Phillies' offense stalls in NLDS opener
Hamels settles in after shaky start, but Game 1 goes to Rockies
PHILADELPHIA -- The last of the towels stopped waving as Pat Burrell's lazy fly ball settled in Ryan Spilborghs' glove on Wednesday, and mass disappointment wafted through 45,655 souls.Having gathered for the first postseason baseball game in Philadelphia in 14 years, the faithful sighed heavily after Philadelphia's deflating 4-2 loss to Colorado to open the National League Division Series. The Phillies are 0-5 in postseason series when they lose Game 1. "The [pregame] introductions and everything was huge," Brett Myers said. "I wish we could've pulled it off for the fans today, but we came up a little short." Whether two runs or 200 runs short, it equals a pivotal loss in a best-of-five-game series, one that becomes more significant considering the Phillies lost a game started by ace Cole Hamels. The lefty stumbled in the second inning, then rolled the rest of the way, but the three runs he allowed -- and one surrendered by Tom Gordon -- were enough on a late afternoon when the Phillies' offense bowed to Rockies ace Jeff Francis. Offense? What offense? Despite the National League's two highest-scoring teams -- the Rockies and Phillies had produced 1,752 runs on 3,149 hits this season -- playing in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, the squads collected a relatively tame six runs and 10 hits. Players for both teams complained about the shadows that sapped the offense in the middle innings. "[The series] isn't going to be as high scoring as you think," said Aaron Rowand, who homered for the first of Philadelphia's two runs. "It's hard to see with the shadows. That's why you saw so few hits from the two best offenses in the National League."
Rowand made it clear he wasn't thrilled with television dictating the start time.
"I want to have a conversation with the president of TBS," he said."That sit-down aside, the Rockies quickly quieted the second-largest crowd in four years of Citizens Bank Park and won for the 15th time in 16 games. They cooled a hot Phillies team, which clinched the National League East on Sunday after winning 13 of their final 17. In turn, the Phillies will look to cool the Rockies in Game 2 here on Thursday afternoon, before the series shifts to Denver for two games on the weekend.
Francis was responsible for the lack of offense, as he allowed one run on four hits in six innings. He pitched much more like a 17-game winner than the erratic lefty who had surrendered 14 runs on 20 hits in 8 1/3 regular-season innings against the Phillies this season. Take out those two outings and Francis' season ERA dips from 4.22 to 3.78.The left-hander abused the Phillies' top three run producers, as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard went a combined 0-for-11 with a walk and nine strikeouts. "[Francis] was throwing strikes with all his pitches, keeping the ball down," said Utley, who whiffed four times. "There's been plenty of times when we've struggled, but we've always fought through it. Tomorrow, we're going to come out and be ready to go." After setting the Rockies down in order in the first, Hamels labored through an adventurous 40-pitch second inning, spotting the Rockies three runs. Todd Helton began with a triple off the Lukoil sign in center and scored on Garrett Atkins' double. After an out, Hamels walked Spilborghs on four pitches. A key single by Yorvit Torrealba delivered the second run, and two straight walks loaded the bases and forced in run No. 3.
|"We've got another chance tomorrow. No one was surprised, no one felt overpowered. We just didn't come up with the big hits, so we're looking forward to tomorrow."|
|-- Jimmy Rollins|
Matt Holliday nearly turned the game into a blowout when he crushed Hamels' first pitch to left field, but it sailed well foul. Four pitches later, Hamels recovered to strike out the MVP candidate and NL batting and RBI champ, beginning a roll in which he retired 13 straight Rockies. Hamels departed with two outs in the seventh."When you go out there, you want to succeed, especially with this sort of level, in the spotlight," Hamels said. "I try to push myself, but unfortunately, you can't play against yourself and the other team. If you just play against the other team, you have a better chance." Though manager Charlie Manuel constructed his Game 1 lineup for speed, Philadelphia powered its way onto the scoreboard in the fifth inning on back-to-back home runs by Rowand and Burrell, the first back-to-back homers in Phillies postseason history. Holliday popped a home run off Gordon in the eighth for an insurance run, and Manny Corpas recorded the save. "I don't know why anybody is panicking," Howard said. "I'm not panicking."
"We've got another chance tomorrow," Rollins added. "No one was surprised, no one felt overpowered. We just didn't come up with the big hits, so we're looking forward to tomorrow."They might as well. With 48 come-from-behind wins, and after storming back from 7 1/2 games behind to capture the NL East, the Phillies are used to recovering quickly. "[We've] been there all year long," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We know how important tomorrow is."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.