NLCS Game 5: I Swear There’s Reasons to Watch

All over the series of tubes, you’ve been hearing variations of the same thing – namely, that the Game 4 collapse and 3-1 series deficit means that the NLCS is over and that the Phillies should start preparing for the Yankees right now, especially with castoff Vicente Padilla going tonight against gilded World Series hero Cole Hamels.

And you know what? “They” are probably right. Things look bleak for the Dodgers, and the bandwagon is ripe for piling on. (Except for you, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. A column bashing Manny for the shower non-story and a column calling Joe Torre a fraud in the same day? Talk about setting the anti-Dodger bar pretty high, comrade. But hey, congratulations on being the last person alive to finally realize that a manager’s record is mainly based on the talent of the roster he’s been provided with.) 

So I can’t say I have a whole lot of confidence that the Dodgers are going to somehow wake up and beat Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Cliff Lee in three straight, because I just don’t see it. But while things look bleak, there’s reason to keep an open mind for tonight’s game…

1) Cole Hamels is not the ace you think he is.

Hey, remember Cole Hamels’ whirlwhind 2008? 142 ERA+, led the league in WHIP, went 4-0 in 5 dominating starts en route to leading the Phillies to the World Series?

Yeah, that guy’s left, and he’s not coming back. You see, 2009 Cole Hamels has been, well, mediocre. From Ben Bolch’s LA Times story:

“This year has been a lot tougher,” Hamels said Tuesday before the Phillies worked out at Citizens Bank Park. “Things really haven’t gone the way that I’ve wanted.”

The left-hander went 10-11 — his first losing record in four major league seasons — with a 4.32 earned-run average, more than a run higher than it was in 2008. His struggles carried over into the postseason, where he has failed to survive the sixth inning in either of his starts.

Remember, even though he got the win in Game 1 of this NLCS, it wasn’t really due to any strong performance from him. He lasted just 5.1 IP, allowing 8 hits and 4 runs (2 homers), and the only reason that wasn’t a bigger story was because Joe Torre allowed Clayton Kershaw to roast on the mound before George Sherrill really laid the gas can on the fire.

Forget what he did in 2008. The Hamels of 2009 can be had, and the Dodgers were able to touch him in Game 1. No reason they can’t do it again in Game 5.

2) I don’t know what the hell happened to Vicente Padilla, but I’m more confident in him than Hamels right now.

We keep saying it over and over; he was cast off by a Texas team starving for pitching in a pennant race, and he can’t possibly keep up what he’s doing – yet, somehow he still does. After finishing up the regular season in LA effectively, he might just be the best Dodger starter right now – his two postseason starts have combined to last 14.1 IP in which he’s allowed just 8 hits, 1 run, and a 10/2 K/BB ratio.

Can he keep it up, especially in the hostile environment of Philadelphia? Who knows – but you’d be foolish to bet against him now. At least the weather won’t be an issue, as it’s in the mid 70s right now here in the East.

3) It’s just one game.

I know this is the cliche to end all cliches, but the Dodgers can’t win all three games tonight. Once the first pitch is thrown, the only thing that’s important is scoring more runs than they allow in these nine innings – and being down 3-1 doesn’t change the fact that this game starts off 0-0. Just worry about tonight.

4) Might as well enjoy it, because this might be the last Dodger game for five dark, cold months.

If that’s not reason enough to get up, I don’t know what is. And just in case you need a little more motivation…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6wRkzCW5qI]

(God bless YouTube, right? How did people live before blogs and embeddable video?)

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