In tonight’s game on Five, the Dodgers will be hoping that a change of scenery will lead to a change of fortune. Down 2-0 in the NLCS, L.A. need to hit back straight away against the Phillies at Dodger Stadium. First pitch is at 01.22 BST, with Five’s coverage beginning at 01.00.
The importance of home field advantage is always something that has to be considered on a case by case basis. Most teams will have a better record at home than they do on the road for any number of reasons, but in the short format of the postseason each win takes on even greater significance. Their better regular season record meant that the Phillies entered the series knowing that they only needed to win their home games to get through to the World Series. For the Dodgers, this always had the potential of being a big issue.
The Phillies had a 48-33 record at home during the regular season compared to 44-37 on the road. In other words, they were fairly consistent wherever they were playing. It was a different story for the Dodgers though. While they matched Philadelphia’s home record of 48-33, they were well below .500 on their travels (36-45). This meant that the Dodgers would have to buck the trend if they wanted to reach the Fall Classic.
They did just that in their division series against the Cubs. Various reports have stated that the Cubs’ players were extremely tense during the two games at Wrigley Field, so maybe the Dodgers were able to feed off the nervousness created by an expectant Chicago crowd? Whatever the underlying reasons may have been, the Dodgers won the two games on the road and quickly completed the sweep at Dodger stadium.
It’s a different situation this time around. Down 2-0, it’s essential that the Dodgers take full advantage of being at home if they want to win the series. They could go back to Philadelphia down 3-2 in the series and then win the final two games, but it would be a very tall order. A home sweep has got to be the aim for L.A.
For part one of their mission, the Dodgers will be sending Hiroki Kuroda to the mound. In his first ever postseason start (he never made the postseason during his career in Japan), the Japanese starter kept the Cubs off the scoreboard during his 6.1 innings in game three of their NLDS clash. Kuroda’s last appearance in a Sunday Night game on Five was actually against the Phillies on 24 August. Although he pitched effectively over six innings, he ended up with a no decision as the Phillies won the game in the eleventh inning with a three-run walk-off homer by Pedro Feliz.
Philadelphia will counter with the veteran Jamie Moyer. Last year wasn’t the greatest of seasons for Moyer, finishing with a 5.01 ERA. Entering 2008 as a forty-five year old, many suspected that he had finally passed his sell-by date, but then again people have been saying that for years. Each time he has proved them wrong and he’s done it again this year, bringing his ERA down to 3.71 while winning sixteen games. Still, there will always be a lingering feeling that he is about to fall apart and his four inning start in the NLDS against the Brewers will give Dodgers fans hope that their team can jump on him. Such feelings will be intensified by Manny Ramirez’s incredible career numbers against Moyer (ten homers in fifty-three at bats).
Impact on the ALCS?
Judging by the first two, in some strange way this game could also have a bearing on game three in the ALCS. The NLCS started with a pitching duel in game one, with the Phillies edging it 3-2, followed by a game two that saw both starting pitchers struggle on the mound. The ALCS has followed the same course: a tight 2-0 battle in the first game and then an epic offense-dominated game two that finally came to an end at just gone half past six this morning. Tonight therefore may provide a taster of what’s to come tomorrow when the Rays and the Red Sox face each other in game three.