Game 4: Rollins patience a virtue or overrated?

Jimmy RollinsDENVER — In the craziness of last night’s game here at Coors, there were a ton of interesting tidbits and subplots that got lost in the shuffle. Then again that’s kind of how it is in playoff baseball. It’s arriving at the destination that gets all the focus instead of the actual journey.

For instance, the 1-2-3 double play the Rockies pulled off with no outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning had the potential to be a killer. The Phillies could have delivered the deathblow in that spot, but instead the Rockies wiggled out of big trouble when Pedro Feliz tapped one back to the mound.

Starter J.A. Happ’s three-inning stint turned out to be an afterthought, too. If the bullpen had not be able to step up, the 35-pitch first inning and 76 total tosses to get just nine outs could have been one of those things that came back to bite the Phillies.

Of course in stepping up where Happ did not were Joe Blanton and Chad Durbin, both whom were pushing into atypical roles. Blanton started 31 games during the regular season, but has been called on to pitch out of the bullpen in the past two games. Durbin, on the other hand, was pushed into the eighth-inning role and needed just 10 pitches to get three straight ground balls.

But the most overlooked part of the Game 3 victory were the plate appearances from Jimmy Rollins in the first and ninth innings. The typically impatient Rollins was truly doing a Rickey Henderson impression in each of those at-bats by forcing 13 pitches. The ninth-inning at-bat resulted in a 3-2 single that started the game-winning rally.

“It’s about time he did something,” No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino joked.

Here’s the big number… Rollins saw 29 pitches in five plate appearances. During the regular-season, Rollins averaged 3.56 pitches per plate appearance, but in the last three games he has seen 53 pitches for a significantly better 3.79 pitches per appearance.

The strange part is Rollins went into his ninth-inning at-bat riding a 2-for-13 in the series with four strikeouts and no walks. Rollins is seeing more pitches, but it hasn’t resulted in better results.

Maybe it’s better if Rollins isn’t patient at the plate?

Still, the Phillies have been pretty good at playing the so-called “small ball” during the series. That’s especially the case considering the Phillies led the Majors (by a wide margin) in most runs scored via the home run. However, in the first three games of the NLDS, the Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the series despite scoring just two of their 15 runs on the home run.

“Like I said in the last two or three days, we know how to play,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Basically, I get back to it, baseball is a funny game. A lot of times how you play and who you’re playing dictates how you’re playing, if that makes sense. Follow what I’m saying? And I think we’re playing a good team.”

In other words, the Phillies are doing the small-ball thing because they have to.

“You gotta do what you gotta do to win games,” said Howard, who led the club with 45 home runs in 2009. “Everyone knows we hit a lot of home runs, but we know that’s not going to happen every time. You have to figure out ways to play some small ball and get some runs home.”

Game 2: Wolf and the cats

wolfieThe Phillies just finished up with batting practice here at the Bank and the Rockies are getting ready to run through their paces before Game 2. Better yet, let’s hope they play the game at a rate comparable to Game 1 where the always efficient and quick-working Cliff Lee kept everything moving.

That was so much better than the debacle that went on in Los Angeles last night where the Dodgers and Cardinals played the longest nine-inning game in NLDS history. It damn-near went on for four hours thanks largely to 30 runners left on base between the teams.

Imagine how frustrating it must have been for the Dodgers and Cardinals to leave all those runners out there. In that regard, the teams were pretty evenly matched, too. The Cards left on 16 and the Dodgers stranded 14, only LA made their hits count a little more in the 5-3 victory.

Nevertheless, right smack dab in the middle of the marathon effort was ex-Phillie turned Dodgers’ Game 1 starter, Randy Wolf. In his first ever playoff game Wolf needed 38 pitches to get through the first inning on his way to 82 in just 3 2/3 innings. Had he been able to get four more outs he would have received the win. Instead, 11 base runners against 11 outs ruined the debut.

That’s a shame, too, because based on past discussions with Wolf, I know how badly he wanted to participate in playoff baseball. Being in the playoffs was his greatest wish in his career and I know it pained him to see both the Dodgers and the Phillies in it last year while he was off playing for Houston.

“I was extremely happy for them,” Wolf said about watching his old team win the World Series, “But I was little jealous, too.”

It’s not like Wolf didn’t have a chance to be a part if the Phillies during the past three seasons. Before testing free agency and going home to California to play for the Dodgers and Padres, Wolf had an offer on the table from the Phillies. In fact, general manager Pat Gillick went to visit Wolf at his home in Los Angeles before the 2007 season to persuade the lefty to re-sign with the Phillies.

Gillick thought he had a chance to get Wolf, too… that was until he saw the cats.

You see, Wolf and his then girlfriend packed up their house in Conshohocken and had it shipped to the other coast. That included the pet cats, which was Gillick’s tip off. If a guy goes as far to move cats 3,000 miles away you can pretty much bet it’s not going to be a round trip.

It’s much easier to lug a dinette set from Pennsylvania to California than it is to wrangle up the cats, get them in a vehicle and take them across the country. Add in a girlfriend and you’re really talking about commitment.

So as soon as Gillick left the pitcher, the girl and the cats in the house in California, he scurried to the airport where he immediately phoned up the agent for Adam Eaton and offered him the deal he was going to give Wolf.

The rest is history.

Brewers set starting lineup for Game 1

Approximately 24-hours prior to the first pitch of Game 1 of the NLDS, manager Dale Sveum not only named his 25-man playoff roster, but also came up with a starting lineup to face the Phillies and Cole Hamels.

Here it is:

Brewers playoff roster
pitchers
31- Bush
38 – Gagne
49 – Gallardo
73 – McClung
58 – Mota
43 – Parra
52 – Sabathia
51 – Shouse
57 – Stetter
37 – Suppan
16 – Torres
12 – Villanueva

catchers
18 – Kendall
11 – Rivera

Infielders
30 – Counsell
5 – Durham
28 – Fielder
2 – Hall
7 – Hardy
40 – Nelson
23 – Weeks

Outfielders
8 – Braun
25 – Cameron
22 – Gwynn
1 – Hart

Game 1 starting lineup
25 – Cameron, cf
2 – Hall, 3b
8 – Braun, lf
28 – Fielder, 1b
7 – Hardy, ss
1 – Hart, rf
23 – Weeks, 2b
18 – Kendall, c
49 – Gallardo, p

Meanwhile, the Phillies have yet to officially announce their playoff roster.