Why the Rockies beat the Diamondbacks

I was wrong about one thing; I really expected the series to be a battle that would last at least six games. Who knew that all this “destiny” nonsense everyone’s been slinging around might actually be true?

Dating back to September 16, the Rockies have won 21 of their last 22 games. That’s insane.

How did they sweep the Diamondbacks? In my NLCS preview, I’d noted that “the main problem with the Diamondbacks, and one that I think the Rockies are well equipped to exploit, is the fact that their offense is decidedly below average.” Sounds pithy, but in reality, Arizona (.254/.312/.359) outhit the Rockies (.222/.316/.311).

Runs by inning
Runs Col Ari
0 27 32
1 6 5
2 0 0
3 2 1
4 0 0
5 0 0
6 1 0
Tot 36 38

Where Colorado excelled in this series, as they did against Philadelphia, was in controlling the damage. Let’s revisit a little table I whipped together for my recap of that earlier series.

The Diamondbacks managed to push across more than one run in an inning just once in four games—and that didn’t come until the second-to-last inning of their season. Yes, the Rockies saw their multi-run explosion decrease from 11.5% of all innings in the NLDS to 8.3% in the NLCS, but this should come as no surprise—Arizona’s pitching staff is much better than Philadelphia’s.

RISP by game
Game Col Ari
AB H AB H
1 9 2 6 1
2 10 2 8 1
3 8 1 3 0
4 7 3 10 2

At the same time, though, Colorado completely neutralized the Diamondbacks when needed. Arizona had fewer opportunities with runners in scoring position and did less with those opportunities all series long. At the risk of stating the obvious, that generally will result in fewer runs, as it did here.

On an individual level, you can point to the entire pitching staff. The only guy who gave up more than one run in the series was Brian Fuentes, who served up Chris Snyder‘s three-run homer in the eighth inning of the clincher. Even with that, the staff ERA was 1.89. That’s the kind of Operation Shutdown that would make Derek Bell proud.

Arizona’s best opportunity in the entire series came with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning of Game 2. What happened? Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Mark Reynolds on three pitches. Welcome to the Rockies’ world: Whatever needs to get done, gets done.

The Rockies pitching staff also did a fantastic job of making Arizona hitters earn their way on base. Colorado pitchers walked eight batters over four games, with Jimenez accounting for half. Care to guess how many runs scored as a result of those eight walks? Zero.

Colorado hitters, meanwhile, drew 18 walks. The most visible, of course, was Willy Taveras‘ four-pitch walk off Jose Valverde with the bases loaded in the 11th inning that drove home the winning run. Even beyond that, though, the Rockies took advantage of free passes throughout the entire series. Of their 18 walks, six came around to score.

Drawing 10 more walks than your opponent over a four-game stretch is huge. Converting that difference into a six-run advantage is, as the Diamondbacks will attest, devastating.

So, who were the offensive heroes for Colorado? MVP candidate Matt Holliday continued his assault on the National League and Yorvit Torrealba kept that Yadier/Yorvit postseason mojo working. Brad Hawpe got on base.

Garrett Atkins? No. Todd Helton? Not really. Troy Tulowitzki. Er…

The scary part of all this is that Colorado just swept the team with the National League’s best record despite getting virtually no production out of three of its top hitters. The vaunted Colorado offense didn’t set the world on fire, and it didn’t matter. In the end, the Rockies’ efficient approach was enough to push them past the Diamondbacks and into their first World Series.

One is tempted to say that destiny awaits…

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