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Hate 'em or love 'em, these gritty Phillies are something else

PHILADELPHIA -- One Dodger was going over the possibilities and permutations following the heartbreaking Jimmy Rollins-authored 5-4 Game 4 defeat that left Los Angeles on the cusp of elimination, and that Dodger mentioned having to win a game here in Philly, then two more back in L.A. Then that Dodger mentioned having to beat Cliff Lee, who they couldn't touch, if they even get to a Game 7.

"It's going to be tough," the Dodger concluded. "This (Dodger) team, it's not like that one."

In other words, the Dodgers are no Phillies.

But who is?

That Dodger's comments were not intended as a knock on his own team but rather as high praise for a reigning world champion that appears determined to make it two straight trophies -- or, dare we say it -- to form a dynasty. The Dodgers are one loose and fun bunch; a youthful, happy go lucky team where goofy Manny is considered the sage veteran among those who play, and they aren't apt to tighten up. And that's not a bad thing, either.

But the Phillies are something else entirely. They are a tough team that only quickly transforms into a killer -- but only when it has to.

They are one tough bunch, team that can't be put away or stamped out.

Pedro Martinez summed up his new Phillies team in five well-chosen words: "A pain in the neck."

When the Phillies are down, that's when they rise. When any of the other teams in the NL East drew anywhere near close this season, that's when they pulled away. They are one supremely confident team, and that faith didn't just come from last year's trophy.

They are intense, and can even be ornery. But they are good to each other, and when one of them steps out of line, as Cole Hamels did when he threw up his hands over a Chase Utley throwing error in Game 1, they stick together. Nobody in the Phillies' locker room uttered a word out loud against Hamels even though he committed the cardinal sin for a pitcher.

When something goes wrong, they press on. Utley's the kind of guy who doesn't know how to take the game face off. Jamie Moyer is a guy who doesn't know how to quit (at age 46, he's currently rehabbing from surgery and the complications that followed). They never stop.

"There's mental toughness, top to bottom," Brad Lidge said.

"Physical toughness, too," Pedro said.

They aren't an especially polite as a group. They don't exactly engender warm feelings to outsiders or opponents, who wind up detesting them for their unusual combination of cockiness and perkiness. Their heart can't be measured by their height. Shane Victorino was identified as the most "hate-able" of the Phillies by one Dodger. But Rollins might not be far behind him.

When little Jimmy stepped to the plate one out away from the end against the Dodgers' mountain of a closer, Jonathan Broxton, a 290-pound (at least), 101-mph-throwing reliever who can overwhelm anyone, the Phillies didn't feel like they were out. Or even down. "We've seen it so many times," Lidge said, "you'd have to be out of your mind not to think it's going to happen."

Broxton is an overwhelming talent (he regularly touches 100 mph on the radar gun), but as one Dodger said about his poorly placed pitches and blown game: "He's young." And that youth showed up at exactly the wrong moment.

Maybe Broxton was recalling last year's NLCS when Matt Stairs hit a big, game-changing bomb off him. Because he wouldn't (or at least didn't) throw strikes to the Phillies' veteran pinch hitter. Broxton walked Stairs on semi-wild deliveries to put the tying run on base before he hit Carlos Ruiz with a pitch to put the winning run on. It wasn't a smart way to set things up for Rollins.

"You can't walk Stairs there," one Dodger said. "(Broxton) seemed like he was trying to pitch around him, which makes no sense."

You just can't give the Phillies a break. Because if you do, they will break you.

As tough interviews go, Joe Torre's Dodger interview certainly wasn't the toughest. When Dodgers GM Ned Colletti met with Torre, Colletti asked him a few key questions. The first was: Are you sure you still want to manage? (Colletti wanted to be sure.) When Torre answered in the affirmative, two more questions came. Would you like the job? And do you have someone to bring as your successor?

The final two answers were "yes" and "Donnie."

