Comeback collision: Phils, Rox in NLDS
Philly and Colorado meet after improbable late-season rallies
PHILADELPHIA -- A funny thing happened on the way to the New York-San Diego National League Division Series.
The Mets and Padres didn't show.
Instead, two teams perhaps no one outside the Philadelphia and Colorado clubhouses thought would be in the playoffs two weeks ago pulled off two of the biggest surprises of the year.
The NL East champion Phillies, winners of 13 of their last 17, and the rolling Rockies, winners of 14 of their last 15 -- including an upset of San Diego and ace Jake Peavy in Monday's tiebreaker game at Coors Field -- begin their best-of-five series on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The Rockies are in the playoffs for only the second time in their 15-year existence and first time since 1995.
The surprising Phillies, who trailed the New York Mets by seven games with 17 to play before winning 13 of 17 to win the NL East crown on the final day of the regular season, are in the playoffs for the first time since 1993 largely because of an unrelenting offense. The Phils' big bats kept the team in the race throughout early struggles and fueled their remarkable September stretch drive.
Only the New York Yankees scored more runs than the Phillies (892), who also led the NL in RBIs, total bases, walks and triples and were tied for the league lead in on-base percentage. The Phillies finished second in the league in home runs and third in stolen bases.
With Most Valuable Player candidates like shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard complemented by potent bats like Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand, the Phillies' everyday lineup is, top to bottom, the most dangerous in the league. It is a high-octane blend of slugging, speed and on-base ability that can cause headaches for any pitching staff.
The Rockies were 6 1/2 games out in the NL West as recently as Sept. 15 and were all but forgotten as eventual NL West champion Arizona and the Padres were fighting for supremacy.
But an 11-game winning streak by Colorado and the Padres' three-game skid at season's end left an opening for the surging Rockies to sneak through, and Clint Hurdle's team clinched the final spot with Monday's 9-8 win.
The Phillies have the home-field advantage with Games 1, 2 and 5, if necessary, in their hitter-friendly ballpark. The Rockies will host Game 3 and if needed, a Game 4 at Coors Field.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.