Rockies-Phillies series preview

Rockies-Phillies series preview

NLDS preview & pick: Rockies vs. Phillies
Covers.com

I’m not sure what makes a better inspirational Disney movie: Philadelphia’s run to the top of the National League East or Colorado’s improbable wild-card winning September. This NLDS matchup pits the league’s hottest teams against each other in what might well be a slugfest.

The Phillies and Rockies met seven times this season with Colorado winning four of those games. The Rox outscored the Phils 46-37 over those contests, two of which went extra innings.

Game 1 of this compelling series begins Wednesday in Philadelphia where Colorado ace Jeff Francis takes the mound against the Phillies young gun Cole Hamels. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET.

Here's what we can expect from the entire series:

COLORADO ROCKIES

Why they’ll win: Colorado needed some late-season magic and a little help from the umpires to complete one of the most impressive postseason drives in recent years. But regardless of the controversy during the play-in game against San Diego, the Rockies earned their spot in the NLDS.

Colorado’s 20-8 record in September was the product of great balanced baseball. The pitching staff managed to hold opponents to a .247 batting average against while posting a collective ERA just over 4.00. Starters Josh Fogg, Franklin Morales, Mark Redman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Francis kept their numbers in check during the final month of the season, and enjoyed solid run support from the hot-hitting lineup.

The Rockies hit a combined .298 in September and scored 6.14 runs per game – tops in the NL in both categories. Colorado ranked fifth in scoring, batting average and OPS this season, collecting most of those numbers at Coors Field. The Rockies had the best home batting average of any team in the National League.

Big bats like Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday all hit above .350 last month and outfielder Brad Hawpe chipped in with a .316 average, four home runs and 26 RBIs in September. Colorado scored 46 runs in seven games versus Philadelphia this season, batting .327 at the plate with 14 home runs.

Why they’ll lose: The Rockies’ ho-hum rotation must get it done on the road against another team that is also carrying huge momentum into October. Colorado is batting just .261 on the road – more than 30 points lower than at home – and scores almost one run per game less away from Coors Field. Philly, meanwhile, finished second behind the Rox in total runs scored at home.

Since the bats have killed the ball this year, the pitching staff is used to comfy leads and pitching worry-free. The Rockies haven't played in many close games this season. If the Phillies keep it tight, Colorado's staff could buckle. The bullpen, which went nine deep in Monday’s play-in game, looked shaky at times and was bailed out by the bats once again.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Why they’ll win: The Phillies put together a 17-11 finish and managed to capitalize on the New York Mets' historic collapse to steal the National League East title.

Philadelphia is driven by an offense that scored an NL-best 5.51 runs per game this year and ranked in the top 10 in most offensive categories. However its team average in September dropped to .254 with only Aaron Rowand and Chase Utley hitting above .300, and MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins finishing the month just under .300. Slugger Ryan Howard hit just .260 but had his best power month, driving out 11 home runs and knocking in 26 RBIs.

But when the bats let up the pitching staff picked up the slack, the most encouraging trend for the Phillies as they head into October. Philadelphia’s arms shaved 20 points off their collective ERA in September and got great work from starters Hamels and Kyle Kendrick. A clutch performance from 44-year-old hurler Jamie Moyer against Washington clinched the division.

The Phillies bullpen – the team’s biggest issue early in the season – has become the backbone of its postseason hopes. Though the bullpen had a 4.41 ERA during the regular season, relievers J.C. Romero, Francisco Rosario, Geoff Geary and closer Brett Myers were all effective down the home stretch.

Why they’ll lose: Outside of Hamels, the Philadelphia rotation is OK at best. Kendrick, the rookie scheduled to start Game 2, is wet behind the ears and was pounded by the Rockies in his two starts versus Colorado this season. Also getting touched by the Rox this year was Moyer, who allowed five runs in just over five innings back in July.

The Phillies staff posted a 6.40 ERA against Colorado over their seven meetings in 2007. The Rockies bats punished the staff, batting .327 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs while the Philly lineup answered with a .266 average and only eight home runs.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies in five

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NLDS Preview - Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies
October 2nd, 2007

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams that haven't been to the postseason in over a decade will meet in the National League Division Series, as the National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies battle the NL wild card-winning Colorado Rockies.

