NLDS Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies

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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.

Ever wonder what umpires and players say to each other during arguments?

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  J.D. Martinez #28 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at Joker Marchant Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez was ejected by home plate umpire Mike Everitt after he struck out looking in the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Angels. He had a brief conversation with Everitt, which resulted in Martinez getting ejected.

MLive.com’s Evan Boodbery spoke to Martinez about what happened and got a word-for-word recollection of what happened. If you’ve ever wondered what umpires and players say to each other during their arguments, here’s a look:

No one has ever accused umpires of having thick skin.

Martinez finished the game 1-for-3. After an 0-for-4 performance on Sunday, he’s hitting .315/.377/.561 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI in 385 plate appearances.

Josh Donaldson pads MVP case with a three-homer day

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 28: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits his second home run of the game in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on August 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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Reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson padded his case for the 2016 AL MVP Award and helped the Blue Jays overcome the Twins by slugging three home runs in a come-from-behind victory on Sunday afternoon.

Donaldson broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a solo home run off of Twins starter Kyle Gibson. He gave the Jays a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning when he drilled a two-run home run to center field off of reliever Pat Light. And he bolstered the Jays’ lead to 9-6 in the ninth with another homer to center field off of Alex Wimmers.

Here’s video of home run number two:

After Sunday’s performance, Donaldson is hitting .294/.407/.578 with 33 home runs and 91 RBI. In the AL, Donaldson’s 6.9 WAR trails only Angels outfielder Mike Trout (7.2) according to FanGraphs. Jose Altuve, another strong candidate, is at 6.7. Mookie Betts sits at 6.5 and Manny Machado has an even 6.0.