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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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The World Series? That's the Easy Part
2003-07-28 08:47
by Jon Weisman

Update: Cincinnati edged Philadelphia in 10 innings Monday, 6-5. The Dodgers trail the Phillies in the wild card by three games. Pittsburgh shut out St. Louis, so the Dodgers are alone in fourth place.

It's the trickle-up theory at work. A team that passed them in the wild-card race has kept alive the Dodgers' wild-card hopes.

Despite scoring two runs in their past three games, the Dodgers gained a game on National League wild-card leader Philadelphia, which was swept by the charging Florida Marlins.

Florida is now tied for second with Arizona; the two teams open a series with each other tonight. Los Angeles heads to Philadelphia tied for fourth in the wild-card standings, but trailing by only 3 1/2 games. Now, only a sweep in the three-game series, beginning Tuesday, would knock the Dodgers out of realistic contention.

The Dodgers will actually arrive in Philadelphia before the Phillies, who today waste the top left-handed pitcher in the National League this season, Randy Wolf, against the Cincinnati Reds.

The probable pitching matchups for the Dodgers-Phillies series, the biggest of the year for the Dodgers since the June series with the Giants when first place in the NL West was a possibility:

  • Tuesday: Kazuhisa Ishii (3.37) vs. Vicente Padilla (3.89)
  • Wednesday: Kevin Brown (2.12) vs. Brett Myers (3.65)
  • Thursday: Odalis Perez (4.43) vs. Brandon Duckworth (5.16)
Scary to think each matchup looks winnable.

The Phillies bring an offense that is vastly superior to the team the Dodger pitching just stifled, Arizona, but inferior to the team that battered the Dodgers the previous weekend, St. Louis. Philadelphia is 10th in the major leagues in EQA.

Face it - the Dodgers have lost only 11 percent of their games by four or more runs this season. For all their woes, they are in just about every game. And yet, they are almost a .500 team. They have every reason to think they can beat Philadelphia, and every reason to think that they won't.

With the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline three days away, perhaps the greatest complication that the Dodgers are facing is this: It will be for them to win the World Series as a wild-card team than it will be for them to become that wild-card team.

Think about it. In a short series, the Dodger pitching becomes even more difficult to contend with. A short series provides more rest for Brown, Hideo Nomo and Eric Gagne - a trio of pitchers that, right now, no team in the NL matches up with. The depth of the rotation - the Andy Ashby aspect - becomes a non-factor.

If the Dodgers made the playoffs, their first game will probably be against the team that they face this weekend, Atlanta - a team with the third-best EQA in the majors, but by one measure, only the 16th-best pitching. In other words, a team like St. Louis - only one that has arranged their scoring in a more efficient fashion.

The Dodgers would be underdogs, but just as they won four games out of six with the Cardinals this season, it is not impossible to imagine them riding their pitching to win one more game over Atlanta than they lose. And that's the thing - a playoff team can win the World Series by playing just one game over .500 per series.

No, the greater challenge for the Dodgers is making the playoffs. That requires the team to play much better than .500 ball. And it tests the Dodgers' non-existent depth.

I don't think the Dodgers can do it. With or without an improbable sweep of the Phillies this week, one that would pull the Dodgers within a half-game of the wild card, the Dodgers don't have playoff manpower on board or that they can acquire, given the state of the organization in 2003 and looking forward.

But the team won't be able to bring themselves to admit that. The wild card will seem within reach. And a World Series title will seem within reach - even more so. The temptation to make a move for a 2003 title run will be hard for anyone to suppress.

Once again, it will probably turn out badly. Once again, the Dodgers won't have been bad enough to become good.

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