The Phillies return to the postseason for the first time since 1993, when the club last won the NL East. Philadelphia defeated the Atlanta Braves in the League Championship series before falling to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games in the World Series.

Colorado, meanwhile, hasn't played in a playoff game since 1995, the club's third year of existence. The team set a couple of firsts that season, as they were the NL's first-ever wild card team while also becoming the fastest expansion club in major league history to reach the postseason.

The Rockies, though, were eliminated by the Braves in four games in the NLDS.

Both clubs had to finish strong down the stretch to reach the postseason, needing wins in their respective final games of the regular season.

Philadelphia trailed the New York Mets by seven games in the NL East after a loss to the Rockies on September 12. However, the club won nine of its next 10 contests to get within 1 1/2 games of the front-running Mets.

Not quite ready to settle for a wild card berth, the Phillies moved into a tie with the Mets atop the standings with a win over Atlanta on September 27. A win over Washington the following day gave the Phils first place, but the club then lost on September 29 to fall back into a tie with New York.

That set up very meaningful final game for the Phillies, who defeated the Nats 6-1 in their season finale while watching the Mets get pounded by the Marlins to give Philadelphia the division.

Colorado needed even one more day than the Phillies to get further into October. One of, if not the, hottest team in the second half, the Rockies tied the Padres for the wild card lead by beating the NL West-winning Diamondbacks on the final day of the season. San Diego, meanwhile, lost to Milwaukee.

That led to a one-game playoff on Monday, and the Rockies needed extra time in that one as well. However, it all paid off as Matt Holliday tied the game in the 13th inning with a triple before scoring on a very close play at the plate on a sac fly by Jamey Carroll to give Colorado a 9-8 victory and a postseason berth.

It was a fitting end for team that had to come from behind all season. A loss to Florida on September 15 had Colorado in fourth place in the NL West and 4 1/2 games back of the wild card. The Rockies then ripped off a franchise- record 11 straight wins and won 13 of their last 14 games to force the tie break.

LINEUP

The Phillies infield features a trio of MVP candidates in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and then a take-your-pick situation at third.

Rollins put together one of the best seasons by a shortstop in some time. The player that declared the Phillies the "team to beat" in the National League East this year did his part, batting .296 while setting new career highs in home runs (30) and runs batted in (94). He also swiped 41 stolen bases, ripped 38 doubles, and his triple on the final day of the season gave him 20, making him the fourth player in major league history to finish a season with 20 doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. He joins Wildrire Schulte (1911), Willie Mays (1957) and Curtis Granderson (2007) in that exclusive club.

Rollins, who started in all 162 games for the Phillies this season and set a new record with 716 at-bats on the season, had a great supporting cast in the infield alone this year. Last year's National League MVP Howard continued to provide the big bat in the order, finishing second in the NL with 47 homers and 136 RBI. Howard, though, did set a new major league record with 199 strikeouts this season.

Utley, meanwhile, batted a team-high .332 with 22 homers and 103 RBI, and was the club's most consistent bat at the top of the order all year long.

The talent takes a significant drop off at third for Philadelphia, as Greg Dobbs (.272, 55 RBI), Wes Helms (.246, 39 RBI) and Chris Coste (.279, 22 RBI) all share time at the position, with Abraham Nunez (.234, 16 RBI) usually taking over late in the games as a defensive replacement.

Coste will also share time behind the plate with Carlos Ruiz, who was a pleasant surprise for the Phils this season. The rookie catcher appeared in 115 games and hit .259 while displaying a strong arm behind the plate. Ruiz, though, had to leave Sunday's game against Washington after getting hit in the left elbow with a pitch.

The Phillies' outfield possess a little bit of everything. Left fielder Pat Burrell had an outstanding second half and finished the season with a .256 average to go along with 30 homers and 97 RBI. Burrell was batting .201 as of July 1, but hit .295 after the All-Star break. Aaron Rowand, who won a World Series with the White Sox in 2005, is an excellent defensive center fielder with a solid bat (.309, 27 homers), while right fielder Shane Victorino sets the table and stole 37 bases this year.

