Phillies, Dodgers have much in common

Updated: June 4, 2009

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Eric Milton (2-0, 3.14 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers.

There's a great East Coast-West Coast series this weekend, matching the Philadelphia Phillies, the first-place team from the National League East, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first-place team from the NL West. Both teams currently sit atop their respective divisions but share several other similiarities as well. They both have had players hit with 50-game bans as part of Major League Baseball's drug policy (Manny Ramirez and J.C. Romero). They both have had inopportune injuries to starting pitchers (Brett Myers and Jason Schmidt). They both have left-fielders who have been tremendous surprises so far this season (Juan Pierre and Raul Ibanez). Pierre has been an amazing replacement for Ramirez, and Ibanez has shown himself to be the best signing of last year's free-agent class.

Phillies starting pitcher Myers is lost for the season, and the club is in the market for a replacement, looking to upgrade some of the NL's worst starting pitching. The Phillies currently are 15th in the NL in starters' ERA. The matchups on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are almost as intriguing as the one from Thursday night that pitted Cole Hamels against Clayton Kershaw, two of the best young left-handers in the game.

Friday is a matchup of two veteran lefties, each of whom has done his share of persevering over his career. Jamie Moyer (4-5), at 46 years old, is coming off his best start of the season after some serious early season struggles. The Dodgers' Eric Milton (2-0), after missing an extended stretch following Tommy John surgery, recently got his first and second wins since 2006. It will be interesting to see the battle between Moyer's changeup and Milton's rebuilt arsenal. Milton used to be strictly a high fastball pitcher with an outstanding 12-to-6 curveball, but he's added a slider and an exceptional changeup.

Featured Series: Phillies at Dodgers
FRIDAY
Phillies (Jamie Moyer) at Dodgers (Eric Milton), 10:10 p.m. ET
SATURDAY
Phillies (Joe Blanton) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda), 4:10 p.m. ET
SUNDAY
Phillies (Antonio Bastardo) at Dodgers (Randy Wolf), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Saturday's game is a matchup of veteran right-handers, both of whom are dealing with issues this year. Joe Blanton is getting hit harder than ever before in his career and comes into the weekend with a 4-3 record and a 5.86 ERA. He already has given up 11 home runs in 10 games, putting him on pace for more than 30 on the season, which would be a career high. Hiroki Kuroda will be making his second start after missing nearly two months with an oblique strain. Other than a short fit of wildness in his first start, he looked good.

Sunday's matchup pits 23-year-old rookie left-hander Antonio Bastardo against veteran lefty and former Philly Randy Wolf. Bastardo looked phenomenal in his major league debut and defeated Jake Peavy and the San Diego Padres, while showing great command of his fastball, slider and changeup. On the other side, Wolf has been one of the most consistent pitchers for the Dodgers this season and comes in with a 3-1 record and a 3.21 ERA.

The offenses for both these teams will present unique challenges for the opposing pitchers. The Dodgers and Phillies are ranked 1-2, respectively, in runs scored in the NL, but they do it in dramatically different ways. The Dodgers lump hits together, manufacture runs, run the bases and rely on timely hitting. Entering the series, they have hit only 37 home runs this season, and they get the smallest percentage of their runs via the long ball of any team in the NL. The Phillies, on the other hand, live on the home run. They have had nearly twice as many home runs as L.A., with 75 entering the series. Their offense consists of trying to get men on in front of their power bats and then trying to drive the ball out of the park.

Ibanez has a .337 average, 19 home runs and 53 RBIs already this season. Ryan Howard has hit 16 home runs and Chase Utley has 12. The big three left-handed bats have led the charge. One of the major criticisms of the Phillies' lineup, especially following the acquisition of Ibanez, was the vulnerability they'd have to left-handed pitching. Well, it sure hasn't worked out that way. Ibanez is hitting better than .330 against lefties, and the Phillies, at 14-4, have the best record in baseball against left-handed starters.

