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Series Preview/Discussion: Phillies at Dodgers, Aug. 9-11

Aug. 9, 10:10pm: Phillies 8, Dodgers 4 WP: Ryan Madson (5-4) LP: Steve Schmoll (2-1)
Aug. 10, 10:10pm: Phillies 9, Dodgers 5 WP: Ugueth Urbina (2-0) LP: Yhency Brazoban (2-7)
Aug. 11, 10:10pm: Phillies 1, Dodgers 5 WP: Odalis Perez (7-6) LP: Cory Lidle (9-10)

Recent History
The Phils' series last month against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park really epitomized the team's struggles this season. After winning the opener 5-4 in dramatic fashion, on Ryan Howard's two-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Phillies dropped the next two games and looked bad doing so. Cory Lidle totally came apart in the 5th inning of what had been a scoreless tie, as LA put up nine runs en route to a 10-2 win. And in the finale, a Thursday afternoon matinee, Odalis Perez outdueled Jon Lieber to give the Dodgers a win in the second 1-0 contest to be played in hitter-friendly CBP in two weeks. The loss dropped the Phillies to 49-47 on the season; the team has gone 9-7 since then, while LA has lost 9 of 16.

Despite their unimpressive 50-61 record, the Dodgers remain just six games out of first in the mediocrity-mired NL West, and have gotten reinforcements with the recent returns of outfielder Milton Bradley and versatile slugger Jose Valentin from the disabled list. They bring a 26-27 home record into this series, while the Phillies are 22-29 on the road. The Dodgers have struggled against the NL East with a 7-11 record; the Phils have won 14 of 19 games against NL West opponents.

Strengths and Weaknesses
The Dodgers were a near-consensus favorite among the performance analysis set to win the NL West this season, but injuries have taken a huge toll on their chances. Shutdown closer Eric Gagne is gone for the year, and Bradley and J.D. Drew--two expected major contributors to the team's offense--have both missed signficant time. (Drew is still on the DL.) Valentin, who mashed 30 homers a year ago with the White Sox, has just 87 at-bats this season. With only Jeff Kent (21 HR, .907 OPS) healthy and productive, it's no surprise that LA has struggled to score runs: the Dodgers are 12th in the NL with 481. The team's .327 on-base percentage (10th in the league) hasn't helped matters. Injuries have taken a similar toll on the Dodger pitching staff, as nine different pitchers have started games for the team this season: the staff has posted a generally un-Dodgerlike 4.53 ERA for the year. In Gagne's absence, young Yhency Brazoban has taken the closer role: he's got 21 saves, but his 5.67 ERA suggests that late-inning leads aren't nearly as comfortable for skipper Jim Tracy as they used to be.

Dodgers Regulars
C Dioner Navarro
1B Hee Seop Choi/Olmedo Saenz
2B Jeff Kent
SS Cesar Izturis
3B Oscar Robles
RF Ricky Ledee/Jason Repko
CF Milton Bradley
LF Jose Valentin