Philly bullpen will stick with what works
As NLDS hits Coors Field, relief corps could face big role
DENVER -- The last time the Colorado Rockies played a game here, they matched zeros with the best bullpen in baseball before beating all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman of San Diego in the 13th inning in Monday's tiebreaker game to get into the playoffs.
Now, the Phillies come to Coors Field facing elimination in Game 3 in this National League Division Series, and if they are going to force a Game 4, it could come down to whether the Philadelphia bullpen will be able to do what the San Diego bullpen could not: slam the door on the Rockies in a must-win game.
"It's definitely not going to be easy, but for the most part, the guys have worked themselves pretty well where we can [each] pitch every day," Phillies right-hander Tom Gordon said. "It's do or die, you've just got to leave it all out there and do whatever it takes to win one game, and that's what we're going to do."
The Phillies bullpen figures to come into play in Game 3. While 44-year-old starter Jamie Moyer has gone as many as six innings 21 times in 33 starts this season, since Aug. 15 he's reached that plateau in only three of eight starts. During that span, the left-hander has a 6.02 ERA.
So expect the Philadelphia bullpen phone to ring at some point Saturday night. How well they respond could mean staying alive for another game or going home.
So far, the bullpen results have been mixed.
Kyle Lohse, Jose Mesa, Clay Condrey, Antonio Alfonseca and J.C. Romero gave up a combined five earned runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in Game 2.
Gordon, Romero and Brett Myers held the Rockies to a run on three hits in 2 1/3 innings in Game 1.
Overall, that's a 7.04 series ERA by the Philly relief corps, with the Rockies batting .294 (10-for-34) against the Philadelphia relievers.
Like Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Coors Field is a hitters' park.
"I've only pitched here a couple of times, but you hear horror stories about how the ball flies here," Gordon said. "As with any ballpark, you've got to keep the ball down and make your pitches. Regardless of where you are, you've got to make good pitches. But with most parks, you've just got to keep the ball down, stay under control, keep the right arm angle."
The Phillies bullpen was good enough to get the job done during the regular season, and the relievers know it would be a mistake to try to change things now.
"That's the key, try to do what you do," Gordon said. "If you start changing much and things don't go well, then you're beating yourself up, saying, 'Why didn't I stay within myself and do the things that I do?' I think over the time period of being in the big leagues as long as I have, that's a first given. Just try to do what you do, stay within yourself and make your pitches. Anything else from there will take care of itself."
Myers doesn't think Coors Field will be much different than pitching at Citizens Bank Park.
"They're both hitters' parks, but they're the same as any park. If you keep the ball down and make your pitches, you're going to be successful," Myers said. "If we just make good pitches as a staff, then I think everything will be fine for us. The key to pitching is keeping the ball down and hitting your spots."
Against a lineup as formidable as Colorado's, sometimes even that isn't enough.
"They are a tough lineup to face in any park," Gordon said. "You can't think about that or the park. You just try to think about what you've done in the past, the things that you've worked so far and everything you've done to get yourself to this point."
And hope that it will be enough to force a Game 4.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.