Say it With Me the Phillies are in the Playoffs! by Jeff Lyons
Jimmy Rollins was right.
Way back in January, he said the Phillies were the team to beat. The experts scoffed. So did the other teams in the National League East. As recently as three weeks ago, the Phils were 7 games behind the Mets and fighting for a wild card berth.
And then the unthinkable well, for Philadelphia fans at least happened.
The Mets began to falter. And the Phillies took full advantage. Beginning on Sept. 13, the Phillies lost just four more times. They swept the Mets in New York and suddenly, they were right back in the race. The Mets were awful in September. They won just 5 of their final 17 games and they lost six of their last seven.
But this isnt just about the Mets folding. This is about the Phillies taking advantage and playing their best baseball of the season.
Starting tomorrow, the Phillies open the playoffs (say it with me people Phillies playoff baseball) against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies were the hottest team on the planet in September, going 20-8, including a stretch where they won 13 of their last 14 games. They forced a one-game playoff with the Padres on Monday night to determine the wild-card entrant to the National League playoffs. They beat San Diego 9-8 in 13 innings for the right to play the Phillies.
This divisional series looks to be one filled with plenty of offense. The Phillies and Rockies were the highest-scoring teams in the National League this year. The Rockies have trouble playing away from home, where they were three games below .500. That could benefit the Phillies, since three of the five games are scheduled to be played in Philadelphia. The teams finished the regular season with identical 89-73 records. Heres a breakdown of the positional matchups.
Todd Helton hits for average and plays great defense, but Ill take Ryan Howards power over him any day of the week. Advantage Phils. Chase Utley was an MVP candidate before he broke his hand. Kaz Matsui is the Rockies second baseman. Another Phils advantage.
Troy Tulowitzki is my candidate for rookie of the year. He hit 24 home runs and drove in 99 runs while hitting .291. Those are spectacular numbers for a rookie shortstop. But the Phillies have Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies MVP candidate hit 30 home runs, knocked in 94 and scored 139 runs. He also hit 38 doubles, 20 triples and stole 41 bases. Rollins defense was spectacular this season, so its another advantage for the Phils although not by much.
Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins was better by himself than the Phillies three-headed option (Greg Dobbs, Abraham Nunez and Wes Helms) combined. Score one for the Rockies.
The Rockies have their own MVP candidate in left fielder Matt Holliday. He led the National League in hitting (.340) and RBIs (137) and was third in runs scored. Pat Burrell had a terrific second half for the Phils, but Holliday is clearly better.
In center field, Aaron Rowand gets the nod over Ryan Spilborghs. Theyre essentially the same player, but Spilborghs replaced the speedy Willy Tavares in midseason. Rowand bashed 27 homers and knocked in 89 runs while playing terrific defense.
Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe drove in 110 runs and offers a little more offense than Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth of the Phillies. I dont know much about Hawpes defense, but Victorino is one of the best defenders around and his arm is legendary. A slight edge to the Rockies in RF.
Yorvit Torrealba and Carlos Ruiz are a wash. Ruiz got hit by a pitch in the elbow on Sunday, so his health will be worth watching. Call this matchup even.
So it boils down to pitching. The Phillies will go with starters Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Lohse and Jamie Moyer. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis, Josh Fogg, Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jiminez. Hamels is the best of the group by far, and the other matchups are even.
Manny Corpas took over as Rockies closer late in the season and finished with 18 saves. Brett Myers had 21 saves for the Phillies. The Rockies won four of the seven games against the Phillies this season and definitely have momentum on their side. The Phillies have to be feeling confident, and Citizens Bank Park should be rocking Wednesday and Thursday. Home-field advantage is going to be huge for the Phillies, and they need to head to Denver with two wins. Its going to come down to pitching. If the Phillies can keep the Rockies from scoring too much, I look for the Phillies to win this series in four games.
Jeff Lyons, senior managing editor of the Philadelphia Bar Reporter and Bar Reporter Online, is a phanatical Philadelphia sports fan and vows to lay off Eagles predictions for a long, long time.