Rockies Lose Pivotal Game Three In NLDS

October 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

When fans thaw out on Monday morning reality may set in. The Colorado Rockies had several chances to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the best of five division series, but ended up on the wrong end of a 6-5 loss to the Phillies.

The Rockies held a 3-1 lead through three innings and looked as if they were cruising. Jason Hammel had retired nine out of ten Phillies hitters and the offense was doing damage to Phillies starter J.A. Happ.

As dominant as Hammel was through three innings, he looked like a completely different pitcher in the fourth inning. He lost command of his fastball, allowing the Phillies to either sit on the off speed pitches, or wait for a walk. The right hander loaded the bases, then walked in the second run of the game. He never made it out of the fourth inning, giving up three runs in 3-2/3 innings.

After battling back, finding a way to score runs, including a game-tying home run off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies could not find a way to get the lead. Don’t blame Gonzalez for the offensive failures. All the Venezuelan lefty did was go 3-for-4 at the plate with a walk. He had the home run plus a double and a single. The NLDS has been a coming out party for the youngster, who has found his confidence on the Major League level, showing the Rockies and their fans that they are watching a five-tool player develop before their eyes.

After a hard-fought top of the eighth in which Rafael Betancourt allowed a walk and then a bloop double to Pedro Feliz with one out, Betancourt slammed the door, getting a Carlos Ruiz strikeout, followed by a huge Matt Stairs punchout. The problem for the Rockies, however, was that the walk and the double allowed the Phillies to turn their lineup over.

When Huston Street came on in the ninth inning with the score tied, instead of having to face the eight, nine and leadoff hitters, he was forced to face Jimmy Rollins leading off, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley. Rollins led off with a single, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Victorino. As Utley stepped to the plate, the Rockies were forced to deal with another aspect of the game that may haunt Major League Baseball after the 2009 playoffs. The umpires.

With the tying run at second base, Utley hit a pitch that acted like a swinging bunt. Street fielded the ball and threw to first, where Todd Helton caught the ball for the out-or what should have been the out. First base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled that Helton was off the first base bag, awarding Utley the base. Replays not only showed that Helton was indeed on the bag, they also showed that the reason the ball was even in fair territory was because it had grazed off of Utley’s leg while he was in the batter’s box and should have been ruled a foul ball.

Instead, the Rockies were forced to face Ryan Howard with runners on first and third and one out. Howard hit a ball deep enough to score Rollins from third and the Rockies night was essentially over. After mounting a small rally in the ninth, Troy Tulowitzki popped out on a pitch that he could have driven. The Rockies had lost the game, and possibly their season.

One of the Rockies strengths is their depth. It seems as if potent bats pour out of their dugout like clowns pour out of a tiny car at the circus. They have great starting pitching and a phenomenal bullpen. However, the Rockies struggle to put teams away.

Jason Hammel was cruising. He was throwing strikes in the first three innings and had a lead. His offense was hitting behind him and it seemed as if the team was on their way to victory. Then the 27 year old found a way to melt down in the mid-20’s weather. He simply could not find the plate, and was forced to throw off speed pitches. He fell behind hitters in the fourth inning and ended up having to give in. The inability of Hammel to put his foot down and squash the Phillies allowed hope back into the visitors dugout. A dugout that realized their prized rookie pitcher did not have his best, or even his second best stuff on the mound. It gave them hope that they could put a few runs on the board and take back home field advantage.

The results will be tough to swallow for the Rockies. They now face an elimination game against Cliff Lee, the same starter who nearly shut them out in game one of this series.

While some may give up hope, this series is not over. If the Rockies can find a way to get to Lee, even to scratch out a couple of runs, and Ubaldo Jimenez pitches the way that he is capable of, this team could win game four and head back to Philadelphia for the do-or-die game five.

Game five, despite being at Citizen’s Bank Park, would be against Cole Hamels, the lefty that the Rockies bashed around for five runs in five innings in defeating the Phillies in game two of the series.

If there is a team in this league who knows what it is like to have their backs against the wall, it is these Rockies. They came from 12 games under .500 and marched all the way back into contention. They were 15-1/2 games back in the division race on June 3, but made the race go down to the final weekend before settling into the Wild Card spot. If there is a team that can win two elimination games, it is the Colorado Rockies.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

NLDS Game Three Postponed Due to Snow

October 10, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Major League Baseball announced early this morning that Saturday night’s game will be postponed. Game three will be played during the scheduled time for game four, Sunday night at 8:07 Mountain Time.

Game time temperatures were supposed to be in the mid-20’s.

