10/02/07 1:36 AM ET
NLDS breakdown: Phillies
Offense great, but pitching gave club big shot in the arm
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
There's Jimmy Rollins, a sensational talent, a bona fide NL Most Valuable Player candidate and one of more dangerous offensive forces in the game. He's also a switch-hitter who collected 61 of his 88 extra-base hits against right-handers this year. With Rollins and left-handed sluggers Ryan Howard, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, and Chase Utley, the best second baseman in the game, the Big Three of the Philadelphia order is second to none. Left fielder Pat Burrell and right fielder Shane Victorino head a supporting cast that is deep and versatile.
The offense has been humming for most of the season and gets more attention, but what put this team in the playoffs was the shot in the arm pitchers like Brett Myers, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick provided when the Phillies needed it most.
The pitching emerged, and that helped the Phillies win 13 of their final 17 games as they caught the heavily favored Mets in one of the greatest collapses in baseball history.
While the Phils' offense has been the constant, it's the pitching -- or rather, the lack of at times -- that led to the inconsistent results most of the season.
Hamels will start Game 1, and since Philadelphia has the home-field advantage, the All-Star lefty could also pitch Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park.
With this offense, that might get the job done.
Key late-game matchups
Rollins vs. Rockies right-hander Matt Herges. The Phils shortstop has struggled against Herges, going 0-for-10 with two strikeouts and no walks.
Aaron Rowand vs. Rockies right-hander LaTroy Hawkins. Rowand and Hawkins, both former American Leaguers, have faced each other several times, and Rowand has yet to collect a hit or draw a walk off Hawkins in nine career at-bats.
Phillies secret weapon
Phillies Achilles' heel
The Phils have used 13 different starters as a season of injuries (Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber and Ryan Madson) left the unit in a state of flux. After Hamels, the quality drops off considerably although Kendrick and Jamie Moyer have been productive.
National League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||6 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||1 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TNT|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Wed., Oct. 3||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||9:30 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||10 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||6:30 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
Phillies manager: Charlie Manuel
Maligned in April and May, when the vultures were flying lazy circles overhead, Manuel stuck to his guns and did a great job keeping a team with a decimated pitching staff afloat. He leans on the hot hand and isn't unwilling to go against the book. That leaves him open for criticism at times, but the bottom line is Manuel is a winner.
There's nothing like a historic pennant drive to send a team's spirits soaring, and the Phillies are peaking at just the right time after their disastrous start. These guys weren't supposed to be here and now that they are, look out.
Three reasons the Phillies will win
It's not just the Big Three, other Phillies (Burrell, Jayson Werth, Victorino and Wes Helms) hit a combined .361 vs. Rockies pitching this season.
The Phillies have the home-field advantage, are rested, ready and have their pitching lined up favorably for this best-of-five series.
NL East champions had lost four consecutive Division Series until the Mets ended the string last year. The Phillies will make it two in a row.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.