LOS ANGELES — The Phillies and Dodgers are back in the National League championship series for the second straight year, making them the closest thing the NL has to a couple of dominant teams.
They are the first repeat teams since Houston and St. Louis squared off in 2004 and '05, and only the third repeaters since Atlanta and Pittsburgh met in 1991 and '92.
"I heard Joe Torre say the beauty of it is always going back and seeing how many times you can win," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Wednesday of his counterpart.
"Believe me, we came back here to win. I have more determination probably than I had last year, and I mean that from the fact that that's how much I want it, and I think I know how much our players want it."
A year ago, the Phillies took a 2-0 lead at home and went on to beat the Dodgers in five games in the NLCS before defeating Tampa Bay to win the World Series.
Now, they're trying to become the first repeat World Series winners since Torre's Yankees did so from 1998-2000.
"When you repeat, you basically have to go through a tougher season to get there," Torre said. "You've got a bull's-eye on your back. Everyone seems to put on their Sunday best to play you. You always get the best pitchers matching up."
This year, the Dodgers own home-field advantage against the team they beat four times in seven games during the regular season.
Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers on Thursday against fellow left-hander Cole Hamels of the Phillies.
At 21 years and 209 days, Kershaw will be the third-youngest Game 1 starter in postseason history and the eighth-youngest starter overall, according to STATS LLC. The youngest was Fernando Valenzuela, who was 20 years and 339 days when he started for the Dodgers in the 1981 division series.
"I've grown up a lot since last year," said Kershaw, who worked out of the bullpen in last year's NLCS. "It's not obviously the same starting Game 1 of a series or anything like that, but just to have the experience to get out there and pitch against them a little bit is definitely going to help me out."
Torre went with Kershaw because he came up big in the Dodgers' division-clinching win against Colorado on Oct. 3. He pitched six scoreless innings in that game, striking out his first five batters and retiring his first 11 in a row.
"He's the most mature 21-year-old kid I've run across," teammate Randy Wolf said. "At the same time, he's stubborn and that's good because I don't want a pushover guy. If he's throwing strikes, he's pretty amazing."
The rest of the Dodgers' rotation will be Vicente Padilla, Hiroki Kuroda and Wolf, who would pitch Game 4 against his old team in Philadelphia.
Manuel wouldn't disclose his rotation beyond Hamels.
The Dodgers worked out Wednesday in light rain and 89 percent humidity. The rain had ended by the time the Phillies took the field. Thursday's forecast calls for a high of 78 degrees