For the Dodgers, it looks like the division is theirs for the taking, as they have an eight-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies appear to be in another dog fight with the New York Mets. This rematch of the 2008 NL Championship Series should be a lot of fun to watch as these two powerhouse offenses slug it out.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 3 | June 2 | June 1 | May 31 | May 28

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
J. Damon, NYY11TexMcCarthyBot 1: 3-2, 0 Outs. None on
J. Kubel, Min6CleCarmonaBot 1: 1-2, 0 Outs. 2 on
J. Kubel, Min7CleCarmonaBot 2: 3-1, 2 Outs. 2 on
C. Beltran, NYM7PitOhlendorfTop 4: 2-0, 2 Outs. None on
N. Cruz, Tex16NYYWangTop 5: 2-1, 2 Outs. None on

The complete list of Thursday's homers

ON DECK: WEEKEND WATCH

Rays at Yankees

This series is worth watching for Friday's stellar battle of lefties alone -- Rays phenom David Price against Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Price, 23, was electric in his last start, striking out 11 over 5 2/3 innings for his first win of the season. But Sabathia has won his past four decisions with a 2.08 ERA over that span. By the way, Tampa Bay has the best run differential in the American League East at plus-48.

Rangers at Red Sox

This series features the two teams with the best records in the AL (excluding the Yankees). The Red Sox are coming off an impressive three-game sweep of the Tigers in Detroit. Meanwhile, the Rangers, with Josh Hamilton sidelined, are getting plenty of offense from Nelson Cruz, who leads the team in homers (16) and slugging percentage (.605) and is tied for first in RBIs (41).

Brewers at Braves

Braves fans will be on alert this weekend, paying attention to new addition Nate McLouth, who's being slotted in the No. 3 spot in the batting order, and Saturday's starting pitcher, young Tommy Hanson, who'll be making his major league debut. Hanson, the Braves' top pitching prospect, was 3-3 with a 1.49 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings at Triple-A Gwinnett.

For the rest of the weekend schedule, beginning with Friday, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter, Orestes Destrade
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter, Orestes Destrade

BBTN ON THE AIR: SATURDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter, Orestes Destrade

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Dave Winfield, Peter Gammons
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Dave Winfield, Peter Gammons

BBTN MINUTE: JOHNSON'S 300TH WIN

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

On Thursday night, he took a look at Giants left-hander Randy Johnson, who joined the 300-win club, which includes four other lefties:

Most Wins Among Left-Handed Pitchers
Warren Spahn 363
Steve Carlton 329
Eddie Plank 326
Tom Glavine 325
Randy Johnson 300
Tommy John 288

WEB GEMS

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Hamels• While one left-hander was earning his 300th career victory, another one was pitching superbly against the top scoring team in the NL. Cole Hamels tossed a five-hit shutout, striking out five and walking none as the Phillies blanked the Dodgers 3-0.
WORST
RiosAlex Rios hadn't struck out more than twice in a game all season until Thursday, when he fanned five times. That's right -- five strikeouts in five at-bats for the Blue Jays' All-Star right fielder, four times against Angels starter John Lackey and the final time in the ninth against closer Brian Fuentes.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Johnson How did Randy Johnson win his 300th game? He induced 13 ground balls to just five fly balls, something he's been able to do successfully this season.

He got four of the last five batters on groundouts, using fastballs clocked at 96-98 mph. On his final 29 pitches, he used fastballs on 27 of them. Although he usually is weak versus left-handed batters, he was relatively strong against them Thursday (2 walks, 2 strikeouts and 1 double allowed). Washington went 0-for-3 versus his slider.

Randy Johnson Thursday vs. Nationals
2009 season and league averages
Thurs. 2009 ML avg.
Ground ball % 72 51 44
BA vs. LHB .200 .325 .268
BA vs. slider .000 .284 .225
BA w/2 strikes .111 .209 .190

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Adam Madison examines the 15 games originally on Friday's slate.

Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Friday. Daily Notes