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NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies

Oct 6, 2009, 11:58 PM EDT

phillies_091006.jpgThe good news for fans of the Colorado Rockies is that their team — on the strength of their big 2007-esque second-half surge — is once again baseball’s feel-good story.

The bad news? The Phillies don’t really care.

Since firing manager Clint Hurdle and replacing him with Jim Tracy, the Rockies have gone 74-41 (.643) to go from last place in the NL West to within three games of catching the division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The NL wild card entrant scored the second most runs in the National League, were second in home runs, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging and fifth in stolen bases.

Even the pitching was improved with solid seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Marquis, plus the emergence of Jorge De La Rosa (16-9), who finished 16-9 after losing his first six starts.

But now the bad news: De La Rosa will be a non-factor, as his injured groin will keep him out at least until the NLCS, should the Rockies manage to advance that far.

Also, the Phillies are simply a terrible matchup for Colorado.

2009 NLDS Probables
Game 1: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Cliff Lee
Game 2: Aaron Cook vs. Cole Hamels

Game 3: J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez vs. Jason Hammel
Game 4: Whoever is left vs. Jason Marquis

Game 5: Jimenez vs. Lee

The Phillies appear to have the edge in starting pitching, though maybe not as big an edge as it appears at first glance. Lee started hot after joining Philly at midseason, but had mixed results down the stretch, including a six-inning, seven-run outing against the Brewers on Sept. 25, and a three-inning, six-run outing against the Astros on Sept. 4.

2008 playoff hero Hamels was spotty all season, a maddening occurrence that continued into September. And Happ, the Phillies’ most consistent pitcher over the course of the season, faces — against all logic — an uncertain role.

On the Rockies’ side of things, Jimenez has blossomed this season , and Cook and Hammel have been solid. But without De La Rosa, and with Marquis coming back to Earth after a dazzling first half, the edge has to go to the Phillies.

As mentioned above, the Rockies have been a run-scoring machine this season despite the loss of Matt Holliday in an offseason trade. Troy Tulowitzki has been the star, reverting to 2007 form (better, actually) after a 2008 season hampered by injuries. His .297/.377/.552 line makes him the big threat in a solid Rockies lineup.

The problem is the Phillies’ offense is even better. Put together a powerful lineup with stalwarts Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, throw in a career season from Raul Ibanez, and you have a force to be reckoned with.

The Phillies led the NL in doubles, home runs, slugging percentage, RBIs and runs scored. They were also second in stolen bases, with Utley, Werth, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino each swiping at least 20 bags. Once again, edge goes to the Phillies.

Phillies won season series 4-2
Phillies outscored Rockies 31-28 

Runs per game
Phillies: 5.06
Rockies: 4.96

Runs allowed per game
Phillies: 4.38
Rockies: 4.41

Overrated angle
The Phillies bullpen:
Yes Brad Lidge has had an awful season. Yes Ryan Madson has had moments where he has struggled. But this is a short series with two off days (if it goes to a fifth game), and the Phillies have a wealth of starting pitching. Some combination of Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Pedro Martinez could be available in relief, taking pressure off the back end guys. And Lidge finished the season with three scoreless outings. I’m not saying he’s anywhere near 2008 form, but that’s gotta be a good sign right?

Underrated angle
The lefty-righty matchups:
With De La Rosa out, the Rockies have no left-handed starters to face a Phillies lineup dominated by lefties (Ibanez, Howard, Utley) and switch hitters (Rollins, Victorino). On the other side of things, the Phillies are loaded with left-handed starters (Hamels, Happ, Lee) to face a Rockies lineup dominated by left-handed hitters. This will give Philly a huge edge.

Despite the matchup problems, the Rockies — led by Tulowitzki — should be able to score some runs on the Phillies. The problem is Colorado’s pitchers should struggle against that dominant Phillies lineup. And when you consider the Rockies’ home/road splits (51-30 in Denver/41-40 away from Denver) the Rockies really needed homefield advantage to make this happen.

Phillies in 4.

  1. JL - Oct 7, 2009 at 1:46 AM

    Jamie Moyer won’t be pitching in the playoffs unless the Phillies have perfected a new recover-from-surgery-in-a-week strategy.

  2. chris - Oct 7, 2009 at 8:06 AM

    Perhaps I am missing something…but no one said anything about Jaime Moyer. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

  3. Alan G - Oct 7, 2009 at 8:30 AM

    Let the games begin, Go Phillies!

  4. billfromreading - Oct 7, 2009 at 9:10 AM

    Robin Roberts will not be pitching for the Phils either.

