Rockies rooting for Cards, watching Braves
The Colorado Rockies became St. Louis Cardinals fans on Sunday night.
Fresh from taking two of three from the Cardinals, the Rockies know they cannot afford to slip in the final week of the regular season because Atlanta continues to pressure them in the battle for the NL wild card. But the Rockies also know that if they hang onto the wild-card, St. Louis is a more favorable first-round matchup than Philadelphia.
If the Rockies earn the wild-card spot, they would draw whichever team has the better record between the Phillies and Cardinals. Both teams entered the final week with 90 victories, but the Phillies have played one less game so they had 65 losses, compared to 66 for the Cardinals.
This goes deeper than the fact the Rockies won the season series against St. Louis, taking six of seven, including a four-game sweep in St. Louis in the first week of June, and lost four of six to the Phillies.
More concerning to the Rockies is that with the addition of Cliff Lee at the trading deadline, the Phillies could open the best-of-five NL Division Series with three quality lefthanders in the rotation — Lee, who won the AL Cy Young award last year, 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels and rookie J.A. Happ.
The Cardinals have legitimate Cy Young candidates with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, but doesn't even have a long left-hander in the bullpen.
While the Rockies are 64-43 in games that right-handed pitchers have started against them, they are only 24-25 in games started by lefthanders. They are 4-7 in the last 11 games a lefty has started, and the opposing starting pitchers have a composite 2.22 ERA in those 11 games.
The problem is apparent. The Rockies lineup is more left-handed than any other. In addition to first baseman Todd Helton, third baseman Ian Stewart and right fielder Brad Hawpe, the Rockies like to insert the left-handed bats of Carlos Gonzalez, and Seth Smith in their lineup as often as possible. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is the only right-handed hitter regularly among the top six in the Rockies batting order.