Congratulations to the Colorado Rockies, who advance to the NLCS to face the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Phillies post-season is over before it ever got started.
The remarkable run of the Rockies continues. To review, they won 14 of their final 15 regular-season games to force a one-game playoff, beat San Diego, then triumphed effortlessly over the Phillies. Their unheralded pitching staff, including, but not limited to, fireball right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, Game 1 starter Jeff Francis and the back of the Rockies' bullpen, including closer Manuel Corpas, pitched better than expected, made pitches when they needed to and never allowed the Phillies to get anything started offensively. The shootout between high-powered offenses never happened, as it was the Rockies’ supporting cast – Kaz Matsui, Yorvit Torrealba – who caused much of the critical damage. Series MVP will likely go to Matsui, who drove in the Rockies first run tonight and belted a grand slam on Thursday.
The Rockies are the team I'm pulling for the rest of the way. They’re easy to like and riding a fantastic wave. The gesture to give the family of fallen minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh a full playoff share shows class and character. Best of the luck to the deserving Rockies.
Congratulations to the Phillies, again, for a fine regular season, Sunday’s division-clinching performance and for brining post-season baseball back to the city for the first time in 14 years.
At the same time, shame on them for the tease and for failing to provide a single, long-lasting memory from this series. The few dim highlights - like Jimmy Rollins setting the table in Game 2 and Jamie Moyer's effort tonight - are washed out by darkness. The taste of October has already vanished, and that’s the worst disappointment of all.
The Rockies are the buzzsaw no team wants to play, but the story of the series must be the cardboard cutouts who took the field instead of the team odds-makers picked to win the National League, cheap imitations of the regular season champions we had been waiting a long time to see on the post-season stage. Nonexistent players wielding nonexistent bats. Like air. Twenty-six strikeouts. Eight runs. A shallow 18-for-93, as a large bulk of the hitting occurred during garbage time of Game 2. Utley, poster boy for clutch play and the envy of teams around baseball, came up shockingly small. Likewise Rowand. Likewise Burrell. Howard did more barking than biting. The best of the best seemed to disappoint, while the worst of the worst bordered on an embarrassment. Carlos Ruiz was the only regular to bat over .250. Rollins, Utley and Burrell hit .182. Utley was hitless against left-handed pitching. Rowand hit .082, getting himself out on bad pitches most at bats. Howard struck out seven times in 12 at-bats and ended his NLDS with the bat on his shoulders. The Phillies held one lead all series, briefly in Game 2, until the wheels in Charlie Manuel’s head started spinning. You have to go back to Game 1 to find the only vivid memory of the entire 2007 NLDS: A red sweatshirt.
Many thanks: The only one who showed up this series was you, the fan. Thank you for supporting Beerleaguer, your dedication, insight and friendship. There's more ahead as the post-season gives way to the winter hot stove, then soon it will be spring.
But before then, a well-deserved break is in order. The strain of daily writing has been severe. I'm ready to settle in, rest the bat on my shoulders and take a called third strike down Broadway, just like the Phillies.