10/21/07 11:55 PM ET
World Series breakdown: Rockies
Superb pitching, timely hitting, great defense define hot team
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
During their sweep of Arizona in the National League Championship Series, the Rockies trailed after just two of the 38 innings the two teams played. They also outscored the Diamondbacks, 18-8. Counting their three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the NL Division Series, the Rockies have been behind after only four of the 65 innings they've played in the playoffs.
The Rockies have maintained their outstanding level of play defensively (.989 fielding percentage) and used timely hitting and superb pitching (2.08 ERA) to keep their playoff run unblemished. They have played smart, aggressive baseball and have made a habit out of out-executing their opponent on a daily basis. And while the offense hasn't been as productive as during the regular season -- .242 team batting average in the postseason -- this is still a dangerous unit led by Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Holliday (a league-leading .340 batting average to go with 36 homers and 135 RBIs), three guys with at least 110 RBIs, four with 24 or more homers and six players who scored 80 or more runs.
They have a solid combination of power and hitting for average and a balanced blend of left-handed hitters like Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe, switch-hitter Kaz Matsui and right-handed hitters Holliday and Hawpe.
They have speed (Matsui and center fielder Willy Taveras have more than 30 steals apiece) and the Rockies had the best team fielding percentage in the league during the regular season.
They are a talented, confident team, and with the exception of some of the hitters, one that is playing about as well as it can play.
If the Rockies keep it up, there's no reason to think the hottest team on the planet won't stay hot in the World Series.
Key late-game matchups
LaTroy Hawkins vs. Manny Ramirez. Hawkins has had some success against a few of the Red Sox regulars like Jason Varitek (2-for-9 vs. Hawkins) and Kevin Youkilis (1-for-5), but Ramirez has batted .360 (9-for-25) with one walk in 26 plate appearances against the right-hander.
Jeremy Affeldt vs. David Ortiz. Affeldt, a former Kansas City Royal, has crossed paths with Ortiz many times and has fared well against the Red Sox slugger, holding him to a .077 (1-for-13) batting average, with four strikeouts and no RBIs.
Rockies secret weapon
Rockies achilles' heel
Colorado's 7-0 postseason has overshadowed an offense that hasn't been hitting on all cylinders. Four of the top seven batters are batting under .185 in the playoffs, but timely hitting from Hawpe, Torrealba, Matsui and Holliday, and lights out pitching -- seven Colorado pitchers have postseason ERAs of 2.13 or less -- have helped compensate. The odds are against that kind of pitching dominance continuing in the World Series, so unless the rest of the lineup starts to contribute, Colorado's streak could be in jeopardy.
Rockies manager: Clint Hurdle
Every move he's made during the playoffs has been gold for the Rockies, but Hurdle doesn't over-manage and lets his players play. He's not afraid to gamble if the situation calls for it, but generally Hurdle follows the "book" fairly closely.
They weren't supposed to get past all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the 13th inning in the playoff tiebreaker game. They weren't supposed to beat the Phillies in the NLDS or the D-backs in the NLCS. They weren't supposed to win 21 of 22. For a month now, this team has done what nobody expected them to do, except the Rockies themselves. If momentum means anything, the Rockies aren't going to stop winning.
Three reasons the Rockies will win
The Rockies have a .636 winning percentage in Interleague Play over the last two years, and that was before this team really caught fire.
The Rockies have more speed and are better defensively, and that will be the difference in what should be a close series.
Unbeaten in October and with just one loss since mid-September, do you really think this team is going to lose four times in one week?
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.