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NLCS Game 5: What to Watch For

1) Can the Phillies drub Chad Billingsley the way they did in Game 2? The 24 year-old righty gave up a whopping eight runs -- seven of them earned -- in his first NLCS start en route to Philadelphia's win, which was a less-onesided than imagined in the first inning 8-5 final. The one thing Billingsley can chalk up in his favor is rest. Not only is he throwing on full rest, he only tossed 59 pitches in his 2 1/3 innings of work in Game 2.

2) Can whoever hits behind Manny Ramirez make the Phillies pay for pitching around him? Manny was right on torrid track in Games 1 and 2, and since then he's had only four at-bats, drawing six walks. Amazingly, he's 3-for-4 when he has been pitched to, so expect Cole Hamels -- who was touched up twice by Ramirez in Game 1 -- to send him on his way to first on four pitches unless there are people on base in front of him. Maybe then, too. If Russell Martin and whoever hits behind him (from among James Loney, Nomar Garciaparra, Matt Kemp and Casey Blake) don't come through with clutch hits of their own, all that time Manny spends on base will do no good. Scuttlebutt on ESPN this morning was that Torre was leaning toward batting Kemp in cleanup, which would be a significant lineup shift and could make things interesting. We'll see what happens when Chico posts the lineups right here.

3) Will the Phillies feel the pressure? Sure, they have two games back in Pennsylvania even if they lose, but finishing a team off is obviously always the hardest part of a series victory. Closer Brad Lidge has been lights out against L.A., but everyone knows about his past playoff struggles. Even if it seems like he's finally dropped the eternal image of Albert Pujols rounding the bases in a silent Minute Maid Park, one walk-off homer by a Dodgers power hitter and he could be right back on the couch, and the Phillies could again be wondering how to finish off L.A.

4) Will the Dodgers hit Cole Hamels any better the second time around? The young lefty's changeup, which Philadelphia GM and baseball lifer Pat Gillick calls "the best left-handed changeup I've ever seen," completely mystified every Dodgers hitter not named Ramirez, Kemp or Andre Eithier in Game 1. If Hamels pitches the way he has in these playoffs, where he's shut out the Brewers and held the Dodgers to two runs, the Phillies will be more than half way there.

5) Just for fun: Will the Phillies ever break out these uniforms again? Whoever came up with the idea of matching maroon and baby blue was a crazy genius, like an Emeril Lagasse of uniform color schemes. Bam! There's your new road uniforms. Unfortunately, he clearly didn't design the technicolor yawn threads worn by the Astros, who the Phillies ousted back in 1980. Yikes.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 15, 2008; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Dodgers , Phillies  
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Next: The Odds


Those popsicle unis were crazy.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 15, 2008 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Those popsicle unis were crazy.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 15, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Those popsicle unis were crazy.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 15, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

oops, E1A.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 15, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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