The Rockies are led by an MVP candidate of their own in Holliday, who led the NL in batting with a .340 average and his two-RBI performance in the tie- breaker game gave him the RBI lead over Howard by one with 137. He also led the Rockies with 36 homers.

With speedy outfielder Willy Taveras sidelined due to strained right quadriceps, Ryan Spilborghs and his .299 average manned center field down the stretch. Spilborghs also hit 11 homers with 51 RBI in 97 games this year. Brad Hawpe (.291, 29 homers, 116 RBI) provides more pop out of right field.

Taveras, though, is hoping to be ready for this series, which would push Spilborghs back to the bench.

First baseman Todd Helton, a first-round pick by Colorado in 1995, will snap a string of 1,577 games without a playoff appearance, which is the third-most games of any active player, when he steps on the field for Game 1. Helton batted .320 for Colorado this year with 17 homers and 91 RBI, marking the 10th straight season he has batted over .300.

The Rockies infield also features a Rookie of the Year hopeful in Troy Tulowitzki. In his first year at shortstop for Colorado, the 22-year-old, who turns 23 on October 10, batted .291 with 24 homers and 99 RBI. His RBI total was the most by a rookie shortstop in the majors since 1957, and his 24 long balls broke Ernie Banks' record of 19 by a rookie shortstop, set in 1954.

Kaz Matsui (.288, 32 stolen bases) has secured the second base spot for Colorado and helps set the table at the top of the order, while Garrett Atkins had another monster season -- .301 average, 25 homers, 111 RBI -- at third base.

Colorado will go with 29-year-old Yorvit Torrealba over rookie Chris Iannetta behind the plate. Torrealba started 72 of Colorado's final 102 games en route to making a career-high 104 starts at catcher for Colorado, hitting .255 on the season.

EDGE: PHILADELPHIA (BARELY)

STARTING PITCHING

Considered a strength for the Phils prior to the season, the rotation suffered through a rash of injury and was just good enough to get Philadelphia into the postseason.

However, the top of the Phillies rotation is as good as it gets in young left- hander Cole Hamels. Hamels went 15-5 with a 3.39 earned run average through 28 starts, as he missed time late in the year due to an elbow strain. He also mixed in a solid fastball and curve to strike out 177 batters this year, including 13 in his final start of the regular season.

The club lost both Jon Lieber (right foot surgery) and big winter acquisition Freddy Garcia (right shoulder surgery) to injury early and that opened the door for one of Philadelphia's biggest surprises: Kyle Kendrick.

Kendrick never pitched above Double-A prior to the year before joining the club in mid-June as an injury replacement. The right-hander went 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA through 20 starts, and was one of the Phils' most consistent starters down the stretch.

Lefty Jamie Moyer (14-12, 5.01 ERA), 44, will provide the young Philadelphia squad with some playoff experience, while trade deadline pickup Kyle Lohse (3-0, 4.72 ERA in 13 games with Philadelphia) will round out the rotation.

Colorado's rotation is also battling through injury, as starters Aaron Cook (strained left oblique), Jason Hirsh (fractured right fibula) and Rodrigo Lopez (right elbow surgery) are all lost for the season.

Thankfully for the Rockies, they still have ace left-hander Jeff Francis, who went 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA in 34 starts this year. Francis matched Colorado's single-season record for wins in a campaign, and became the fifth Rockies pitcher in club history to start 34 games in a season. He also struck out a team-high 165 batters on the year.

Josh Fogg is the only other healthy Rockies starter who pitched in more than 20 games this year. The right-hander started in 29 games this year with one relief appearance and went 10-9 with a 4.79 ERA. However, he was tagged for five runs in four innings of Colorado's game against the Padres on Monday.

Things get dicey after that for the Rockies due to injury. Rookie right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez went 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 15 starts with the Rockies, striking out 68 batters over 82 innings, and probably earned a postseason start.

