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NLDS: Season on the Brink
It took just six pitches for the Rockies to jump out to a 2-0 lead in Game 2 of the Cinderella Series. After a Kaz Matsui groundout, both Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday homered on the first pitch they saw from Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. Five pitches later, Jimmy Rollins homered on the first pitch thrown by Rockies starter Franklin Morales. It was clear then that this was not going to be another taut pitchers duel like Game 1. A Rollins two-RBI triple in the bottom of the second gave the Phillies their first lead of the series, but it was short-lived.
Kendrick stranded Matsui, who had led off with a double, in the third, and was in the process of stranding Garrett Atkins, who led off with a double, in the fourth when the worm turned for the Phillies. After getting a fly out to left and a pop up to keep Atkins on second with two outs, Kendrick pitched carefully to number-eight hitter Yorvit Torrealba, ultimately issuing an intentional ball on 3-1 to bring up the pitcher's spot with Atkins still standing on second base.
Morales had not pitched well over the first three innings, but he had three strikeouts and worked a 1-2-3 third thanks to an excellent play by Todd Helton to pick off Ryan Howard following a hit-by-pitch. Nonetheless, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle decided to pinch-hit rookie Seth Smith for Morales, and on a 2-1 count Smith hit a slow roller up the third-base line that Wes Helms was unable to make a play on, thus loading the bases for Matsui.
With that, Phillies manager Charlie Manual took the long walk to the mound to remove Kendrick and bring in Kyle Lohse, who got ahead of Matsui 1-2, but then put a fastball in exactly the wrong spot and Matsui launched it over the right-field wall for a game-breaking grand slam. SI's Jack McCallum roasts Manual for the move, but the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan defends the Phillie skipper:
It was a decision that blew up for four Colorado runs, that turned a 3-2 Phillies lead into a 6-3 deficit, that sucked the oxygen out of rowdy Citizens Bank Park.
Whether it was the right move or not, it didn't work. The Rockies added four more in the sixth when Manual decided to bring in Jose Mesa, which is never the right move, on their way to a 10-5 victory and a 2-0 advantage in the series.
The good news for Phillie fans is that their big bats are waking up. Rollins drove in four of the five Phillie runs in Game 2 and hit a tater and a triple in his first two at-bats. Howard crushed a home run in the sixth inning for the fifth and final Phillies run. Chase Utley, who struck out in his first five at-bats of this series, singled in two of his last three trips on Thursday.
That might all be too little, too late, however, as the Phillies' hopes of a comeback in this series rest on their becoming just the second team in baseball history to win the final three games of a best-of-five series after losing the first two at home, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that the next two games will take place in the thin air of mile-high Coors Field. The Phillies' Game 3 starter, 45-year-old veteran Jamie Moyer, exuded calm and confidence while talking to the media after Game 2, but no team could possibly be more confident than the Rockies, who have now won 16 of their last 17 to go from fourth place in the NL West to one game away from the National League Championship Series.
Bad Altitude's Mark T.R. Donohue thinks the Rockies are benefiting from a lack of organizational baggage:
You know what I think the biggest story of this series is so far? It's not Clint Hurdle's sudden Midas touch for weird, counterintuitive substitutions working out for the best. It's not the violent and painful ineptitude of all Phillies pitchers everywhere. It's not Matt Holliday's sexy, sexy chin scar.
As if they didn't have enough momentum, the Rockies have improved their team karma by voting a full playoff share to the widow of Mike Coolbaugh, who was killed by a line drive while coaching first base for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Phillies fans harping over Manny Corpas's alleged ball doctoring just seems all the more petty by comparison. Corpas, of course, denies everything.
Finally, if Moyer and the Phils do manage to extend the series with a win on Saturday, Sunday's starter would be Thursday's goat Kyle Lohse,not ace Cole Hamels, who would be pitching on three-days rest. Since the Phillies have to sweep the next three games anyway, the decision ultimately comes down to having Lohse, who retired four straight after Matsui's grand slam, start Game 4 or having Kendrick start Game 5 after Hamels -- who missed a month toward the end of the season with a sore elbow—goes on short rest.
The Rockies, of course, could render all of that moot with a win in Game 3.
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Before chronicling a manager's stupidity, let's not feature our own It's M-a-n-u-E-l.
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