NL Divisional Series Predictions: Phillies Vs. Rockies
by Robert Ferringo - 10/7/2009
The Philadelphia Phillies were able to dodge the National League Wild Card Curse last year. But are they good enough to do it again?
One of the best bets in all of baseball over the last decade-plus has been that the NL Wild Card team is going to spring an upset in the Divisional Series. Over the last 12 years the NL Wild Cards have gone an impressive 8-4 in the NLDS and that includes a stellar 5-2 mark in the opening round over the last seven years. And one of those losses for the WCs took place last year when the Phillies bushwhacked the upstart Milwaukee Brewers.
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This year the Phillies will get a rematch of a 2007 NLDS series against Wild Card Colorado Rockies. And wouldn't you know it: two years ago the same Rockies actually swept the Phils right out of the playoffs - as the Wild Card.
The NLDS opens today at 2:30 p.m. in Citizen's Bank Park. The Phillies, behind 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, have been posted as a -130 favorite over Ubaldo Jiminez and the Rockies. The total has been set at 8.0.
Two years ago the Rockies rolled through Philly and caught the Phils with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Colorado was fresh off a one-game playoff win over San Diego and capitalized on the momentum to topple a pretty raw Philadelphia squad. The key in that series was a somewhat stunning 3-1 win by Colorado in the opening game. They beat Philadelphia's lefty ace, Cole Hamels, in that game and the Phils never really recovered from that shot to the gut.
Since that series the Phillies have absolutely dominated the Rockies. Philadelphia is 9-2 over the past two seasons against Colorado and has won those nine games by an average of five runs per game. Philadelphia won the season series this year by the count of 4-2.
According to oddsmakers, the Rockies are actually the second-largest longshot to win their first round series. Minnesota is at +825 to beat New York in the A.L. while the Rockies are a tantalizing +485 against the defending World Series champion Phillies.
Colorado found out very bad news on Tuesday when 16-game winner Jorge de la Rosa was scratched from the postseason roster with a groin injury. This has left the Rockies to settle with Jason Hammel as their No. 3 starter. They will go with Jimenez in Game 1 and likely counter with Aaron Cook in Game 2. Jason Marquis was, somewhat surprisingly, passed over by Hammel due to each of their recent performances.
While Colorado is doing damage control in its rotation the defending champions have major issues to work on in their bullpen. Less than 12 months after completing a dream season, Brad Lidge is persona non grata as Philly's ex-closer. Lidge has been a debacle this year: posting a 0-8 record with a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves. After sticking with him all season long, manager Charlie Manuel has been forced to play musical chairs with the back end of his pitching staff. He will likely go with Ryan Madson as the full-time postseason closer and move Lidge to a complimentary role. But that has really thrown off the dynamic of a bullpen that was so instrumental in their success last season.
In my mind this series has been given the least amount of publicity but really has the chance to be the most fascinating. Colorado was just one game worse in the standings than Philadelphia this season and have arguably been the second-best team in baseball since June. Since a 24-32 start Colorado has gone 69-38 and has been ripping through opponents both at home and on the road. Well, that is, except for the Rockies.
What's not to like about the Phillies? They are the defending champions. They have an exceptional front-end of the rotation with Lee and Hamels, and then a plethora of appealing options behind them with Joe Blanton, Pedro Martinez and upstart J.A. Happ waiting in the wings. Also, the roster is full of former MVPs and MVP candidates. This club absolutely won't quit and will scrap and claw until their final out.
This one is going to be a battle and should provide some of the best baseball of the opening round. We'll see if the Phils can supplant the revolution and attack on their crown, at least for one more series. But don't be surprised if another wild week ends with another Wild Card winner.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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