Four Better or Worse
Four playoff series. Four teams with two wins. Four teams with no wins. Four potential sweeps. Are the four division series a four-gone conclusion?
The two National League Division Series get the spotlight today. The Diamondbacks and Cubs will meet in Chicago, while the Phillies and Rockies will face off in Colorado. Lefthanders Rich Hill (11-8, 3.92 ERA) and Jamie Moyer (14-4, 5.01) are charged with the responsibility of staving their respective clubs from elimination. The youngster and veteran, of course, will need hitting support from their teammates in order to succeed.
Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee have combined to go 4-for-27 through two games in the series. The good news for this trio is that they will get the opportunity to make things right against Livan Hernandez, who is 4-8 with a 5.19 ERA on the road. The 1997 NLCS and World Series MVP has given up 19 HR in 102.1 innings while allowing more walks (47) than strikeouts (46) when pitching outside the state of Arizona.
The Phillies seemingly have an even tougher task than the Cubs. First of all, the NL East champs will need to win two games on the road. Secondly, Philadelphia needs to accomplish this trick against a team that hasn't lost more than once in its last 17 games! While it is fair to say that Colorado is the *hottest* team in baseball, it remains to be seen whether they are the *best* team.
But such a question is not as far-fetched as it would have been a month ago. The 3-H club in Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, and Brad Hawpe, plus rookie sensation Troy Tulowitzki and power-hitting third baseman Garrett Atkins head a strong offense. Manny Corpas, Brian Fuentes, and LaTroy Hawkins offer a formidable nucleus in the bullpen. Jeff Francis is a quality starter. As I see it, young, talented, and inexperienced starters Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez will determine just how far Colorado is likely to go in the postseason.
With the foregoing in mind, manager Clint Hurdle will send out Jimenez (4-4, 4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) in tonight's game. After a couple of rough starts in August, the 23-year-old pitched well down the stretch, including a 10-strikeout performance vs. Arizona in the team's must-win finale. In Jimenez's only outing vs. the Phillies (at Philadelphia on 9/10), he held them to four hits, three walks, and two runs in six innings. The rookie didn't figure in the decision in the 6-5 loss.
- Rich Lederer, 10/6, 12:00 PM PT