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NLDS Preview: Pitching

Like their offenses, the Phillies and Rockies pitching staffs match up fairly equally.  Both teams are known for their offense, but it would not be surprising to see a low scoring game.

The Phillies pitching staff collectively has a 4.16 earned run average, sixth in the National Legaue. The Rockies pitching staff ranked eighth, posting a team ERA of 4.22. Their starting rotation posted a 4.10 ERA, beating the Phillies’ 4.29 ERA. Despite blowing the most saves in baseball, the Phillies bullpen collected a 3.91 ERA. On paper, the Rockies bullpen appears to be stronger, however their ‘pen posted a 4.53 ERA.

The Phillies hit a lot of home runs, but they also allow a lot. The Phillies gave up 189 home runs, second most in the National League. The Rockies kept the ball in the yard, surrendering 141. Both staffs allowed an opponents batting average of approximately .330.

The Phillies caught a break by not facing Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies’ leader in wins. Cliff Lee and Ubaldo Jiminez were handed the ball in game one. Jiminez’s velocity was impressive, topping in the high 90’s. The 25-year old went 15-12 with a 3.47 ERA during the season. Lee was a perfect 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA when he first came over from the Cleveland Indians. Then, Lee went on a cold spell, but he returned to form yesterday.  Unlike Jiminez, Lee previously did not have any postseason experience.  In addition, he threw a career high in innings pitched, but that did not prevent him from throwing a complete game. Jiminez has made it a habit of struggling against the Phillies.  In the regular season, he allowed nine runs and fourteen hits in ten innings. Lee allowed one run in seven innings against the Rockies in August, and one run again on Wednesday.

Aaron Cook and Cole Hamels will pitch in game two. Cook was bothered by a sore shoulder throughout the season, but is still an effective ground ball pitcher. At Citizens Bank Park, Cook is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA. Cole Hamels, last year’s NLCS and World Series MVP, hopes for another postseason run. Hamels’ roller coaster season ended with a 4.32 ERA and 1.28 walks and hits per innings pitched.

Joe Blanton and J.A Happ will start the postseason in the bullpen, but will likely start in games three and four respectively. Happ is a top candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award. He recorded the most wins of any Phillies rookie since the 1980’s. Blanton has been an inning eater, and rebounded from his 0-2, 8.41 ERA start.

The Rockies rotation also includes Jason Marquis, who quietly had a solid season. He went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA. Marquis allows a lot of hits; 218 in 216 innings. However, the Phillies lineup batted .208 against him this season.  The Rockies final starter will be either Jose Contreras or Jason Hammel. Since coming over from the Chicago White Sox, Contreras is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in seven games. As a starter, Hammel is 10-8 with a 4.45 ERA.

The bullpen is a weakness for both teams. Charlie Manuel is unsure who will close for the Phillies, but it will likely be between Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. Lidge’s struggles are well documented, blowing the most saves in the majors. Madson struggled when he closed, but his high velocity and nasty changeup are closing material. Huston Street, the Rockies closer, isn’t automatically light’s out either. His numbers are impressive: 3.06 ERA, 35 saves, 0.91 WHIP and a .194 opponents average. However, he can be very inconsistent. When he gets hit, he gets rocked.

The Phillies bullpen has been plagued with injuries. J.C Romero and Jamie Moyer both had season ending surgery. Brett Myers has a 6.43 since returning from hip surgery. The Phillies made an interesting move by leaving Clay Condrey off the roster and adding Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.  Condrey may still be suffering from his back injury, but adding Bastardo is questionable. The Phillies added a rookie with limited and unsuccessful major league experience, but they are in desperate need of a left-handed reliever. With Scott Eyre the lefty specialist, Bastardo will get limited action, much like Happ last season.  Pedro Martinez’s role has yet to be defined, but chances are he will pitch out of the bullpen.

The Colorado bullpen includes Joe Beimel, Rafeal Betancourt, Franklin Morales, Matt Daley, and Matt Belisle. Biemel, their primary left-handed specialist, went 1-6 with a 3.58 ERA this season. Since joining the Rockies, Betancourt has a 1.78 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Franklin Morales has yet to live up to his expectation, but he can be a solid pitcher. Belisle has struggled this season, and Daley is a rookie who has had some success.

In two hitter-friendly parks, pitching can prove to be a key factor. As the saying goes, pitching wins championships.

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