After that, the Rockies can pick from Franklin Morales (3-2, 3.43), Elmer Dessens (1-1, 7.58), Mark Redman (2-0, 3.20) or Taylor Buchholz (6-5, 4.23) if needed.

EDGE: PHILADELPHIA

BULLPEN

Here is where things could get potentially hairy for the Phils. Down the stretch, Philly manager Charlie Manuel relied on three guys to finish out games. He first went to lefty J.C. Romero, who posted a 1.24 ERA in 51 games with the Phillies after being let go by Boston. The eighth inning belonged to former closer Tom Gordon (six saves, 4.73 ERA) before closer and former starting ace Brett Myers (5-7, 4.33 ERA, 21 saves) nailed things down in the ninth.

However, both Gordon and Myers were inconsistent prior to Philadelphia's stretch run to close out the season, as was righty Antonio Alfonseca (5.44 ERA).

Righties Clay Condrey (5-0, 5.04 ERA) and Geoff Geary (3-2, 4.41 ERA) should also earn bullpen spots, while the Phils will pick between former starters Adam Eaton (10-10, 6.29 ERA) and J.D. Durbin (6-5, 6.06 ERA), and 41-year-old reliever Jose Mesa (5.54 ERA) to round out the 'pen.

Once upon a time, Colorado wins ended with Brian Fuentes on the mound. However, the All-Star suffered a melt down this year and lost his closing spot to Manuel Corpas. Fuentes now becomes a setup man, and has a 3.08 ERA to go along with 20 saves. He also blew a save chance in Colorado's game on Monday.

Corpas, a right-handed rookie, posted 19 saves and a 2.08 ERA in a team-high 78 appearances this year.

Buchholz will likely stay in the 'pen even after making eight starts this year, and is joined by a host of reliable arms, including lefty Jeremy Affeldt (4-3, 3.51). The relief group will also contain right-handers Jorge Julio (3.93), LaTroy Hawkins (3.42) and Matt Herges (2.96). Hawkins and Herges have both pitched in the postseason before.

EDGE: COLORADO

MANAGERS

Manuel went from goat to hero in Philadelphia. Many called for the manager's job early in the season when the Phils struggled, and his x's and o's decision making has always been questioned. However, there is no doubt that Manuel got his players to give 110 percent throughout the season, and appears to have the trust of his clubhouse.

This season's 89-73 record marked the Phils' best season since Manuel took over in 2005. In his three seasons in Philadelphia, "Uncle Charlie" has posted a 262-224.

Manuel, in the final season of a three-year contract, has been to the postseason before, as he guided the Cleveland Indians to the AL Central crown in 2001. However, his squad lost to Moyer's Mariners in the ALDS.

For the first time since taking over in 2002, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle finished above .500. He entered this year with just a 352-436 in five years with the Rockies, but guided the club to a 90-73 mark this season for Colorado's best winning percentage since 1995.

Also, like Manuel, Hurdle got his players to play at their best down the stretch after poor starts.

For Hurdle, who never coached at the major league level before taking over in Colorado in late April of 2006, this series will mark his first crack at the postseason, a situation that could hinder him in the series.

EDGE: PHILADELPHIA

BENCH

Due to the rotation at third, the Phils will carry Nunez and Coste -- and possibly Helms -- on the bench. However, Coste's ability to also catch opens up another bench spot for Tadahito Iguchi, who was outstanding for the Phils filling in for an injured Utley in late July and early August. Iguchi, acquired from the White Sox, hit .304 in 45 games with the Phils.

In the outfield, Jayson Werth turned in a good season after spending all of last year on the disabled list while recovering from left wrist surgery. The right-hander batted .298 with eight homers in 94 games, and also came up big in a starting role after Victorino went down with injury late in the season. Speedy outfielder Michael Bourn (.277, 18 stolen bases) should also make the postseason roster as he serves as a defensive replacement late in the game for Burrell.

Iannetta was Colorado's Opening Day starter, but hit just .179 in 51 games before being sent back to Triple-A on August 6. However, he batted over .300 in 16 games since being recalled on August 26.

