Thursday, October 11, 2007
NLCS Preview: Rockies v. Diamondbacks
NLCS: Colorado v. Arizona In the classic encounter of a power-laden lineup (Colorado) against a pitching-rich competitor (Arizona), the advantage in a best-of-seven series usually goes to the team with pitching, as good pitching can usually stop good hitting. The series opens tonight in Phoenix. Starting Pitching: Arizona will use Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01 ERA, 194 K) in games 1, 4 and, if necessary 7. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22 ERA, 165 K)who came on late in the season to win 2 of his last 3 starts. Interestingly, if was Francis who was the last Colorado starter to lose in September before the Rockies went on their season-ending, 13-1 streak. Francis was rocked by the Phillies on Sept. 13 for 8 runs in 3 1/3 innings, and also took the Rockies' only loss during the stretch, on Sept. 28, when Arizona - and Brandon Webb (right) - beat them, 4-2. Webb will undeniably be favored in any start against Francis and that gives Arizona a huge edge. After that, the Diamondbacks will go with Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez in games 2 and 3, while the Rockies will depend on a pair of rookies, Ubaldo Jiminez and Franklin Morales. Depending on how the series goes, Arizona could start another rookie, Micah Owings, in game 4. Owings can beat teams with his bat as well as his arm. He had 7 RBI in a game earlier this year. Overall, Arizona gets the edge on experience. Hitting: When it comes to hitting, though, there's no contest. Colorado batted a league-best .280 as a team during the regular season, while the D-Backs were last in the NL at .250. The Rockies scored 148 more runs than Arizona, nearly 1 per game. The Colorado attack is led by Matt Holliday (right), who topped the league in batting (.340), RBI (137) and doubles (50) to go with his team-high 36 homers. Around him, the Rockies have a formidable bunch, including rookie Troy Tulowitzki (.291, 24 HR, 99 RBI), Todd Helton (.320, 17, 91), Brad Hawpe (.291, 29, 116) and Garret Atkins (.301, 25, 111). Arizona can't match the Rockies' firepower. Their top hitter, Eric Byrnes hit only .286, with 21 homers and 83 RBI. Rookie Chris Young led the team with 32 home runs, but he only batted .237. After that, there isn't much, though Tony Clark did send out 17 long balls in just 221 at-bats. Etc.: Managers Bob Melvin (Arizona) and Clint Hurdle (Colorado) are both in their initial post-season, but they do an equally good job, getting the most out of limited resources. The Colorado bullpen has been magnificent down the stretch, while Arizona's Jose Valverde led the majors in saves, with 47 and recorded 78 Ks in 65 innings. Prediction: Arizona's got the top-line pitching in Webb, but he may have to win three games to get the job done. Colorado has been the best story of the season, they're still red hot and play with lots of heart. The Rockies will win it in 6 games.