So while no one is saying it officially, the Dodgers are one team that truly has a manager in waiting. (According to Torre, the wait will be one more year, as he reiterated to SI.com that it's his intention to make 2010 his last year as Dodgers manager.) If so, it's the right choice. "No question about that," Jim Thome said. "He's basically an icon to the game. Everyone loves Don Mattingly -- his work ethic, his knowledge, his demeanor. To me it's a no-brainer. Any organization would be lucky to have him. Let's face it, he's an old-school guy. Certain guys have a presence, and he's one of those guys."

Mattingly didn't say the managerial job's been promised to him, and he recalled that everyone figured he was Torre's heir apparent in New York as well. ("I hear different things, but I've been through that," is the way Mattingly put it), but it's clear he is interested, maybe even interested to the point where he wouldn't consider any other managing opportunities. "The Dodgers have been great to me, and I have feelings for Joe," Mattingly said.

The Indians, Astros and Nationals also have openings. Mattingly had a phone interview with Indians GM Mark Shapiro, and there is expected to be more discussion. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer identified Mattingly as one of at least five candidates currently being considered there.) The Nationals have called the Dodgers and asked for permission to speak with Mattingly. An outside opportunity could solidify his future in L.A., though it doesn't especially sound like it needs solidifying.

Mattingly said he believes Torre when he says he intends to make 2010 his last season managing the Dodgers. "He's not as leverage-the-media guy," Mattingly said. "But nobody knows the future."

Mattingly understands the future isn't guaranteed to anyone. But his looks pretty secure in Dodger blue.

Trivia time: What do Jay Payton and Sandy Alomar Jr. have in common?

Answer: They are the only two players ever to hit a postseason home run off Mariano Rivera, in 125 1/3 innings no less. In the last 65 1/3 innings, spanning 43 appearances, he has allowed exactly zero home runs.

Payton hit a three-run home run in the 2000 World Series against Rivera. The Yankees led 6-0 entering the ninth inning. Rivera relieved Jeff Nelson and wound up giving up the bomb to Payton before closing out a 6-5 victory.

Alomar's home run came in Game 4 of the '97 ALDS, a game-tying shot in the eighth. The Indians won the game with a home run in the ninth off Ramiro Mendoza, taking the series.

Thanks to baseballreference.com, here are some more postseason numbers for Rivera: 8-1 record, 0.72 ERA, 36 saves, five blown saves, 103 Ks, 18 walks, .176 opponent batting average, .213 on-base percentage, .231 slugging, .444 OPS. In his first 40 playoff games, in 62 innings, he had 18 saves and a 0.73 ERA.

In his last 42, in 63 1/3 innings, he has 18 saves and a 0.71 ERA.

Crazy.

• According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Bobby Valentine and Manny Acta are considered finalists for the Indians managing job, while Travis Fryman, Torey Lovullo and Mattingly are also said to be in the mix. Valentine might be somewhat pricey for the Indians, as he made $4 million to manager the Chiba Lotte Marines.

• Interim Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is the favorite to receive the permanent gig. If they're conducting a search, it's the quietest search ever.

• Ex-Diamondbacks third base coach Chip Hale interviewed to be the third base coach of the Mets. Acta could figure into that job if he doesn't get a managerial job.

• The Mariners' baseball people are relieved Kenji Johjima opted out of his contract. They never thought much of him as a player.

Rudy Jaramillo will be the perfect choice as hitting coach for the Cubs. He is expected to sign a multiyear deal for about $800,000 a year, which would make him easily the sport's best-paid hitting coach. Not only is he a highly respected hitting coach, but he got great results in Texas with both Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley (though Bradley won't be back if the Cubs can figure out where to send him).

Joe Girardi didn't play too long for Tony La Russa, but he seemed to learn a lot from him. When it comes to postseason pitching changes, he's been like a juiced-up La Russa so far this October. Removing David Robertson with two outs and nobody on when he was throwing well in the 11th made no sense, no matter what the book said.

• Raise your hand if you thought Kate Hudson would have a bigger impact on this postseason than Orlando Hudson.

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