Jamey Carroll can play second, short and third base off the bench for Colorado, but hit just .225 on the year. Jeff Baker (.222, four homers) can pinch hit from the right side and play first and right field, while Cory Sullivan (.286) will be the fourth outfielder while Taveras is injured. However, once Taveras is back, he becomes the second option after Spilborghs.

EDGE: PHILADELPHIA

PROGNOSIS

Due to injury and inexperience by both starting units, expect a lot of runs to be put on the board. However, that makes it tough to pick a winner. How much better is Rollins, Utley, Howard and Burrell than Holliday, Helton, Hawpe and Tulowitzki, or vice-versa? Both teams possess explosive offenses and played well to close out the season. Hence, this series could come down to the bullpen and the bench. Colorado's relief group has been by far more steady than Philadelphia's 'pen, but the Phillies bench contains at least two players in Werth and Iguchi who would look nice in other team's starting lineups. Philadelphia's lineup and rotation are slightly better, making them a hair better.

Prediction: PHILLIES IN FOUR

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NL Division Series Breakdown - Colorado vs. Philadelphia
The Sports Network

PROJECTED PITCHING MATCHUPS

October 3, 3:00 p.m. - Jeff Francis vs. Cole Hamels

October 4, 3:00 p.m. - TBA vs. Kyle Kendrick

October 6, 9:30 p.m. - Kyle Lohse vs. TBA

2007 SEASON SERIES: Colorado won, 4-3

A pair of teams that haven't been to the postseason in over a decade will meet in the National League Division Series, as the National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies battle the NL wild card-winning Colorado Rockies.

The Phillies return to the postseason for the first time since 1993, when the club last won the NL East. Philadelphia defeated the Atlanta Braves in the League Championship series before falling to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games in the World Series.

Colorado, meanwhile, hasn't played in a playoff game since 1995, the club's third year of existence. The team set a couple of firsts that season, as they were the NL's first-ever wild card team while also becoming the fastest expansion club in major league history to reach the postseason.

The Rockies, though, were eliminated by the Braves in four games in the NLDS.

Both clubs had to finish strong down the stretch to reach the postseason, needing wins in their respective final games of the regular season.

Here are three big questions entering the series.

1. WHICH TEAM WILL OUTSLUG THE OTHER?

If anything in this series is certain, it is that there will be plenty of offense. The Phillies lineup features five players with over 20 homers and 88 RBI, and the team hit a collective .274 with an NL-leading 892 runs scored. Philadelphia was also second in the league with 213 home runs.

However, Colorado led the NL with a team batting average of .280 and saw three players finish with over 100 RBI on the season. Tulowitzki was fourth on the team with 99 runs batted in, while Helton added another 91. Four of Colorado's potential series-opening starters hit over .300.

That being said, Philadelphia gets the edge because of their speed. The club was fourth in the majors and second in the NL with 138 stolen bases, meaning the club will get more opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Throw out home-field advantage, as both clubs play in a hitter-friendly park.

2. WHICH PHILLIES BULLPEN WILL SHOW UP?

Philadelphia's bullpen was so bad early in the season, the franchise was forced to take one of its top two starters and make him a closer in Brett Myers. The Phillies main right-handed setup guy, Tom Gordon, is 39 and has a 4.73 earned run average, while left-hander J.C. Romero was let go by Boston before coming to Philadelphia.

In fact, the bullpen finished the season with a 4.53 ERA and converted just 42 of their 63 save opportunities.

However, the bullpen was one of the main reasons the Phillies were able to catch the New York Mets and win the NL East. The 'pen had a 2.40 ERA in Philadelphia's final 17 games, and compiled a 7-2 mark.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel relied on mainly Myers, Gordon and Romero down the stretch. Myers was the club's ace at the start of the season and runs on emotion, so he should be fine after saving 21 regular season games. Romero and his 1.24 ERA since coming over from Boston shouldn't be a problem as well.

That leaves Gordon as the X-factor, though he was an All-Star last year and brings postseason experience to the table, even if his career playoff ERA in divisional series games is 5.73.

And if the Phillies need extended innings out of Antonio Alfonseca, Geoff Geary and Clay Condrey, forget it.

