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.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Toronto Blue Jays Justin Smoak watches the flight of the ball after hitting a two run walk off home run off Texas Rangers pitcher Phil Klein during the tenth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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I woke up at 3am today. In the past when that happened I’d post And That Happened at like 4:30AM or some dumb thing. I’m just not doing that anymore. I wrote a personal blog post about it this morning explaining why. It’s mostly part of an effort to not wake up at 3am anymore. If anyone has issues with that, maybe it’ll help. Or maybe you’ll be able to tell me that I’m deluded and my little plan to not wake up at 3am is doomed. I dunno. If you care, there’s a picture of one of my cats there too. She says hello to Kevin Kiermaier.

Anyway: Here are the scores. Here are the highlights.

Blue Jays 3, Rangers 1: Holy Smoak! Justin Smoak tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth and then won the game with a walkoff homer in the 10th. They were his first two homers of the season. If any nerds in their mother’s basement so obsessed with his spreadsheets that he can’t be bothered to watch a dang ballgame is devising some Home Run Leverage Index — HeRLI, we’ll call it — Smoak definitely leads the league in that category.

Royals 7, Nationals 6: Down two in the ninth and the Royals rallied, first with a two-run single from Mike Moustakas to tie it up then with a walkoff single from Lorenzo Cain. Three runs and five hits in the ninth, all off of Jonathan PapelbonChien-Ming Wang got the win after pitching a scoreless top of the ninth. That’s his first win since 2013.

Indians 7, Tigers 3: Francisco Lindor hit a three-run homer, got two other hits and played his usual stellar defense. It’s a testament to how many great young players there are in the game right now that, when people are asked to list them, he’s usually fifth, at best, when they do so. It’s also something of an insult to him.

Brewers 5, Angels 4: Two homers for Chris Carter. He hit two homers on Sunday too. Former Brewer Khris Davis hit two homers on Monday and, if I remember correctly, hit two in a game multiple times last year too. Brewers should probably just get a whole lineup of Chrises at some point and see how it works. What do they have to lose?

Orioles 4, Yankees 1: Two homers for Mark Trumbo and a solid outing for Chris Tillman. Six straight losses for the Yankees and the bats are still moribund. It’s their worst start in 25 years. Oh, and A-Rod tweaked his hamstring so he’ll probably miss some time. I’ve been impressed with how little “If The Boss was still alive . . .” rumbling, but it’s starting:

Cubs 7, Pirates 1: Jake Arrieta allowed only two hits in seven shutout innings agains the team he handcuffed the last time he faced them too, in the 2015 NL Wild Card game. Kris Bryant had a couple of hits. The Cubs have a five-game lead already, and two of the teams trailing them are, like, good.

Giants 3, Reds 1: The Reds were up 1-0 in the eighth and blew it by giving up two runs. According to the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, the Reds pen has given up at least one run in each of the Reds’ last 21 games, which is the longest such streak in major league history. Congratulations, you guys. You did it.

Braves 3, Mets 0: The better Matt won. At least the better Matt on this day, as Wisler topped Harvey, tossing eight innings of one-hit ball. The Braves have somehow won three of five. Time to pop the champagne.

Marlins 7, Diamondbacks 4Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run pinch-hit single to put Miami ahead. The old man is still an artist with the Thompson. He’s now at 2,947 for his major league career. Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich homered.

Dodgers 10, Rays 5Trayce Thompson, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig all homered. Puig’s was an absolute moon shot. Thompson drove in four. This is the Dodgers’ first trip to Tampa Bay since 2007. A change of scenery often helps people get out of a funk and this change of scenery helped the Dodgers’ bats wake up. No one said it had to be a change to good scenery to fix a funk.

White Sox 4, Red Sox 1: Sox win!

Astros 6, Twins 4Jason Castro and George Springer each hit homers. Castro’s barely cleared the fence and had to be confirmed via replay. Springer’s hit the dang train tracks high up in the outfield seats. They both counted for the same. At least once you adjusted for the fact that Castro was on base when Springer hit his. It’s all a very complicated set of operations to do that involving some fairly esoteric math so I won’t go too deeply into it.

Phillies 1, Cardinals 0: Aaron Nola threw seven shutout innings and Ryan Howard homered against his hometown team. He has always liked hitting in St. Louis. Guy has 12 homers and 40 RBI in 36 games in Busch Stadium. Remember a few years back when Buster Olney was peddling a rumor that the Cardinals and Phillies were gonna do a Pujols-Howard swap? Yeah, it probably had its genesis in some random “Howard sure would do well here” talk that got out of hand.

Mariners 8, Athletics 2Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Leonys Martin hit home runs. Hisashi Iwakuma pitched seven innings, allowing just one run. The M’s are 15-11.

Padres 6, Rockies 3: The Rockies built an early 3-0 lead off of Andrew Cashner, and if you get to him early you can get to him big. But he settled down, Matt Kemp and Brett Wallace hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to bring it closer and then the Padres scored three in the sixth and won going away.

Bronson Arroyo is throwing side-arm now

Washington Nationals pitcher Bronson Arroyo catches a pop fly during a drill at a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Viera, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux
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Nationals pitcher Bronson Arroyo has partial tears of tendons in his rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Considering he’s 39 years old, no one would fault him if he decided to call it quits. But he has one more idea, MASN’s Mark Zuckerman reports: Arroyo is going to throw side-arm, or at least three-quarters.

“It hurts when he gets on top [of the baseball],” manager Dusty Baker said. He continued, “So we’re taking our time. And if not, if nothing else, he’s a good guy to have in your organization.”

Arroyo missed the latter half of the 2014 season and the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Prior to that, he was known as a workhorse, racking up at least 199 innings in each of nine seasons between 2005-13.

Robbie Erlin needs Tommy John surgery

San Diego Padres' Robbie Erlin pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin has a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament and he’ll need Tommy John surgery as a result, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Times reports. Erlin landed on the disabled list on April 21. Now he’ll miss the rest of the season and likely the beginning of the 2017 season as well.

Erlin, 25, posted a 4.02 ERA with a 13/3 K/BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings spanning two starts and one relief appearance to begin the 2016 season.

Cesar Vargas moved into the rotation in Erlin’s absence and has pitched well thus far in two starts, yielding only one earned run with a 9/6 K/BB ratio over 10 1/3 innings.

The Reds’ bullpen set an ignominious record

CINCINNATI, OHIO - APRIL 08: Caleb Cotham #54 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the sixth inning of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on April 8, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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Reds reliever Caleb Cotham allowed a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Giants, setting a rather ignominious club record. It marks the 21st consecutive game in which the Reds’ bullpen has allowed a run, setting a new major league record, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Reds’ bullpen had been by far the worst in the majors with a 6.54 ERA. The Padres’ bullpen, second-worst, is comparatively much better at 5.27.

The last time the Reds’ bullpen had a clean night was April 10 against the Pirates. That afternoon, Dan Straily, Jumbo Diaz, and Ross Ohlendorf combined for five scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.