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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Who's gonna stop the Rockies!?!

We hear a lot about the possible advantages wildcard teams have because they enter the postseason on a roll. 60% of the World Series participants the last five season entered the postseason as wildcards. Well, has any team ever entered the playoffs as hot as the Colorado Rockies? After taking two straight from the Phillies (in Philadelphia!?!), the Rockies have won 16 of their last 17 games. It's an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. It's made significantly more amazing by the fact that all but one of those games (the first one, against the Marlins) was played against a team with a winning record, including four against the Padres, the team fighting them for a wildcard berth, and three against the team with the best record in the NL, the Diamondbacks. The Rockies faced only two losing teams after August 29, the Marlins and the Giants, yet nonetheless went 24-8. The Phillies have shown no signs of stymieing their momentum, despite throwing Cole Hamels at them in Game 1 and getting good nights from Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in Game 2. Assuming the Rockies win one of their next three and advance to the NLCS, who has the best chance of slowing them down?

The Diamondbacks lost four out of their six series with the Rockies this season, including all of them after May 17. That triumvirate at the center of Colorado's lineup - Holliday, Helton, and Hawpe (The Killer H's?) - all hit better than .350 against Arizona. Even the indomitable Brandon Webb went 1-3 with a 5.77 ERA against Colorado, by far his worst performance against any club. The Diamondbacks best match-up is Livan Hernandez, who managed a 1-0 record with a 1.54 ERA in five starts against the Rockies in 2007.

The Cubs faired significantly better, sweeping the Rockies during a three-game series at the end of June and gaining a split in a four-game series in mid-August. The Cubs' Aces, Zambrano and Lilly, went 3-0 with a 4.00 ERA against Colorado. However, the Rockies only two wins were the last two games between the teams, two games during which the Rockies outscored the Cubs 21-5.

It would seem, at this moment, with the Cubs dangerously close to falling behind the Diamondbacks 0-2, the Rockies - who weren't on anybody's rader a month ago - have to be the odds-on favorite to win the NL Pennant. How will Colorado fair against their "stronger" American League opponent? Well, the Rockies had the second-best record in the NL during interleague play (10-8), including a three-game sweep of the Yankees and a series win against Boston, if that's any indication.

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