CSN

Starting pitchers: Cliff Lee (2-2) vs. Paul Maholm (0-1)

In his last start, Cliff Lee pitched about as well as a pitcher possibly can while receiving a loss. He pitched a complete game, giving up one run, while striking out 13 batters. The problem was, the Braves’ pitcher (Julio Teheran) was just a little bit better.

Lee has had some success in Dodger Stadium. In four career starts, he is 1-0 with a 1.48 ERA.

Paul Maholm is a veteran who the Dodgers signed as a free agent this offseason. He’s never been considered an elite pitcher (or even especially good), but he is adequate when used in a fourth or fifth starter role.

Maholm has 12 career starts against the Phillies. His 5-3 record and 4.63 ERA fall right in line with his career numbers against all teams.

Link of Interest

Rant SportsPhillies can’t escape close games

I mentioned that part of the problem with the Phillies’ bullpen is that the team has played too many close games. That trend continued over the weekend, with neither game decided by more than two runs. The problem with close games is that the outcome often comes down to little things like defense, and that is an area where the Phillies are lacking.

Tweet of Importance

These West Coast games can indeed be tough on us fans who have to wake up early in the morning.

Outlook

The big news for the Phillies in this series is the return of Cole Hamels. The ace pitcher is scheduled to start on Wednesday and claims that he won’t be restricted at all.

This will be an interesting series. The Dodgers are obviously a good team, but the Phillies will have their four best starters going in Lee, Hamels, A.J. Burnett, and Kyle Kendrick. Considering that the entire team is healthy, this may be a good test as to whether the Phillies are capable of competing this season.

If the Phillies play well and come away with at least a split, it may be a sign that the season will go better than most pundits predicted. If not, then we might have to conclude that this team just isn’t good enough.

Tickets

Head over to ScoreBig for great deals when the Phillies begin their series against the Dodgers today.

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