If Chad Billingsley is an ace, then we need another name for what Cole Hamels is. The best pitcher of the Dodgers is not in the same league as the best pitcher on the Phillies.
We know Billingsley can bring it in the postseason; he proved that against Chicago. And Chad had good stuff in both his starts against the Phillies, at least to my observation. He struck out some good hitters with some nasty pitches. But too often he was wild. He could have been luckier in the third inning when Howard's hard grounder galloped past the pack of infield defenders; if that ball is a little bit to the left or right the inning is over. But Chad set himself up to be burned by imperfect fortune with the two previous walks. He missed over the plate too many times. Hitting is about success in one moment. Pitching is about consistent success, repeated over and over. He never had that steady arm against the Phillies.
I liked his second at bat. Burned off his first pitch weak grounder double play his first time around, he practiced discretion the second time around. He got the count to 2-1 and then hit the ball somewhat hard, but unfortunately not all that hard and also on the ground. The result was the same but I saw improvement. It was never a fair fight, Hamels v. DeWitt. It was a promising AA guy against a polished major league star. He was in over his head all this season and he did okay, but he wasn't the kind of guy you want starting in a postseason game. Well, it happens. No team is ideal at every position. And I always liked seeing him play.
I like a player who can make me laugh with his play. When he bunted in the first inning of game four, I initially thought he had just popped up the bunt Pierre-style. From my seat behind the left field foul pole all I could see was that the ball went high into the air, which is a big no-no when bunting, and I was sure of the out. And then, when I saw the fielder look up, then back, helpless to catch the ball tumbling over him, I laughed. Furcal stole first with that play, a rare and brazen symbolic theft of first, and he nearly stole second at the same time, but they were able to chase down the ball before he could get all the way around.
He would have made me cry with his frequent debilitating errors if I wasn't hardened to that sort of thing. I don't want to be always worried that the throw will be bad when the ball is hit to shortstop. Maybe it's best that Furcal move on. But it would only be best emotionally, irrationally, because there is no way a new Dodger shortstop could replace what Furcal brings when healthy. If healthy. The errors are the headlines, but health is the real red flag here, isn't it?
I never got over how old he looked this year. An old, veteran face. Someday I'll look at my own face and think the same thing.
He did it, in game four. With two outs and runners at second and third he scorched a line drive to center field. I had a great view of the trajectory of that shot, a perfect low arc straight from the bat into Victorino's glove.
And then at the end of game five ... well, let me just say that the Dodgers showed that you can get to Lidge. They drew walks off of him and took him for some deep and hard outs. They never broke through against him, and he's obviously real good, but they took him to the edge of the cliff. The Brewers did too. I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays or Sox got to him in one of their games.