NLDS Coverage: Phillies in the Driver’s Seat

I think it’s safe to say that the Game 3 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) between Philadelphia and Colorado was not a pretty one… and it was a little painful to watch for those of us who hate the cold. Neither starter – Jason Hammel for Colorado and J.A. Happ for Philly – made it into the fifth inning. The Rockies pitchers appeared to have problems with the cold and issued eight walks in the game. Philly starters gave up four free passes, including two in one inning of work by Brad Lidge. He shut the door in the ninth inning, but Lidge kept fans – on both sides – on the edge of their seats through the entire ordeal.

With a WPA of .430, young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez attempted to win the game all by his lonesome. He has looked extremely impressive in this series, finally living up to the lofty reputation as a top prospect. On Philly’s side, second baseman Chase Utley had a solid game with a WPA of .274. He had three hits, including a solo homer. Utley also scored two runs. Although he had just one hit in four at-bats, first baseman Ryan Howard posted a WPA of .208 and drove in two runs. The bullpen took a potential hit when left-handed reliever Scott Eyre had to leave the game with a twisted ankle.

Game 4

It’s going to be another cold night on Monday evening as the Rockies host Game 4 of the NLDS. It will be a good pitching matchup with Ubaldo Jimenez going for the home side, and Cliff Lee taking the ball for Philly. Lee dominated Colorado in the first game of the series and pitched a complete game. That, of course, was in a more favorable pitching environment and with the home-field advantage.

The bullpens were used pretty heavily by both clubs last night: Colorado used six relievers, Philadelphia used five relievers. Eyre is likely unavailable for Philly. The Phillies still have Pedro Martinez in the ‘pen, who has yet to throw a pitch in the series.

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A couple quick observations from the other series this past week:
1. I have never seen a veteran closer look as nervous facing a lineup as Joe Nathan appeared on Friday. Horrible results followed his arrival on the mound. I couldn’t believe it when manager Ron Gardenhire brought Nathan out again on Sunday after watching him in the previous matchup. I knew the series was over when Nathan walked in.

2. Watching Scott Kazmir in the third inning of the Angels-Red Sox game on Sunday was an eye opener. I can see why he’s struggled at times this year. With runners on second base – first Jacoby Ellsbury and then Dustin Pedroia – Kazmir’s grips on the ball were clearly visible in his glove; I was able to call every pitch without having to try and decipher the catcher’s signal. Not surprisingly, both Pedroia and Victor Martinez swung like they knew exactly what type of pitch was coming.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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