Last night the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5 - 1 in Game 5 of their Playoff Series. That wrapped up the National League pennant for the Phillies, 4 games to 1. Cole Hamels got the victory, his second over the Dodgers in this playoff series, with seven good innings. His performance was marred only by a solo home run by Free Agent Manny Ramirez who was by far the Dodgers' most outstanding hitter. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge shut the Dodgers down in the eighth and ninth innings (as usual).
The Phillies could have scored even more runs, as they left a great number of men on base. I expected Manager Charley Manuel to use Gregg Dobbs as a pinch-hitter for Pedro Feliz when the Phils had men on second and third with just one out (Dobbs is only the best left-handed pinch hitter in the League!) but Charley chose to let Feliz hit against the Dodgers' right-handed reliever. Then, after Feliz failed, I thought Charley might send up either Dobbs or lefty Matt Stairs to bat for Carlos Ruiz (the right-handed catcher with a season batting of .219), but, no, Charley let Ruiz bat and he made the third out. It was clear that Charley didn't want to use either Dobbs or Stairs when, in the eighth inning, he sent up So Taguchi (perhaps the weakest hitter on the Phillies bench) to bat for Hamels. I don't understand his strategy (or lack of it) but in the end it didn't matter, because the Phillies' pitching kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard.
The Dodgers have some good young players and they have a really great Manager in Joe Torre. He got more out of his players this year then Dodger fans had a right to expect. L.A. should hold a parade for this man! The Steinbrenner family cost their team a shot at the American League playoffs this year by not paying Joe Torre to stay with the Yankees. While I doubt the Dodgers will re-sign Manny Ramirez to come back in 2009, I still look for the Dodgers to be contenders in the future as Joe Torre works with his young players. I really like two of their young pitchers, Kershaw and McDonald, who could each become stars in the years to come.
The Phillies' National League Championship was especially sweet when we consider that most "experts" (such as Ken Rosenthal) picked the Dodgers to defeat the Phillies and go on to the World Series. Now the Phillies have shown that they are talented and resilient and deserving of respect. Even though I have sometimes criticized Charley Manuel's decisions (especially about handling the pitching staff), I am truly happy for Charley that he has now won a pennant after all these years. He has a good rapport with most of his players and he certainly knows a thing or two about hitting at the Major League level. He is sincere, he is close to his players, and he wants to win. I hope he leads the Phillies to the World Championship! Go Phils!