10/08/07 11:37 PM ET
Long layoff shouldn't stop Rox, D-backs
NLCS teams get a four-day rest before play resumes
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, however, aren't looking at their four-day layoff as an impediment.
Hot off three-game sweeps of the Cubs and Phillies, respectively, the Diamondbacks and Rockies do not believe the 100 or so hours between the start of their National League Division Series-clinching celebrations of Saturday and Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday will dull the sharp play the two World Series hopefuls have been honing in recent weeks.
You couldn't blame either team if it didn't want to take a break right now:
The Rockies have won five in a row and 17 of their last 18. The Diamondbacks have won three in a row and 17 of 26.
The Rockies relievers allowed one run during the sweep of the Phillies. The Diamondbacks' bullpen didn't give up any earned runs against the Cubs.
The Rockies outscored the Phillies, 16-8. The Diamondbacks scored 16 runs to Chicago's six.
The Rockies' pitching staff had a 2.33 ERA and held the Phillies to a .172 batting average. The Cubs hit just .194 against the Diamondbacks and Arizona's team ERA for the NLDS was 2.00.
These two teams have been on the fast track to get this far. Now, they will put on the brakes for their longest layoff since the All-Star break. And this one is actually a day longer than that July break.
On the other hand, this interruption could prove to be a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. As players on both teams pointed out, the long layoff means much-needed rest.
Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba is among those who said the layoff will be beneficial in that respect. The extra time could also enable the Rockies to get pitchers Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh and outfielder Willy Taveras back from injury.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle missed Monday's workout because of flu-like symptoms.
"I think he needed a rest, too, just put it that way," Torrealba said. "So it's one more extra day off for him and he'll be back with us [Tuesday]. You don't want him to have us sick, so it's good he left early."
Getting the injured players back and getting the bullpen valuable rest could trump any potential momentum loss.
"It is obviously an advantage to have 'Cookie' [the Opening Day starter] and Willy back," Torrealba said. "Willy and [Kaz] Matsui at the top of the lineup, that's good for us. And 'Cookie,' you know he's going to give us a quality start and keep us in the game. It would be great. I don't really know if we're going to have them for this round, but it would be nice.
"We needed a rest. Our bullpen has been pitching every single game almost for the last month. Every guy out there in the bullpen, basically, has been throwing a lot. If they don't get in the game, they're warming up. I think we need a rest. I need a rest myself. I've been playing a lot. I wasn't used to, before this year, playing every day. A nice rest is going to be good. Overall, a rest is going to be good for us."
A long layoff can negatively impact hitters, as timing can suffer from the time away from live pitching. It can also create some rust on the defense.
The Detroit Tigers, for example, were a solid defensive team last season. They completed their four-game sweep of Oakland in the American League Championship Series on Oct. 14, and in Game 1 of the World Series a week later committed three errors in a loss to St. Louis. The Cardinals went on to win the Fall Classic in five games.
The Rockies have the strongest defense in baseball. Of course, they've been playing extremely well in all phases of the game.
"Hopefully the little bit of a layoff now cools them down some," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "I think the urgency, the way they were playing and having to play every day and have to fight the way they did, typically you see the Wild Card team playing pretty well because they have to scratch and claw to get into these things and always are dangerous teams. But this goes way beyond scratching and clawing, they've played as well as anybody in quite some time down the stretch. Like I said, hopefully this gives them a little distance from the winning streak."
The Diamondbacks, like the Rockies, are also welcoming the extra rest.
"You have to love having four days off this time of year," outfielder Eric Byrnes said. "I don't think it helps one team over another. It's just nice to have the time."
And of course it gives the Arizona pitchers a chance to rest their arms for the task ahead.
"You probably worry more about the bullpen than anyone this time of year, and it'll be nice to get them a couple of days," Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes said.
Thanks to their sweeps, the four-day layoff is unavoidable, so both teams are choosing to just enjoy the rest and not worry about how it might affect their streaks.
"Whether it's good or bad, it doesn't matter," Colorado left fielder Matt Holliday said. "Both teams are dealing with it. There are no excuses. You just try to stay sharp, take your batting practice a little more seriously as the game gets closer. We've played 160-and-whatever games. I don't think it's going to be that big a deal."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.