10/07/09 8:15 PM EST
Phillies, Rockies filling familiar roles
Philadelphia jumps ahead, while Colorado eyes rebound
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Heading into Thursday's Game 2 of this National League Division Series, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies are looking a great deal like the teams everyone expected them to be when they clinched their postseason berths.
Sure, under different circumstances, Wednesday's Game 1 might have been a lot less windy and a bit more competitive than the 5-1 Phillies win steered by the complete-game mastery of Cliff Lee and a potent day for the usual middle-of-the-lineup bats of Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez.
But when Cole Hamels fires the first pitch at 2:37 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park, we'll have the exact scenario we could have expected from this first-round matchup: the World Series champions flexing their muscles at home and the scrappy, resilient Rockies steeling themselves for yet another comeback on Major League Baseball's big stage.
"It's obvious that these games are bigger. The crowds are into it. There's a lot of media. A lot more goes into it," Werth said. "But at the same time, we're still out there playing the same game that we played when we were 8, 9 years old. It's still the same.
"So I think the key is really just to stay focused and come out ready to play and let the chips fall where they may and just play hard."
For the Phillies, the confidence is hard to deny. Wednesday marked their eighth consecutive postseason win in "The Bank."
They've been there, won that, and their blustery clinic of a victory in Game 1 gave off the same vibe as their triumph in this spot against the Brewers in 2008. We all remember how that postseason ended up.
"It was big," said Lee, who did a bang-up Hamels impression with a six-hit, one-run gem that set up the real Hamels for Game 2. "This was the biggest game we've played so far. It's huge to get off to a lead any time.
"But tomorrow's game is equally important. If we win that, we're up two. If they win it, we're tied again. ... It's nice to get a lead. This was what our goal was, what we're trying to do. We're trying to win the game. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off [on Thursday] and keep the ball rolling."
Meanwhile, the Rockies will try to do what they've been doing most of the time in two of the past three seasons: rallying against the odds.
"It's a five game series, and obviously we've been in this position before, trust me, more than once, where obviously [Thursday] is a pretty important game, because you certainly wouldn't be looking forward to going back to Denver down two games," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
"So the game [Thursday], to me, takes on the significance of a big game we played in San Francisco back in August, a Cardinals series that we played a couple of weeks ago at home."
Or how about an 18-28 record in late May, the dismissal of Clint Hurdle, the manager who took the team to the only World Series in its history, and the promotion of Tracy from bench coach to a guy who had to turn the ship around in a hurry to have any chance to succeed?
According to the Rockies, what they've been through in 2009 will make Thursday's game just like any other.
"We've got our work cut out for us in this park," veteran first baseman Todd Helton said. "We'll have the same game plan and will try and make [Hamels] throw a lot of pitches. The guy today didn't make a lot of mistakes. We have to scrap out a few runs. A few runs would be nice."
It helps that the Rockies have won two of the past three National League Wild Cards, so they know they can't get too low after a loss.
"You let it go," Tracy said after Game 1. "There's no real play or any situation that you sit and wonder what would have happened if this would have taken place or that would have taken place. ... They just beat us today."
But the Phillies have played in the past three postseasons, and they won it all last year. They're well aware that overconfidence going into Game 2 could make for a slightly nerve-racking flight to what's sure to be a chilly Mile High City and a Game 3 date with a team that won 51 games at home.
"Every game is important," Phillies slugger Howard said. "We've got to come back [Thursday] and be ready to play.
"We know that they're a dangerous team when their backs are against the wall."
Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.