Wednesday night the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies clashed in a battle of division leaders that turned out to be a pitcher’s duel, even if both teams possess the potential to be powerful at the plate.
Colorado’s Jorge De La Rosa pitched a gem, giving up only one earned run on five hits while racking up four strikeouts, but even the paramount performance wasn’t enough to get the Rockies a win.
Colorado couldn’t hit the ball off of Cole Hamels, who enjoyed one of his finest pitching performances of the year (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 K), and the Rockies ran only one base runner across home plate, eventually losing the closely contended game 2-1.
Tonight the Rockies try to avenge Wednesday’s loss and I had the pleasure of talking with Phillies phanatic Kevin McGuire for a little inside info on his favorite team.
Kevin has been a Phillies fan for years, he regularly wrote on the team last summer, although his focus is now mainly on College Football as he is the head College Football Examiner for Examiner.com.
So, here’s a look at the Phillies from a Philadelphia native’s perspective as the Rockies get set to play them again tonight.
1. What’s wrong with the Phillies? They were on a 4-game skid until their win Wednesday. Is it just the hitting, or is there another problem that you can see that others not as close to the Phillies can’t see?
Lack of hitting in the clutch really. Even in the win last night the bats were mostly quiet and they have been unable to convert on the few opportunities they have created at the plate. If the offense could just produce a couple of runs from time to time the Phillies would almost certainly have an extra five wins at a minimum this season.
With strong starting pitching and quality play out of the bullpen, the focus is entirely on the offense right now.
2. What hitters specifically need to step it up to help the Phillies play better overall?
Jimmy Rollins happens to be one of my favorite players, and with him hitting .271 it can be hard to expect too much more out of him, but his plate discipline continues to astound me. He tries to make too much happen too quickly in the at-bat almost every time he steps to the plate. Oddly enough it seems as though the later it gets in the game, the more likely he is to remain patient.
People rag on Ryan Howard, but even with him hitting under .250 I believe he will be just fine, especially when Chase Utley returns to the lineup to give him some added protection. Right now Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco have really been struggling at the plate, and that has been hurting the offense in a big way.
3. With the Rockies struggles in May, some were starting to question Jim Tracy’s job security. Is the same happening in Philadelphia?
Nobody is calling for Charlie Manuel’s job really (nor should they with the best record in the NL) but he does come under fire and receive some criticism at times. This season, despite the record, has been no different. Questions about overusing Halladay and other pitchers have popped up and the act that Manuel is known as a hitting coach has led to some criticism with the recent struggles of the offense.
Is Manuel riding a free pass following a World Series win in 2008? There is some credence to that argument, but I think overall the general feeling is that Manuel’s job security is in pretty good shape moving forward. Unless the Phillies collapse in the second half of the season or get swept out of the first round, I don’t anticipate hearing many calls for Chalie’s jobs except from the blowhards that are likely to call up the sports radio stations and demand something change.
Charlie’s safe in my book though.
4. Will the Phillies compete in the postseason for a title once again this year? What do they need to do to ensure that they are one of the best in baseball again?
Absolutely, as long as they stay healthy. This team has the best record in the National League and they haven’t seen Chase Utley play in one game (looks like he’ll be returning to the team soon), they have had two closers (Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras) go on the DL, have been playing guys like Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and Wilson Valdez on a regular basis and they still have been staying in front of the NL East.
Entering the season it was known that the Phillies were going to ride the starting pitching this season and so far that has absolutely been the case. Right now the Phillies have a team ERA of 3.06, third in the majors, and Cliff Lee hasn’t really gotten on track yet (as if 3.84 is terrible). Roy Halladay already has four complete games and two of those were losses. Go figure.
Barring lengthy injuries to guys like Ryan Howard and any of the starting pitchers, there is little doubt that this team makes the playoffs and then once October comes around I would have a hard time finding a starting rotation better than what the Phillies can throw in a five-game or seven-game series. How many teams will beat Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt three or four times before the pitchers beat them? Sure, San Francisco beat all of those guys last season in the playoffs, but I think the odds would be pretty good any time those pitchers are on the mound.
Plus, the offense usually cranks it up a notch after the All-Star break, so we’ll see if that trend continues this season. If it does, they will be very tough to beat when the games matter most.
5. With the Rockies and Phillies playing twice in the Divisional Series (2007 Rox win 3-0, 2009 Philly win 3-1), do you think/get the feeling there’s a rivalry starting to brew between the teams?
Well there is no doubt that the 2007 NLDS left a bitter taste in our mouths here on the Philadelphia area. I was there when Kaz Matsui of all players lit up the Phillies pitching staff in game two. Still bewildered by that bush with one of the most memorable streaks I’ve seen in baseball. And the 2009 NLDS was seen as a form of redemption from that 2007 series (and by the way, thank you Huston Street).
I think there is a foundation for some form of rivalry between the two clubs but it may take one more postseason battle to really catch on.
By the way, the Rockies will forever have a special spot in the hearts of Phillies fans. It was in Colorado that our legendary and beloved voice, Harry Kalas, called his final home run call during a game (Matt Stairs). He passed away preparing for a game in Washington the next day.
6. What do you think of the Rockies 2011 team from what you saw last night?
I admit I have not seen too much of the Rockies so far this season, but based on one game I saw what I usually expect from them. Todd Helton always seems to hurt the Phillies so that was nothing new to see an RBI double in the seventh inning (and it was expected he’d be walked in the ninth). Carlos Gonzalez continues to develop and come through when his team needs him. Troy Tulowitzki had a rough night but Cole Hamels was locked in, and Ryan Madson was on an adrenaline rush after being stuck in the pen for a while.
I don’t have any doubt that the Rockies will be in the NL West mix all season long. And if they get the offense to bring their team average up a bit, they could make a run at the Giants out there.
Can the Rockies steal a win tonight in Philly? From what Kevin said, it is no coincidence that the Phillies are a great team with the best record in the NL—from extremely strong starting pitching to a potent lineup—it will be difficult for Colorado to take the win tonight.
But, there’s no doubt the Rox will give it their best shot and a win would certainly be another confidence boost after beating San Francisco twice on Monday and Tuesday.
First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 pm MT and the game can be seen on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain.