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Phillies and Colorado Rockies: NL Division Series

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 Ubaldo Jimenez   Citizens Bank Park   Cliff Lee

Well, it’s post-season playoffs time again — 3rd year in a row for the Phillies.  This marks the first 3-peat since the Phillies teams of the mid-1970s.  Very much in mind, as these playoffs begin, is last year’s ride to the World Series title.  And they hope to have more success in winning the NL division series with the Colorado Rockies than they had when the two teams faced each other in the division series in 2007 when the Rockies rode a torrid winning streak to reach the wild card berth and then swept the Phillies in 3 games.  One might want to look back at my comments following the 2007 Rockies sweep for insight and background as to this series.

Offensively, when the Phillies have been good, they’ve been torrid — an offensive which can tack a lot of runs on the board in a hurry by way of the long ball with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez or via the stolen base and small-ball by Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Utley, Werth, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz and decent hitting from starting pitchers.  And they have worked some nifty double-steals such as Victorino and Howard teeaming up.  But the Phils have gone through periods where they have either left a ton of runners on base for want of a clutch RBI hit or have been ice-cold to moribund. 

When the starting pitching has been good, they have gone through long stretches where opponents have been unable to score.  But the starters have been prone to coughing up homers in the early innings as well as throughout the game.  For example, Cliff Lee rode into Philly on a crest — he had completed 2 of his last 3 AL games and tossed a 1 run complete game in his first Phillies start.  He went on to win his first 5 outings with the Phils giving up a total of 6 runs in 40 innings and holding the opposition without homers in that span.  But he is 2-4 in his next 7 outings while giving up 7 homers, a total of 29 runs in 39 2/3 innings.  

The bullpen has shown flashes of greatness, but have often been suspect, particularly at the back-end where Brad Lidge has gone from the extreme of perfection — 48 for 48 in the regular season, playoffs and world series in 2008, to the opposite extreme of blowing 11 of 36 save opportunities in 2009.  And others who have been thrown into the closer slot, such as Ryan Madson or Brett Myers, have thus far proven to be inconsistent at best.

Meanwhile, the Rockies of 2009 were not the same torrid Rockies who won 21 of 22 games in 2007 charging to the wild card berth and then sweeping the Phils and the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the NL pennant.

The Phils led the NL in homers and run production and the Rockies were a close 2nd.  And the Rockies pitching matches closely with the Phils.  It should be a great series and there are, to use the old song that Harry Kalas of fond memory made the anthem of the Phils championship ride “high hopes.“  But all should be prepared for the possibility that the Phils might not go as high this season.   

The Phillies Nation blog has provided a couple of fine, well-worth-reading commentaries on the Phillies, Rockies NL division series here and here.

Having written all of this, lefthander Cliff Lee faces Ubaldo Jimenez in game 1 as the Phils have a 2 year score to settle with Jimenez who went 6 1/3 innings as Colorado won the sweep game by a 2-1 score.  

And the first pitch by Lee to Rockies leadoff hitter outfielder Carlos Gonzalez

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