A few thoughts on the eve of the Phillies' first playoff game in 14 years:
- While the Phillies are very familiar with Rockies starter Jeff Francis and have hit him hard--see below--Colorado will get its first up-close look at Cole Hamels. In 2007, Hamels made four starts against teams he faced for the first time--the Giants, White Sox, Indians and Cardinals respectively. He handled the San Francisco and Chicago lineups well, winning both games; Cleveland knocked him around for six runs in five innings; and he left the St. Louis game after just three innings due to a long rain delay. Not sure if that tells us anything; Hamels himself doesn't seem to think the Rockies' unfamiliarity with him is likely to mean much.
- Pundits anticipate that this series will be a slugfest, and that might well prove to be the case. But the Phils might have an edge in Colorado's difficulties this season throwing out opposing base stealers. Rockies catchers nailed just 21 percent of would-be base thieves, 13th in the league. On the other hand, they didn't allow all that many steals--just 96 for the year. Look for the Phils to be aggressive on the base paths, particularly in late innings against Colorado relievers.
- The Phils probably will need whatever edge they can find when facing that Rockies bullpen, a deep and talented group led by closer Manny Corpas (2.08 ERA, 19/22 SV) and former closer Brian Fuentes, who outside of a disastrous midseason stretch right before a six-week DL stint (6 games, 3 2/3 IP, 10 ER, 0-4 record) pitched to a spectacular 1.72 ERA in 57 2/3 innings. Fuentes has held lefties to a .204 average and no home runs in 54 at-bats; as Joe Sheehan noted today, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are likely to see a lot of him. But the Rockies relief corps also features southpaws Jeremy Affeldt and, if they don't use him in the rotation, rookie Franklin Morales. From the right side, they have Matt Herges (5-1, 2.96) and LaTroy Hawkins (2-5, 3.42) in addition to Corpas.
- While Matt Holliday is the Rockies' star of the moment with his MVP candidacy, and probably foremost on the Phillies' minds after hitting five home runs against them in 2007, Todd Helton is still the Phillie-killer par excellence in this lineup. Helton's career numbers against the Phils are flat-out sick: 96 for 239 (.402), with 21 doubles, 4 triples (!), 16 home runs, 52 RBI and 46 walks. Helton's career on-base percentage against Phillie pitching is .503; he's slugged .724 facing them. His numbers at OFJOAB are almost modest by comparison: 12-37 (.324), 5 doubles, a homer, .959 OPS.
- Finally, there's the Phils' numbers against Game One starter Jeff Francis, who is aware of how they've hit him. Wes Helms, your moment of redemption might just be at hand...
* Carlos Ruiz: 1-1, BB
* Aaron Rowand: 6-8, 4 doubles, BB
* Wes Helms: 6-9, 4 doubles, HR
* Jimmy Rollins: 5-9, double
* Ryan Howard: 2-5, BB
* Pat Burrell: 3-8, BB
* Shane Victorino: 1-3
* Chris Coste: 1-3
* Jayson Werth: 3-10, 3 doubles, BB
* Chase Utley: 2-8, HR
We'll have lineups and an open thread for your comments tomorrow afternoon.