NLDS Preview: Phillies Vs. Rockies

October 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Flashback to only two years ago, 2007, and these same two teams were to meet in the NL Division Series. The Philadelphia Phillies had overcome a seven game deficit with 17 games to play. Trying to erase some ghosts of their own, particularly the “Big Choke” of 1964 when the Phillies blew a six game lead with 10 games to go against the St. Louis Cardinals, this team came charging down the stretch led by their big three: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and NL MVP winner Jimmy Rollins.

However, the vast majority of the 2007 team—except Jamie Moyer—weren’t even born when that Phillies team gave away that pennant in 1964. This team had a terrific September and beat the highly favored New York Mets to win the crown on the last day of the season.

Their opponent, then as now, was the Colorado Rockies who stormed through September that year like Sherman marching through Georgia to win the wild card. They lost one game in their last 50 (only kidding), but it certainly felt that way. They had a momentum going for them that eventually swept through not only the Phillies in three straight, but then swept the Diamondbacks in four straight to head into a classic match up with the now powerful and World Series experienced Boston Red Sox.

Their luck ran out there and they have not forgotten that series just two years removed. Nothing less than a return trip and victory there will satisfy this hungry Rockies group.

They are managed by Jim Tracy who took over for the ever popular Clint Hurdle and were 10 games under.500 as the calendar turned to June. With brilliant pitching from Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel, Jorge De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Aaron Cook, these five starters combined for 67 wins and look to be strong going into the playoffs. The only question mark may be De La Rosa who has a mild groin injury, but with Aaron Cook’s excellent return the pitching rotation for round one is set.

With Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, and Troy Tulowitzki all driving in more than 85 runs, the Rockies have the power to compete with the Phillies. The relief pitching is excellent as well with Houston Street successfully back from injury, closing 35 out of 37 save opportunities.

This is a very well rounded team that took the Dodgers down to the final weekend to determine the NL West crown.

Ubaldo Jimenez gets the call for Game One in Philadelphia.

These 2009 Phillies will be looking to be the first National League team to repeat as World Champions since the great “Big Red Machine” of the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976.

The road to get there will be a more difficult road then the one that got the Phillies here once again.

The regular season started off with Brad Lidge finally blowing a save in April. Considering he had perfect in 2008 including both the regular season and the playoffs through the World Series. It was no surprise that sooner or later that streak would be broken.

What was not expected was the implosion which Lidge and the Phillies have gone through since that first blown save. Over the course of this past season to look at Lidge’s numbers they are so ugly that it does surprise many how the Phillies got to this point again. It also speaks highly for the Phillies advancing beyond the Rockies, because if not Lidge, who else?

Lidge finished the season with a record of 0-8. He had 42 save opportunities but only converted 31. Eleven blown saves and eight losses certainly seems like a major concern come playoff time for Charlie Manuel and his Fightin’ Phil’s.

The rotation did struggle early but with the induction of J.A. Happ into the rotation and the acquisition of Cliff Lee, plus the year long solid performance by Joe Blanton, the Phillies pitching rotation seems to be in good shape.

I say seems because we don’t know which Cliff Lee and Cole Hammels will arrive on the scene. Both pitchers in the last two months have been both brilliant and tragic in back to back performances. It’s easy to say if the “good” pitchers show up the Phillies have the edge in the rotation but if the “bad” guys show up a repeat of the 2007 sweep would not surprise me at all.

With all that said, one must keep in mind that on any given day the Phillies are capable and have done it frequently enough this year for you to know it’s a reality, they can put a 10 spot on the board before your out of the third inning. This is a team that can flat out hit.

Despite the fact that Jimmy Rollins can hardly be found, the combination of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Jason Werth have been devastating to National League pitchers all year long. Those four sluggers combined for 146 home runs this year. Throw in an additional 52 from the other four starters and you know there will be no power outage on Broad Street this fall.

This is a very tough series to call. Lots of intangibles here, specifically the situation with the Phillies closer. A return to form from Brad Lidge and home field advantage in a short series certainly favors the Phillies. Obviously the longer the series stretches out the Rockies become the favorites.

Charlie Manuel has not yet named his opening game starter. That in of itself should tell you just how concerned the Phillies are with the pitching staff.

As a fan, I would personally love to see Pedro Martinez play a role not only in this division series but if the Phillies were to move on he would be a fantastic draw for baseball fans everywhere especially if it should turn out that the Phillies would make it to the World Series against either the Yankees or the Red Sox. Ah, one can dream.

I am a big believer in momentum and right now I believe the Rockies have more of that than the Phillies so therefore my prediction, the Rockies in four games and it’s going to be quite a few more years that the Big Red Machine’s back-to-back championships will be matched.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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