Why the Rockies lost to the Phillies

Before this series began last week, I wrote about what the Rockies needed to do to beat the Phillies in the NLDS. Upon the news that Jorge De La Rosa would be unavailable for the series due to a groin injury, the piece made a whole lot less sense and the Rockies were put at an immediate disadvantage.

De La Rosa is the only left-handed starter for Colorado, and Philly’s biggest hitter had a dramatic RHP/LHP split. Howard had a 1.086 OPS vs. righties, but just a .653 OPS vs. lefties. Simply put, there was no starting pitcher for Colorado that could really counter the Phillies’ power lefties. De La Rosa’s replacement in Game Three, Jason Hammel, struggled with his command and couldn’t make it through the fourth inning. Despite the game actually being lost in the ninth inning, that was a big reason why the Rox were unable to win, as they couldn’t hold an early two-run lead largely due to Hammel’s inability to throw strikes.

The catching platoon for the Rockies was another key to the series. Yorvit Torrealba came through in a couple of situations against tough pitchers. (He homered off of Cole Hamels in Game Two and hit the big game-tying double off of Ryan Madson in Game Four.) However, I would have liked to have seen Chris Iannetta get some at-bats against lefties, especially in the ninth inning of last night’s game when Jim Tracy elected to send out the inexperienced Eric Young Jr., who grounded out against Scott Eyre. Yes, I know that it is considered a no-no to use the backup catcher (as he technically should be available in case an injury occurs to the starter), but the season was on the line for the Rockies, and Iannetta was clearly the best option left on the bench.

The last, and probably biggest, key to the series was Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo didn’t have an awful series (he was 4-for-16 with a couple of doubles and three runs batted in), but he came up short in a couple of situations where the Rockies really needed him to come through. In Game Three, Tulo grounded into a double play in a key situation, and in Game Four, he bit on a Brad Lidge slider, ending the series on a strikeout with the tying run at second base (and the winning run at first). He also made a base running blunder in the seventh inning when after doubling in Todd Helton, he broke on a line drive that was right at Pedro Feliz and was subsequently doubled off at second base, effectively ending the Rockies’ rally.

One thing I did not bring up in the series preview was the bullpens, particularly because the coverage had been blown out of proportion for the most part. I figured Brad Lidge would be Brad Lidge—the guy who has always had success against Colorado—and that Huston Street would pitch up to his capabilities as well, making the bullpens pretty much even. However, it was Philadelphia’s ability to get to Huston Street in Games Three and Four that propelled them to victory. On the contrary, the Rockies were unable to break through against Lidge (or anybody else the Phillies ran out there in the ninth inning of each of those games) despite getting some traffic on the base paths. Huston Street has been lights out all year, so I don’t blame Jim Tracy for sticking with Street in Game Two after he had allowed some traffic and nearly enabled the Phils to tie the game. He also used up both of his lefties—Franklin Morales and Joe Beimel—in Game Three before Street came on in the ninth and was allowed to face Howard, who hit a deep sacrifice fly to give Philly the lead. However, in Game Four, Jim Tracy should have known better. Joe Beimel was sitting in the bullpen freezing while Street was once again allowed to face Howard (keep in mind his number against lefties, which are listed above), and Howard REALLY made the Rockies pay this time, hitting a double off the right field wall and tying the game. The fact that Howard crushed the ball enabled him to get to second base, which then allowed him to score on Jayson Werth’s soft single to center field, giving the Phillies the lead and eventually the victory.

There wasn’t (and today, still isn’t) much doubt in anyone’s mind that the Phillies are the better team. However, I thought that if Jorge De La Rosa was able to have a good outing, Jim Tracy played his cards right with the catching platoon, and Troy Tulowitzki continued to carry the club offensively, the Rockies would have a chance to take the series. Little did I know that two Huston Street blowups would essentially cause Colorado to lose it.

Regardless, the Rockies saw some positives in the series. Carlos Gonzalez is on his way to becoming a superstar after abusing Philly’s pitchers for four games, and Ubaldo Jimenez showed why he is on track to becoming a future ace. The future is definitely bright in Colorado, but they need better decisions from their manager and better performances from their star players if they want to find themselves in this position (or, hopefully in an even better position) next season.

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Comments

  1. Bryan said...

    Dennis,

    I think that Barmes is an above-average defender at second base and a good baserunner, but other than that he has little value as an everyday player. Sure, he has some pop, but he has poor pitch recognition and a lot of times, he gets by solely on cheating on fastballs. He is best-suited in the big leagues as a super-utility player who can enter the game in late-inning situations as a defensive replacement or possibly against pitchers who rely mostly on average to slightly above average fastballs.

  2. Jamie said...

    tsk tsk.

    Jorge De La Rosa’s career OPS AGAINST the phillies is…1.027, and a 9.27 ERA.  the phillies OWN Jorge.

    and the phillies hit LEFTIES better than RIGHTIES as a team.
    .779 OPS against righties
    .787 against lefties

    they lost because manuel outmanaged jim tracy.

  3. Bryan said...

    Jamie,

    I realize the Phillies are good against LHP’s, but it’s ignorant to dismiss the fact that Jorge was not at his best when he faced the Phillies, and could very well have silenced their bats because of how devastating he is on lefties, even if the Phils have had success against him, and other lefties, over the course of the past couple of years.

    Whether you place higher value on the Phils against LHP’s or JDLR against LHB’s, there’s no denying that De La Rosa missing the series had a huge impact on things.

  4. Neal said...

    I don’t think the Rockies were out managed.  Bottom line is that Street didn’t get the job done in Games 3 and 4.  Rockies offense struggled the entire series.  Taking out Carlos Gonzalez hits the team would have only hit .204.  Tracy put them in a position to win…players have to execute to make it happen…

  5. Brian said...

    I can see leaving Street in to pitch to Ryan Howard.  Street is their best reliever, and you live and die with your best guy.

    What I can’t see is pitching to Jayson Werth at all with Howard on second and two out.  The pitcher’s spot was due up next and the only pinch-hitters available were Miguel Cairo, Matt Stairs and Paul Bako.

    If they walk Werth there, the Phillies are forced to pinch-hit with Stairs.  Then you can go to your lefty and force the Phillies to use up another player (Cairo), or you just pitch to Stairs who hit below .200 for the year.

  6. Dennis Koziel said...

    These are great comments, Bryan.  I would add that the Rocks need to look for a 2nd baseman.  Even before the year started, and especially now, I have been saying that Clint Barmes is a good utility player and not an every-day 2nd baseman.  What do you think?

  7. Jamie said...

    Bryan:

    Jorge against the phillies
    ‘07: 1 game, 3 runs allowed
    ‘08: 1 game, 7 runs allowed
    ‘09: 2 games, 12 runs allowed

    thats a trend…

    comment on being outmanaged:
    i only say that because manuel played every out like it was the last out in the series.  he defied every rule in the book.  he used up two game 3 starters so he could have a chance to win game 2 regardless of what would happen in game 3.

  8. Matt said...

    What I thought was just as big as Street’s failures were Tulo’s complete lack of clutch hitting. Every game was close and had lead changes, and it seemed when needed Todd Helton got on base and Tulo ruined the rally. This has nothing to do with managers, the historically good Tulo and Street just showed no ability in clutch situations.

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