Major League Baseball made a good call with this decision. Baseball is not meant to be played in the extreme cold. Especially in such a pivotal game. With snow flying and temperatures below freezing, the integrity of the game is compromised.

While the decision was smart by Major League Baseball, it benefits the Phillies in a big way. Instead of having to pitch Pedro Martinez in game three, the Phillies have the option of going with JA Happ, the likely NL Rookie of the Year winner after going 12-4. Happ shutout the Rockies in August, and is another lefty that the Rockies struggle with. After Happ, Cliff Lee, game one’s starter, will be on normal rest and ready to go for game four.

It allows the Phillies to hide their shaky bullpen for possibly the duration of the series.

For Rockies fans it would be easy to complain about the bad break. However, the fact of the matter is, if the Rockies want to be the best team they are going to have to beat the best teams and their best pitchers. They have now had a good look at Lee. He has thrown two games against them dating back to early August. His pitches should not be a surprise to the Rockies anymore.

The Rockies must take advantage of their home park, where they play very well, and get to Happ or Pedro Martinez if Charlie Manual elects to stay with the righty, early in the game. Winning game three would allow the Rockies to play more relaxed, knowing that they only need to win one of the next two games.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Rockies Must Score Early to Have Success in Game 3

October 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

After much anticipation, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel named future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez the game three starter for Saturday night’s match up at Coors Field.

Manuel came to that decision after using four of his starters in the first two games of the series.

Cliff Lee went all nine innings in the opener, then after Cole Hamels only got through five innings, Manuel went with Joe Blanton and JA Happ, both of whom had been possibilities to start game three.

Now the Phillies are forced to go with Martinez, who has struggled with soreness in his neck and has consistently had arm problems, in a game that is supposed to involve snow and 25 degree weather.

Manuel said that Martinez is expected to throw in the range of 85-100 pitches before his night is over.

With Martinez on the mound it may seem like a tough match up, but the fact of the matter is, Martinez is simply a shell of the pitcher that he once was.

He has dealt with injuries for the past four years and was unsigned until early August, when the Phillies took a chance on him. He was great in his first few starts, but after a 130-pitch outing, he has struggled to get his groove back.

While Manuel threw Blanton and Happ in game two, Blanton threw only 18 pitches, and Happ just four before being hit in the knee by a Seth Smith line drive.

So the strategy for Manuel is easy to figure out. Knowing that the aging Martinez takes longer to warm up, even when the weather is warm, it does not suit him well to come out of the bullpen.

Therefore, Martinez gets as much time to get loose before the game, leaving Blanton to be called upon when necessary. Blanton will still need time to get loose, but should be stretched out and ready to go when called upon.

What that means for the Rockies is that they need to jump on Martinez early and get the lead. If they can drive Martinez’s pitch count up, they will get him out of the game early. If Blanton comes in with the Rockies leading the game, it makes it impossible for his pitching to change the game.

If, however, the Rockies fail to get to Martinez, they could be faced with a bad situation. Instead of getting deep into the bullpen, Colorado could easily see three innings of Martinez followed by six innings of Blanton, leaving them in another situation where they do not get to take their hacks against a very poor Phillies bullpen.

Game three is going to go a long way in determining who will win this series. It is of utmost importance for the Rockies to jump out in front and play with the lead, something that they have done very well in 2009. If they are unable to get the early lead, it may be a long, cold night.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Colorado Rockies Drop Game One To Phillies 5-1

October 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Colorado Rockies opened their postseason in Philadelphia, the same place that they did in 2007. Both teams are essentially full of the same players. Except for one.

At the trade deadline the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians. Lee won 22 games in 2008 en route to winning the American League Cy Young award. Lee and the Phillies won game one of the best-of-five series 5-1.

Lee showed the Rockies why he won the coveted award in Game One. With the wind blowing nearly 30 mph, Lee kept the Rockies off balance. He mixed in sliders on the outside corner to go with hard fastballs that kept the Rockies guessing all afternoon.

Ubaldo Jimenez matched Lee pitch-for-pitch through the first four innings. His 99 mph fastball was nearly untouchable, and left Phillie hitters flinching on the breaking ball.

Then, the fifth inning came and the Phillies finally got to Jimenez.

