NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies

Leave a comment

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.

THE OFFENSES
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.

Numbers
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.

Prediction:
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.

The Nationals could pursue Sonny Gray

Getty Images
1 Comment

Jon Morosi of MLB Network says that the Nationals could pursue Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray if Stephen Strasburg‘s forearm issue lingers. Strasburg left Sunday’s start early due to forearm tightness, saying he was unable to get loose. Sometimes that’s a sign of a major injury. Sometimes it’s just a thing that happens and then goes away.

The Nationals will have to make a determination as to how big a deal this all is pretty soon, though, as a lot of other teams, including the Yankees, Brewers and Astros have all been linked to Gray. It seems inevitable at this point that the A’s will move their ace before Monday’s trade deadline.

Gray is set to start tonight. It may very well be his last in an A’s uniform.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

13 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 3, Cubs 1: Cubs were hot, White Sox had lost nine straight so of course the Sox beat the Cubs. Baseball is cool on the merits, but one of the best things it has going for it outside of the game action is that it does not lend itself to people spending an hour talking about each game on some studio show beforehand, making predictions about who will do what, the “keys to the game” and all of that. Baseball is wonderfully random. It just . . . happens.

As for what happened here: Adam Engel and Matt Davidson homered and Miguel Gonzalez allowed one run and seven hits in seven and a third.

Astros 13, Phillies 4: Well, some things are predictable, like Jose Altuve getting his hits. He got four on Sunday. He got four last night. He has a 16-game hitting streak now, during which he’s hitting .528 (38 for 72). He’s batting .365/431/.574 on the year. He’s like Wade Boggs with more power and, presumably, a lower tolerance for airplane beers. Altuve drove in three. Alex Bregman homered and doubled twice. Brian McCann went deep. Josh Reddick, Yuli Guriel and Carlos Beltran each drove in two in this rain-interrupted game which gave the Houston batters a number of Phillies relievers to feast upon.

Blue Jays 4, Athletics 2: Francisco Liriano pitched on three days rest to cover for the blister-afflicted Aaron Sanchez. He could do so because his last two outings were short affairs due to, you know, not pitching so good. Here he was fine, giving up two runs over five innings. After he left three Toronto relievers pitched four no-hit innings. Russell Martin homered. Justin Smoak walked with the bases loaded.

Indians 6, Reds 2: Josh Tomlin gave up a couple of solo dingers but that’s all he gave up, allowing two runs on four hits over six. Carlos Santana himself hit a couple of solo homers negating all of that. Bradley Zimmer drove in two with a sac fly and an RBI single. The Indians tie up the 2017 Ohio Series 2-2. As we always note, the loser of the series wins Ohio.

Royals 5, Tigers 3: The Royals jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the Tigers tied it up with RBI singles from Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila in the sixth. The Royals put it away in the 12th inning, however, with homers from Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas. This 12-inning game was shorter than the Tigers’ nine inning game on Sunday.

Orioles 5, Rays 0: Kevin Gausman tossed six shutout innings, striking out eight and the bullpen added three shutout innings to close it out. Adam Jones homered. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop turned a nifty double play:

Cardinals 8, Rockies 2: Mike Leake shut out the Rockies for seven innings as his mates scored two in the first, fourth, seventh and eighth for a nice, symmetrical bit of run support. Randal Grichuk, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham homered for the Redbirds.

Marlins 4, Rangers 0: Adam Conely caught the seven shutout inning bug himself — lot of that going around lately — and Giancarlo Stanton homered twice to tie Aaron Judge for the league lead. He’s on pace for 53 dingers.

Diamondbacks 10, Braves 2: R.A. Dickey‘s flutterball didn’t flutter so good and he was touched for four runs on five hits in three and two-thirds. Braves reliever Matt Wisler gave up four runs on five hits in two innings and he doesn’t have a knuckler to blame. A.J. Pollock did a lot of the touching up, driving in four with a homer and an RBI double and single. Zack Greinke allowed two over eight innings in this non-contest.

Mariners 4, Red Sox 0: James Paxton tossed — you’ll never guess — seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out ten. Kyle Seager hit a solo homer. The Red Sox’ bats are snoozing lately. Boston’s lead in the East is down to two games, but they’re tied with the Yankees in the loss column. It must be Dennis Eckersley’s fault.

Dodgers 6, Twins 4: The Dodgers were down by a run in the eighth when Cody Bellinger launched a three-run homer on an 0-2 pinch to put the score in cement. That made a winner out of Dodgers reliever Edward Paredes, making his major league debut at age 30 after ten years toiling in the minors. Bartolo Colon pitched for the Twins. He wasn’t bad for the 2017 version of him, allowing three runs over five innings. No telling if that buys him another start or if he continues to consider retirement.

Mets 5, Padres 3: Jacob deGrom is one of the few things that has gone right for the Mets this year, and it’s gone really right. He wins his eighth straight start, allowing two runs and striking out eight over eight innings. Wilmer Flores homered and Yoenis Cespedes tripled in a run.

Pirates 10, Giants 3: Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and grounded in a run and Jordy Mercer hit his own three-run shot. Gerrit Cole won for the fifth time in six starts. Both sides took issue with home plate umpire Chris Conroy’s strike zone, with Bruce Bochy and acting manager Dave Righetti getting tossed and with Clint Hurdle acknowledging that it was a tough zone. Bochy kind of cut to the heart of the matter, though, when he said, “. . . but that really had nothing to do with what happened tonight. We gave up three-run homers.” Yup.