3. HOW DOES THE ROCKIES' ROTATION SHAPE UP AFTER FRANCIS?

Logic says that rookie Ubaldo Jimenez will start Game 2 after ace Jeff Francis pitches the opener. That's because Josh Fogg had to start Colorado's wild-card deciding game on Monday, a contest that saw the Rockies use nine relief pitchers and play 13 innings.

Jimenez, 23, went 4-4 in 15 starts with a 4.28 ERA, but showed an ability to keep Colorado in most games that he started. However, he has made just 16 career starts with, of course, none of those coming in the postseason.

Thankfully, an off day on Friday should allowed Fogg to start on Saturday.

However, should the Rockies need someone in long relief in any of the first three games, they will be forced to choose from Taylor Buchholz (4.23 ERA), Franklin Morales (3.43) or Elmer Dessens (7.15).

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Phillies leave Eaton off postseason roster
October 2nd, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After signing a three-year, $24.5 million contract in the offseason, pitcher Adam Eaton was expected to help the Phillies reach the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

Things didn't work out exactly as planned.

Philadelphia did manage to win the NL East on the final day of the season -- in spite of Eaton. The right-hander was downright atrocious for the Phillies, going 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 30 starts. For his efforts, the Phillies, according to a report on their web site, have decided to leave Eaton off the playoff roster.

Needing a big performance from him last Saturday, Eaton labored through 2 1/3 innings before manager Charlie Manuel pulled him from the game.

Philadelphia will go with a four-man rotation, featuring All-Star Cole Hamels, rookie Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Lohse and veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer.

Right-handed reliever Geoff Geary, who went 3-2 with a 4.41 ERA in 57 games this season, was also left off the roster with a flexor pronator strain in his right elbow. Filling out the rest of the bullpen will be Antonio Alfonseca, Clay Condrey, Tom Gordon, Jose Mesa, Brett Myers and J.C. Romero.

Philadelphia included catcher Rod Barajas on the playoff roster with starter Carlos Ruiz battling through a left elbow injury.

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Phillies-Rockies series preview
VegasInsider.com

The final game receiving special divisional coverage is a matchup between Colorado and Philadelphia.

It was just on Monday night that the Rockies took the Padres on a free fall ride in the bottom of the 13th inning, winning by a controversial call at home plate. Down 8-6 with no outs, the Rockies tied the game with San Diego's reliever Trevor Hoffman on the hill. Then, with a sacrifice fly hit into center field, Matt Holiday was sent running from third base. A head first dive into home sealed the deal, but replays later revealed that Holiday missed the plate completely, eating a face full of clay.

There’s no looking back now and all is ready in this NL matchup. Colorado has traveled to Philadelphia with only one day of rest. With 36 games of work on the season, southpaw starter Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22 ERA) will represent the Rockies in Game 1. The Phillies will try to answer the hot bats of Colorado when they call upon the duties of ace slinger Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.39). Gamtime is set for 3:00 p.m. EDT, with Bodog.com installing Philadelphia as a $1.44 home favorite. A total of nine runs seems to be the consensus by most books.

Philadelphia: The Phillies enter the NL Division Series with a large discrepancy between the pitching staff and the team’s offense. From mid-September, Philadelphia was able to dash the Mets’ dreams of a post-season trip by going 13-4. Of course New York’s self destruction against Washington and Florida where part of the final chapter to this NL East story, but the swing of the bat was a crucial tool for Philly to continue on into October.

The good news first; the Phillies are a hitting machine, making contact with the ball for a .274 BA and crossing the plate for a second best 5.5 runs per game (No. 2 in the league). Led by second baseman Chase Utley with a .332 BA, Philadelphia can best be described as having a surging team inside the batters box.

Between slugger Ryan Howard (who broke the record for single season strikeouts with 199), reliable workhorse Pat Burrell, speedster Jimmy Rollins and center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Phillies were able to use the brawn of the bat. These four leaders of the club all combined for a .282 BA, while adding 2.6 runs per game (for a total of 416 RBIs – 49-percent of the teams total RBIs!).

