A few maybe-pertinent musings while I half-watch the Yankees vs. Angels and wonder how Scott Kazmir, a pitcher who averaged about 5 2/3 innings and 101 pitches per start this season, and has never been particularly efficient, can possibly go deep into this game:
- Joe Torre continues to tinker with his lineup and rotation much more than you'd expect, given his rep for unflappability. He's used a different batting order--though the same eight guys--in each of the first four games, and has bumped Vicente Padilla ahead of Game One starter Clayton Kershaw to go tomorrow night with the Dodgers' season on the line. Meanwhile, the Phillies' lineup may as well be written in stone: same eight guys, in the same batting order, through the first eight games of the postseason.
- One big concern going into this series was that the Dodgers' two lefty starters, Wolf and Kershaw, and three lefty relievers would neutralize Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. In the most obvious sense, this hasn't come to pass: Howard has been out of his mind against all comers, and has two big hits--his two-run double in Game One against Kershaw and the two-run homer off Wolf in the first inning Monday night--plus a few walks against the southpaws. Ibanez hit the stunning three-run homer off George Sherrill in the first game that provided the margin of victory. Utley had a key RBI single against Wolf that brought the Phils within a run in the sixth inning Monday. But Ibanez is 0 for 10 since that first game, including three hitless at-bats against Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo/Manny Ramirez, and Utley is 1 for 6--though he's also drawn three walks.
- Before Game Two, I didn't think it was especially likely that Padilla would rise to the occasion in what amounted to a must-win game for the Dodgers. Of course, he pitched one of the best games of his life, keeping pace with Pedro Martinez for long enough that the patience of the Dodger hitters, combined with untimely defensive mistakes on the part of the Phillies, delivered two runs and a win. Could the former Phillie, just two months removed from getting released by the Rangers, do it again tomorrow, in a literal must-win, with the crowd in his face and the temperature 35 degrees colder? Padilla's splits offer a mixed prognosis. He was actually better on the road this season, with a 7-2 record, 3.60 ERA and .232 opponent batting average. But night baseball hasn't agreed with him: in 17 appearances (16 starts), he's just 6-5 with a 5.38 ERA and .301 opponent batting average. Nor was Padilla particularly effective in Citizens Bank Park over the two seasons he called it home: 10-11 record, 4.98 ERA in 26 career starts.
- Though Cole Hamels earned his fifth career postseason win in Game One, his performance didn't particularly impress. His first two playoff starts have shown some of the same traits that took away from his regular season: loss of focus and composure in one or two bad innings, plus more than a bit of lousy luck. It's been over a month since Hamels last turned in a quality start--an eight-inning, five-hit, one-run, 10-strikeout gem against Washington. That said, every split suggests that Hamels will be sharper against LA for Game Five: he's been better at home, better at night, and has a lot of success against the Dodgers, regular and postseason both, to draw upon.
- Still more proof that batting average doesn't tell you much: the Phils as a team are hitting .224 in this series to the Dodgers' .233, and have outscored them 25 to 12.
23 hours until first pitch of Game Five...