10/04/07 8:55 PM ET
Phillies used to do-or-die atmosphere
Team has dealt with its share of adversity this season
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
If there is a silver lining to Thursday's 10-5 loss to the Rockies in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park, it's that the Phillies already have dealt with more than their share of adversity.
"That is the good thing, that we've been here before. Our backs are against the wall, and we find ourselves in a situation where we need to win," said Jimmy Rollins, the fiery shortstop who personifies the team's confidence. "We've got to find a way to do it. We came out and played a lot better than we did yesterday. I got a couple of hits, but they got a few more runs, and that was the difference."
In so many ways, how Rollins goes, so goes the Phillies. And the switch-hitting shortstop was revved up in the second game, driving in four runs.
Early on, it looked as if the speedy spark plug was going to put his club on his back and even the best-of-five series. After the Rockies put two on the board off Kyle Kendrick in the first inning, Rollins responded with the first postseason leadoff home run in Philadelphia history.
Turning on Franklin Morales' first pitch of the game, Rollins electrified the largest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history (45,991) with one swing. For an encore, in the second inning, his two-out, two-run triple gave Philadelphia a 3-2 lead, and sent the towel-twirling fans into a boisterous chorus of: "MVP! MVP! MVP!"
With momentum on their side, the Phillies appeared primed to break through and roadblock the high-flying Rockies, winners of 16 of their last 17.
"It was so early in the game, I knew if we could get a couple of innings turned over, we could take control," Rollins said. "But we got into a situation there where Kaz Matsui came up with a real big hit."
Indeed. Matsui's game-turning grand slam catapulted the Rockies to a 6-3 lead in the fourth inning, and suddenly the Phillies were in a bind.
Now having to win three straight or go home, Rollins exited the clubhouse following Thursday's loss in his usual manner -- upbeat.
"We don't have a panic button," Rollins said. "We're relaxed. There is no tension in this group -- bottom line. It's been that way here since like the third week of the season. What am I going to do personally? I'm going to go out and smile."
Rollins stresses the one thing the team shouldn't do is alter its approach.
"We will go out there and play baseball. We will do the same thing that we've done all year," he said. "If you start changing your mentality, you find yourself pressing. That's the thing you can't do now is press."
The solace the Phillies take with them out west is knowing they have a high-powered offense that started showing signs of clicking in the late innings.
Ryan Howard, who was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday, homered and finished with two hits on Thursday. Chase Utley, who struck out four times in the first game, collected two hits in his five at-bats.
"The whole team started swinging it a little bit. Hopefully, we can turn it around there and get the bats going," Howard said. "Today was one of those days where both teams played tough. They had that one big inning. They got the grand slam that put them ahead, and there really wasn't any looking back from there. They just kept hitting. We tried to make a little comeback, but came up short."
If the Phillies are to reverse their fortunes, they understand the importance of striking first. The Rockies grabbed multi-run leads in the early innings of the first two in Philadelphia.
"They are playing good baseball," Utley said. "The way to turn it around is to stay motivated, stay positive. That's the only way to look at it."
During the regular season, the Phillies were 56-30 when scoring first. They were 33-42 when they didn't.
"It happens like that sometimes," Howard said. "We had been struggling with the bats a little bit, and Jimmy stepped up and did what we wanted him to do. Right now, we've got to just go out to Colorado and hope it turns around for us.
"You have to have a short memory right now. The only thing for us is to go out there, enjoy the day off, and try to come back Saturday and win one game."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.