Then there’s the dreaded pitching staff that lurks from the bowels of the underworld.

These numbers should explain it all; Philadelphia’s hurlers rank 25 in the league in ERA (4.75), are 24th worst with a WHIP of 1.45, are 18th worst with only 1050 strikeouts and have posted a 20th worst 74 quality starts.

Starter Cole Hamel (15-5, 3.39) is about the most consistent pitcher in the rotation, even after being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained elbow. Once opponents get passed Hamel its all gravy. Hurlers Jamie Moyer (14-12, 5.01), Adam Eaton (10-10, 6.29) and J.D. Durbin (6-5, 5.15) have all been major disappointments this season.

Relief pitching has also been a letdown, with the pen surrendering a 4.41 ERA and a little over a ½-run per inning. Closer Brett Myers (5-7, 4.33) has worked for a lonely 21 saves, while carrying a blotted ERA around with him in 51 appearances (68.2 innings).

On a positive note for bettors, the Phillies have churned a +2531 profit on the run line (a run line record of 93-69) and a +1115 bank roll on the money line. Out of the 162 games played, the ‘over’ has cashed in 88 times (54-percent of the time).

Expect Starters: Cole Hamels Game 1, Kyle Kendrick Game 2, Jamie Moyer Game 3. Kyle Lohse Game 4, Cole Hamels Game 5

Rockies: Squeezing into the playoffs with a dramatic win over the Padres, Colorado must now turn its attention to Philly on only one day's rest.

Side stepping away from the series that awaits this club, the Rockies mounted one hardcore drive in September with a 20-8 performance. Offense has been the foundation from which this team has built its success on, but the slingers in the pen and starting rotation where able to step up their game for the final sprint into October.

Starting pitchers Josh Fogg (10-9, 4.94) excelled in the last month of regular season play, posting a 3-0 record with a 3.25 ERA. Surrendering 3.3 runs per game gave the offense plenty of opportunities to put the nail in the coffin. Hurler Franklin Morales (3-2, 3.43) was another major factor in the push to the post-season, posting a perfect 3-0 record with a 2.88 ERA and a smothering .184 bating average against.

Other honorable mentions from the pitching staff include Mark Redman (2-0, 3.20 in September), Brian Fuentes (2-0, 1.15 in September) and closer Manny Corpas. Corpas shutdown opponents with eight saves and a 2.30 ERA in the last month of the regular season.

With one of the top ranked offenses in Major League Baseball, Colorado was led by outfielder Matt Holiday, who notched a team leading .340 BA with 36 jacks out of the park. His 137 RBIs was third best in the entire league, right behind Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez (156 RBIs) and Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez (139).

Colorado’s Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins where also big parts to this offensive onslaught, combining for a total of 227 RBIs, while Todd Helton deserves kudos for his .320 BA with 91 runs batted in.

If you thought that the Phillies made some money on the run line, the Rockies went a step further, pushing the envelope for a profit of +3785 units. The money line was exceptional as well, raking in +2466 units for the year.

One more thing to note; Colorado was the best defense on the diamond in terms of errors allowed (giving up a league low 70 errors).

Expect Starters: Jeff Francis Game 1, Mark Redman Game 2, Franklin Morales Game 3, Josh Fogg Game 4, Jeff Francis Game 5

Prediction: I’m a bit torn on this matchup compared to the rest of the action taking place across the league. Colorado demonstrated a will and tenacity to hang on and extend life into the playoffs, while Philadelphia is an offensive monster waiting to explode out of the gate.

The one day of rest for Colorado (with a trip in-between to Philadelphia) has me thinking that the Phillies posses the best chances with home field advantage on its side. If the Rockies starting rotation doesn’t get off on the right foot early on you can count this squad out within three to four games. On the other hand, one win in Philly has me swaying on Colorado’s side.

But without playing both sides of the fence I’m going to stick my neck out and say Philadelphia takes the series in five games. It will be a tough battle to the end, with the lumber cracking all over the place, but it’s the Phillies time to shine. The City of Brotherly Love will get a chance to celebrate further into the playoffs with this win.

