The defending World Champions came away with a win against the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday. Starter Cliff Lee, obtained from Cleveland at mid-season, threw a complete game and allowed just six hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out five Colorado hitters.
Lee threw 70% of his pitches for strikes against the Colorado batters. The opposing hitters who had the most luck against him were outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, both of whom had two hits.
Lee’s strategy was clear in the game: Pitch off of the fastball. The Colorado batters were unable to handle his combination of velocity, movement and location. In the first inning of the game, 11 of Lee’s 14 pitches were fastballs. Fast-forward to the ninth inning and 15 of Lee’s 17 pitches were four-seam fastballs (the other two pitches were a curveball and a changeup). In the final frame, Lee’s fastball ranged from 88-94 mph – including the last pitch of the inning, which was a 94 mph heater that third baseman Garrett Atkins swung through. Lee’s best pitch all year has been his fastball (18.1 wFB) so he stuck to his strengths and he had success.
Today, the Phillies will send Cole Hamels to the mound against Colorado’s veteran hurler Aaron Cook. Hamels will likely look to set up the Rockies hitters with his fastball before going to his changeup for outs (11.7 wCH). The Rockies that have had the most success hitting changeups include first baseman Todd Helton, right-fielder Brad Hawpe, and center-fielder Dexter Fowler.
Cook is predominantly a sinker-ball pitcher (56.7 GB%), who also utilizes a slider mostly to throw off hitters’ timings. The key for the Phillies hitters will be to concentrate on driving the ball hard, and to not worry about trying to lift the ball or hit the long ball. Career-wise, a number of Phillies hitters have had success against Cook, including Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth. Pinch-hitter Matt Stairs is a perfect 3-for-3 against Cook in his career, including a homer.
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