  5. Todd Helton - Oct 7, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    Didn’t they say the same thing in ’07?
    Rockies in 4! Just like 2 years ago! Over-confidence sets one up for failure.

  6. matt w - Oct 7, 2009 at 9:56 AM

    Jamie Moyer had season ending surgery several weeks ago.

  7. Dave - Oct 7, 2009 at 9:59 AM

    The Phillies are NEVER over confident. Charlie Manual keeps them grounded. They just chug along business as usual every game. It will be just like last year, they are gonna calmly and methodically walk right over their competition.

  8. Jennifer H - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    (What Todd said!!)
    Deep bullpen. Street. Contreras.
    DEEEEEEP bench. Smith. Giambi.
    You just gloss over that “second in…” part and move right to starting pitching and lefty/lefty matchups… but this is a short series, and I’ll put the Rox lineup against the Phillies any day and just see what happens. Nothing’s a given… not even the great Phillies stars. The Rox have power and skill all the way down the lineup while the Phills have a fantastic top half. And this isn’t 07’s adrenaline-fueled last-minute run. This is solid baseball for months.
    GO ROX!!!!

  9. Alex - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    After the Rockies sweep, Phillies fans are invited to eat our world famous rocky mountain oysters!

  10. da man - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:14 AM

    Hello you guys suck so bad!

  11. Jennifer H - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    Hmmm… no pronoun reference… random, vague language… must be a Phillies fan.

  12. Dnthmn - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    Hi East Coast biased its pleasure to meet you once again…

  13. Brian (Orlando) - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    This will be a great Series but the edge has to go to the Rox. I’ll take Jimenez, Cook, Hammel and Marquis as my starting four any day. Combine that will a bullpen of Contreras, Beimel, Betancourt, Morales and Street and the pitching is solid.
    Both Teams have great offensive line-ups but IMO the Rockies have the edge. There are too many questions for the Phillies pitching.
    Welcome to ROCKTOBER!!

  14. raven - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:41 AM

    gooooo Rockies! you can do this! your fans believe!!!

  15. Bob - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:49 AM

    Oh how the major media hates a winner in a minor media market ….

  16. Rick - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    Go Phillies!

  17. PhilsFan4Life - Oct 7, 2009 at 10:59 AM


  18. Lina - Oct 7, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    Go Rockies! Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!

  19. FunnyStuff - Oct 7, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    Lmao. Hey rockies fans….. WFC!, show some respect.

  20. Love the Rockies - Oct 7, 2009 at 11:58 AM

    Hey, “FunnyStuff” – back at you! I’d rather feel good about a team where each player plays for the love of the game and a good attitude than be a fan of a team who “really doesn’t care” and simply has an attitude. Good baseball teams DO exist outside the East Coast. Better get used to it!

  21. jan - Oct 7, 2009 at 12:00 PM

    the ROCKIES ARE BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO ROX’S

  22. Wolf - Oct 7, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Flash back from 2007. I recall all the “east coast” writers who dont know anything about mid west teams other then what they read in their east coast papers, saying that this team called the Rockies cant hang in October. Fast forward to 2009 and you still dont think the ROX will go anywhere? Hope you like to eat crow (again)?? ITS ROCKTOBER TIME!!!

  23. Alex - Oct 7, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    1 of the oldest teams in the league 1883-Present
    2 World Series Champs 1980 2008
    126 years and 2 rings…RESPECT?

  24. cknob - Oct 7, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    Phillie fan here and I expect them to do little. The hitting and run scoring is great but this year is more accurately described by numerous blow outs and long cold stretches. If the bats are less than hot, the result could be a fast Rockies victory. The other issue is the pitching. 6 weeks ago, the Phils looked like Cy Young City. Lee was pitching phenomonal baseball, Happ and Blanton were having career seasons, Pedro came in and was sensational, Brett Myers was coming back from surgery and had a fresh arm and Chan Ho Park was lights out in the middle inning. Even old man Moyer had settled into a middle relief role and played very well. Now, Martinez and Happ are nursing injuries, Park, Myers and Moyer are gone for the season, Lee has been horrible the last 4 starts and Lidge is an absolute disaster in the bullpen. The Phillies have NO pitching. How anyone can give them the starting pitching edge here is beyond me. I love this team and last year was magic but…3-1 Rockies in a non competetive series.

  25. Mike - Oct 7, 2009 at 1:06 PM

    Anyone who thinks the Rockies lineup is even close to the Phillies’ is one of the dumbest people ever and doesn’t deserve to watch the game. Don’t be mad about east coast bias just because you live in the vast black hole that doesn’t matter in our country between Chicago and LA.

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