The MLB postseason gets underway finally on Wednesday afternoon in what could be a soggy, wind-blown Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia.
As Yogi Berra would say, "It's deja vu all over again." Only even Yogi would admit a lot has changed since the Rockies and Phillies last met in the National League playoffs.
Colorado and Philadelphia meet in the NLDS for the second time in three postseasons, each having won NL Pennants since their 2007 matchup. After an amazing run just to reach the playoffs two Octobers ago, the Rockies swept the Phils on their way to the flag in the Senior Circuit.
Apparently that pissed Philadelphia off. Not only did they rebound to win the NL Pennant and World Series in 2008, they have dominated the Rocks since then winning nine of the 11 regular season meetings. It's enough to list the Phillies as -165 favorites in this series and -130, plus or minus a few, in Game 1 on Wednesday afternoon. The total has dropped from 8½ to 8 at most shops.
Though not nearly as white-hot as they were in 2007, the Rockies once again enter the NLDS on a late season run. The Rockies won 20 and lost 11 since the calendars flipped to September, a 4-game skid in the middle the biggest bruise on an otherwise fine month. They were 20-32 in early June, 15½ games behind the Dodgers and dead last of the NL West only to go into the final weekend of play with a shot at catching LA for the division and nest record in the NL.
A lot of credit will go to Jim Tracy who took over as manager from Clint Hurdle on May 29, a week before they hit rock bottom at 20-32. Hard to say when it comes to the intangibles like what effect a skipper can have taking over the wheel of a ship at rough seas. Personally, I trust the players he has more than him.
This was a very well-balanced team statistically this season: Second in runs scored per game (4.96), sixth in runs allowed per game (4.41) to start with two numbers. The offense was second in the HR column, fifth in stolen bases and tops in the NL with a .784 OPS. The rotation was consistent and reliable with five arms making at least 27 starts, four of them 30 or more.
Trouble is Colorado is facing the team that finished ahead of them in both runs scored/runs allowed with Philadelphia topping the NL in scoring at 5.06 per game and ranking fifth with 4.38 crossing the plate against them. The Phils were first with 224 homers and swiped 13 more bases (119-106) than the Rocks. And while their rotation wasn't as reliable and stable in terms of personnel, nobody feels too bad for Charlie Manuel entering the postseason with the horses he's got.
The offenses are a wash, so it comes down to defense and pitching. Too much is being made about the closer situation in Philly. Not a small problem, mind you, but getting to Huston Street hasn't exactly been a cakewalk for Tracy and the Rockies. Colorado is going to be without Jorge de la Rosa, a big part of their surge up the ranks the final few months. A groin injury suffered in LA last weekend will keep the lefty out of the mix in this round, and that's huge against a lineup that offers lefthanded regulars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibañez. There are 105 homers in those three lineup slots alone.
Wednesday's starter for Colorado, Ubaldo Jimenez, has not fared well in Philadelphia in two starts with the Rockies 0-2 and the righthander surrendering nine earned in 10 innings. Cliff Lee has one start, earlier this season, in his career vs. the Rockies and did well by picking up a win in his second start in a Phils jersey.
Then again, the Rockies weren't given much of a chance two years ago against the Phillies and it was Jimenez who earned the win in the deciding Game 3 back on Colorado.
I can't convince myself the Rockies can win it and I can't talk myself into laying -165 in the series. However, I do like the Under in Game 1.
Game 1, Wed, Oct 7, 2:37 p.m. (ET): Ubaldo Jimenez (17-16, 3.47) vs. Cliff Lee (8-4, 3.39 PHI; 16-18, 3.22 Overall)
All signs point to crew chief Gerry Davis plating this contest. A veteran now of 26 MLB seasons, the St. Louis native has been 18-16 this season in favor of the home teams, with a 13-17-4 mark on the totals. Bob Davidson, Jerry Meals, Ron Kulpa, Angel Hernandez and Tim Timmons round out this crew.
There's a good chance that the first day of postseason play is going to not come off as perfectly timed as TBS would like it. Right now the forecast is 60% chance of rain early in the days but possibly tapering off by game time. Looking for a game time temp in the upper-60s, with a lot of wind out of the WSW (from left-field foul line out to right-field corner). They're saying gusts as high as 40, with sustained winds in the 20s.
Here's the deal: With the Yankees game set at 6:00 p.m. (ET) there will be extra pressure to start this game on time.