My final prediction has the Philadelphia winning in five game (3-2).

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Rockies-Phillies: Get ready for a slugfest
October 2, 2007

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Pitchers beware: Two potent offenses plus two hitter-friendly ballparks could equal a slugfest.

The Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies got to this point mainly because of their hitting. And, they'll need to keep swinging to advance.

Game 1 of this NL first-round series is Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, the East Coast version of Coors Field. Both teams are sending their aces to the mound - Cole Hamels (15-5) for the Phillies and Jeff Francis (17-9) for the Rockies.

But it'll be the hitters getting most of the attention. Philly has Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand. Colorado brings Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki.

All these guys can flat-out hit no matter where they play. However, many often find themselves explaining why it's easier to have success at home.

Balls have been flying out in Philly since the Bank opened in 2004. The dimensions are rather standard, 329-330 feet down the lines, 374 to left-center and 401 to straightaway center. But for some reason, there's far more homers hit there than at the old Veterans Stadium.

Perhaps the open-air outfield allows the wind to play too much a factor. Maybe the power-alleys aren't deep enough. Whatever the case, it plays small.

``The ball seems to carry more,'' Rollins said. ``Maybe it just looks small, so people feel a little stronger. Maybe pitchers make a lot of mistakes because the park gets in their head. It could be a number of things, but you still have to hit the ball out of the ballpark. I've always said when you hit a ball and it's a home run, it doesn't matter where you are playing. If you hit it here 10 rows deep, that's out of any other ballpark.''

There's a much easier explanation for all the scoring at Coors. Blame it on the high altitude. Balls dry out in the thin, arid air, making them slicker and harder to grip. There's also less air resistance, causing breaking balls to flatten out and change-ups to stay up in the zone.

Home run totals have decreased significantly at Coors over the past decade - several years ago, the Rockies installed a humidor to store baseballs and control their moisture. Still, it remains the best park to hit in.

Batters had a .286 average in Colorado this season, highest in the majors. It was second in runs at 874 and ninth in homers at 185. Meanwhile, the Bank led the majors with 241 homers and was third in runs at 871. Batters hit .277 in Philly.

``Regardless of where you play, you still have to get it and hit it,'' Howard said. ``Sometimes the wind may be blowing in at a field that's considered to play large and if you hit in the air, it might go out. You still have to hit it. You still have to put a good swing on it for it to go.''

Howard can hit them out of the Grand Canyon. He had 24 of his 47 homers on the road. Rollins and Burrell each had 30 homers. Rollins had 12 on the road and Burrell 14.

But a few of Colorado's sluggers had far better power numbers at Coors. Holliday hit 25 of his 36 homers at home. Hawpe's home-away ratio was 19-10 and Tulowitzki's 15-9.

``It's changed,'' Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said of the Rockies' park. ``The elevation is not going to change, but the ballpark is not as much hitter-friendly as it used to be. It plays out much different than it has in the past.''

Since the Bank opened in 2004, it ranks third in homers with 903. Coors is eighth in that span at 744.

But, the .294 batting average in Colorado over the past four years is by far the highest. Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium is second at .279.

``They have thin air and long deep gaps, so balls fall in and it's the complete opposite here,'' Rollins said. ``We have no gaps, but you hit it over somebody's head and it's going to go out. If you don't have pitchers that can pitch to the ballpark, you can find yourself in a lot of high-run games.''

As the weather cools down, balls obviously travel less. That was clear in Philadelphia's weekend series against Washington.

``Howard hit two balls against the Nationals that he absolutely crushed that were only three rows deep,'' Rowand said. ``You can call it a bandbox all you want, but it's not playing like one the last few days.''

Pitchers have complained about Coors since it opened, and many have voiced strong opinions against the Bank. Atlanta's John Smoltz once called Philly's park a ``joke.''

``It's favorable for both teams, not just us,'' Phillies closer Brett Myers said. ``If you worry about the fences instead of getting people out, you definitely aren't going to have a good game. I don't think any ballpark is an issue about anything. Yeah, they're hitter-friendly, so they say, but if you go out and think about that, you're just going to choke.''

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