Why the Rockies beat the Phillies

Quick: Which team hit more home runs in the Colorado/Philadelphia series? If you said the Phillies, then you saw right through my attempt at an ironic twist and got it right. They outhomered the Rockies, five to four, over the course of three games.

The problem is that when they weren’t hitting the ball out of the yard, the Phillies weren’t hitting it at all. For the series, they hit .172/.274/.366. Philadelphia simply couldn’t get any sustained rallies going.

In my series preview, I predicted a Rockies win “because theirs is one of the few offenses in the NL that can keep up with Philadelphia’s.” Given that both teams can hit, the question became one of which pitching staff could do a better job of damage control. I thought it would be Colorado’s, and it was.

Runs by inning
Runs Col Phi
0 19 21
1 2 4
2 2 2
3 1 0
4 2 0
Tot 26 27

The Phillies never scored more than two runs in an inning. The Rockies did it three times—in the second inning of game one, and in the fourth and sixth innings of game two. Colorado scored three or more runs in 11.5% of all innings.

During the regular season, the Rockies scored three or more in just 7.2% of their innings, while the Phillies did so in 8.3% of theirs. Over the course of six months, Philadelphia strung together more big innings, but in a short series, that advantage never materialized.

You could claim that the Phillies hitters went into a collective slump at the wrong time, and you’d probably be right. That said, the Colorado pitchers almost certainly helped push them in that direction.

One curious aspect of the Rockies’ offensive output is that most of it came from unexpected sources. Yeah, Matt Holliday hit a couple of homers, but he, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe combined to hit .194/.256/.417 over 39 plate appearances. That should have given the Phillies a huge boost, but the funny thing about baseball is that anyone wearing a uniform can make a difference.

While two of Colorado’s big three bats lay dormant, Kaz Matsui and Yorvit Torrealba picked up the slack, hitting .454/.538/.864 over 26 plate appearances and driving in nine of their club’s 16 runs. (What’s up with Torrealba, anyway? Yes, I said that “Colorado also has a lousy-hitting catcher whose name begins with the letter Y. We all saw how well that worked for the Cardinals in 2006.” Hello? I was joking.)

If you’re of the “momentum” school of thought, you might point to the first two innings of the series as a turning point. Jeff Francis struck out the side in the bottom of the first, and the Rockies scored three in the top of the second against ace Cole Hamels. It’s easy to see things in hindsight that weren’t there, but I don’t know that anyone expected Colorado to make that kind of statement early in front of a tough east coast crowd.

Whatever the case, the Phillies never recovered. They scrapped in the first game, but an underrated Colorado bullpen held in the late innings. The second game belonged to the Rockies (well, after the second inning), while the finale was, of all things, a classic pitchers duel. In that game, Colorado pitchers held the Phillies to three hits at Coors Field, marking the first time since a June 1 contest against the Giants (Matt Morris!) that Philadelphia had failed to collect at least four hits in a game.

Hey, it happens.

Despite the fact that the Rockies entered the series on a hot streak, I did not see a sweep coming. I thought they would split in Philadelphia (with Hamels winning the opener), and Colorado would then dominate at home. The fact that the Rockies were able to slice through a very good Phillies team with such ease should make Arizona uncomfortable heading into the NLCS.

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