Dodgers Must Get By Hamels to Move On

The pitching match-ups tonight have a pair of very talented 24-year-olds on the mound. Cole Hamels, who held the Dodgers to a pair of runs in Game 1, and Chad Billingsley, who imploded in Game 2 to put the team in an 0-2 hole. The NLCS has a strange day off in the middle of the Dodgers three-game set, and in this case, a break could do them good.

Series won-lost records predicate how each team had to react. Trailing in the series, the Dodgers were forced to go with first-game starter Derek Lowe in Game 4 on three-days rest. Philadelphia, with the lead, had the luxury of keeping Hamels, who won the opening game, on a regular schedule.

Hamels gave up two runs in seven innings en route to the Game 1 win and Lowe allowed three to lose the game and the early advantage.

Hamels and Lowe were both 14-game winner during the regular season. And both of them lead their respective teams in inning pitched.

The forced gamble nearly paid off for manager Joe Torre. Lowe provided five strong innings in Game 4 and he was leading when he left the game, only to have the previously untouchable Dodger bullpen melt down over the final four innings.

So now Los Angeles is not only in a must-win situation, they face the Phillies numbers one and two starters who are fully rested.

Billingsley's poor start allowed Philadelphia eight early runs and the Dodgers could not recover. However, history shows that other young Dodger pitchers had like problems in post-season action.

In 1977 the Dodgers and Phillies split the first two games in Los Angeles, then moved to Philadelphia and Burt Hooton drew the start. Like Billingsley, he was given an early 2-0 lead and, again, like Billingsley he couldn't get out of the second inning, leaving with a 3-2 deficit.

However, the Dodgers rallied to win 6-5 and Tommy John controlled the Philadelphia bats in the fourth game to win the series three games to one.

In 1981, Montreal tapped rookie Fernando Valenzuela for three runs in Game 2 and also won Game three to lead the series 2-1. Hooton won Game 4 and Valenzuela came back to win Game 5 and move the Dodgers into the World Series.

In 1983, Philadelphia knocked Bobby Welch out of Game three in the second inning in a game that present Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt worked in relief, and the Phils won 7-2.

In each of the cases, the young Dodger pitcher who was victimized came back to pitch well in his next playoff opportunity.

The Dodgers are hoping that history repeats itself tonight so they can return to Philadelphia still with some sort of a shot at the silver ring (the gold one comes from winning the World Series).

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