Jayson Werth led off the fifth inning with a walk. Jimenez then got down 3-1 in the count to Raul Ibanez. Ibanez then ripped a change up down the right field line, scoring Werth all the way from first on the double. Pedro Feliz then singled to right field, moving Ibanez to third base. Jimenez gave up another hit to Carlos Ruiz. Right fielder Brad Hawpe get caught in-between on a hop. He was trying to catch the ball, but when he realized that he could not catch it, he pulled up, only to see the ball skip past him. With Ruiz at second base after the error, Jimenez worked a ground ball back to him. He turned and fired to second base and was able to get Ruiz into a rundown. That helped Jimenez get out of the inning with only two runs.

The next inning was more of the same as Jimenez gave up three runs.

With Cliff Lee on the mound for the Phillies a five-run lead may as well have been a 50-run lead. The Rockies kept firing early in the count, allowing Lee’s pitch count to remain low. The Rockies finally scored a run off of the lefty after 8-2/3 innings, spoiling Lee’s chance at a complete game shutout in his first ever postseason appearance.

While some Rockies fans may want to panic, and others may want to know why the Rockies did not trade off half of their farm system for Lee in July, it is too early to declare this team dead in the water.

The reality of baseball is that a team needs to win at home and split on the road. If the Rockies win on Thursday afternoon the momentum swings back in their favor before heading back to Coors Field.

Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Phillies in Game Two on Thursday. He was the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP in 2008, but has been a shell of the pitcher that he was in ‘08. He dealt with an early elbow injury and has only been good enough to go 10-11 on the season. He is still a tough lefty to hit, but the Rockies lineup will be hard pressed to be dominated two days in a row.

If the Rockies can go out early and get a couple of runs it should be enough to make a shaky Hamels feel like he does not have his best stuff. If they can get the early lead it will go very far for the club.

The Phillies achilles heel is their bullpen. If the Rockies can get into the Phillies bullpen early they will be in good shape.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Colorado Rockies Rocked in Philadelphia

August 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Every rose has its thorns.

The famous lyrics of Axel Rose played out for the Rockies on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Jorge De La Rosa, winner of his last seven outings, flamed out against the potent Phillies offense.

The De La Rosa of June and July never showed up at Citizen’s Bank Park.

The lefty struggled through five innings, giving up seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits. He struck out three, and walked no one, but gave up three home runs for the first time in his career.

Some of De La Rosa’s struggles resembled the first two months of the season. After getting two outs he lost his focus and ended up giving up runs. In the third inning De La Rosa gave up two home runs with two outs.

Both home runs in the third inning came on changeups that the lefty did not finish, resulting in the pitch staying up in the zone, a mistake that cannot be made at Citizen’s Bank Park.

In the fifth inning, De La Rosa again gave up a two-out home run, this time a three-run shot, to Jayson Werth. Werth deposited the ball into the right field seats, throwing his bat in excitement after hitting the ball. The home run buried the Rockies, putting them down 7-0.

Despite De La Rosa’s struggles, there was a silver lining.

The biggest issue for De La Rosa in the early part of his career has been his inability to shrug off struggles and minimize damage. Instead of bearing down and finding a way to get the next batter out, he would beat himself up, causing him to continue serving pitches up to the hitters.

On Wednesday it was different. Despite giving up seven runs, the hard-throwing lefty was able to give up the two out hit and still come back and deliver decent pitches.

While he did not have his best stuff, he was mentally stronger than what he showed early in the career. He still lost his focus, but was able to regain his composure and minimize damage after struggling. It was a sign of maturity.

While De La Rosa struggled, a team cannot win when its offense scores no runs.

The Rockies offense did wave at several bad pitches, and was off balance all night, but that was due less to bad offensive decisions as it was a credit to the phenomenal pitching of Phillies rookie J.A. Happ.

The young lefty whom the Rockies coveted in the offseason, dangling Garrett Atkins for him, dazzled on the mound. He was mixed in good fastballs with sweeping breaking pitches that caught the outside corner of the plate. He pitched perfectly to the scouting report, striking out Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes on high fastballs.

Happ pitched his second complete game shutout of the season, getting a huge standing ovation all the way through the ninth inning.

It was one of those games that the Rockies must simply tip their caps to the Phillies and get ready for another tough pitcher on Thursday.

In the series finale, the Rockies will face the brand new Phillie, reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, whom Philadelphia acquired from the Indians less than a week ago. It will be Lee’s home debut in a Phillies uniform after dominating in his debut in San Francisco.

The loss puts the Rockies a half game back from the Giants in the Wild Card race, and seven games back of the Dodgers in the National League West race.

While every game is important, games like Wednesday are a part of baseball. Sometimes a pitcher simply dominates an offense and gives little opportunity to get runs on the board. The key for the Rockies is to forget the game and focus on the opportunity to win a series on the road against the world champs, a huge accomplishment.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies