Rocky Roll

The Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies used late regular-season surges to end long postseason appearance droughts. Only one team, though, hasn't slowed down in the playoffs.

Having grabbed home-field advantage, the Rockies will try to push the Phillies to the brink of elimination Thursday when the teams meet in Game 2 of their NL division series at Citizens Bank Park.

Colorado had won 14 of its final 15 regular-season games - including a thrilling 9-8 victory in 13 innings over San Diego in a one-game playoff Monday - to clinch the NL wild card and reach the postseason for the first time since 1995. Philadelphia closed out September on a 16-6 run and benefited from an unprecedented collapse by the New York Mets to erase a seven-game deficit and capture its first division title since 1993.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Philadelphia -145 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Philadelphia -145 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

In Game 1 on Wednesday, Colorado posted a 4-2 win behind a solid pitching performance from Jeff Francis and RBIs from Garrett Atkins, Yorvit Torrealba and Troy Tulowitzki in a three-run second inning.

"Any time you expect a slugfest, you get a pitching duel,'' Colorado's Matt Holliday said.

Francis, a 17-game winner, gave up two runs - on back-to-back solo homers by Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell - and four hits with eight strikeouts over six innings to outpitch Phillies ace Cole Hamels.

"I'm always aware of my success or nonsuccess I have against teams,'' said Francis, who had a 15.12 ERA against the Phillies this season, but also improved to 9-0 in day games. "Today, my execution was better.''

Torrealba, a .255 hitter in the regular season, had two of the Rockies' six hits. Colorado had lost 21 of 28 in the regular season when held to six hits or less.

Colorado was the second-highest scoring team in the NL with 860 runs, trailing only Philadelphia's 892. But the Phillies couldn't generate many scoring chances as the heart of their order was shut down.

Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins combined to go 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts. Utley, a .332 hitter in 2007, struck out four times.

"Some of the hitters may have been uptight, but Francis was way better than the other times I've seen him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Two rookies will oppose each other on the mound in this contest as Colorado's Franklin Morales meets Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick.

Morales was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Aug. 18, and made eight starts including one against the Phillies on Sept. 11 in Philadelphia. The right-hander scattered three hits and walked one over five innings for his first major league win as Colorado rolled to an 8-2 victory.

Beginning with that contest, the Venezuelan is 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and .147 opponent batting average in four starts. He hadn't allowed a run in 20 1-3 innings over that span before being reached for two against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning of his final regular-season start last Thursday.

Morales was lifted after five innings, having given up three runs and four hits with a walk in Colorado's 10-4 win. The Rockies are 6-2 when he starts, including 3-0 on the road.

"He pitches with his heart," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle told the Rockies' official Web site. "He obviously uses his left arm pretty efficiently, also. He brings it. He works quick, he's got a quick arm.

"He can speed you up, he can slow you down. He's very aggressive and a good athlete and he fields his position."

Morales was 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA with Colorado.

Kendrick made the jump from Double-A Reading in June after veteran Freddy Garcia was placed on the disabled list with a season-ending shoulder injury, and ended up leading all NL rookies in wins. The right-hander went 10-4 with 3.87 ERA.

Kendrick's last loss came at home against Colorado on Sept. 12. He lasted a season-low three innings after being hit in the knee by a line drive off Atkins' bat, and was tagged for four runs and seven hits in a 12-0 loss.

Kendrick said he felt no pressure for his first playoff start.

"Obviously, I know it's a big game," he told the Phillies' official Web site. "Everybody knows that. I'm going to stay calm. I'll be a little nervous before the game, but other than that, it's another game."

The right-hander was 7-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 11 home starts and held the opposition to six hits or less in nine of those games. The Phillies went 9-2 when Kendrick took the mound at home.

"He is very aggressive - right away, he gets first-pitch strikes," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "He's got a good sinker and slider. If he throws a lot of strikes tomorrow, he's got a good chance."

Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday night at Coors Field with the Phillies' Jamie Moyer facing the Rockies' Josh Fogg.

by: Michael Cash - – Email Us

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