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Rockies not fearing another tough lefty

Rockies not fearing another tough lefty

PHILADELPHIA -- The thought of facing another top-of-the-line left-handed pitcher on Thursday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series didn't exactly leave the Rockies with a hollow feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Having to face, say, Cliff Lee again, given the way he tied Colorado in knots in Game 1, a 5-1 Phillies victory, would be something entirely different. That's not happening, but the Rockies do get another formidable lefty in Cole Hamels on Thursday.

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In fact, it's entirely plausible that if the Rox want to push this series past the weekend they could face another lefty in J.A. Happ later in the series, and even the possibility of Lee again if there's a Game 5.

The point is, Colorado knows what its up against -- a Philadelphia staff brimming with enough left-handers to potentially neutralize a lineup that includes left-handed hitters like Todd Helton, Carlos Gonzalez, Brad Hawpe, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and even Jason Giambi.

"Lefties, righties, everyone is going to have their struggles. We have got to wipe this out and go out and play strong," said Rockies center fielder and switch-hitter Dexter Fowler.

Really, they have no other choice.

Colorado, which swept Philadelphia in the NLDS in 2007 and then the Arizona in the NLCS that same year, hasn't trailed often in the postseason. It, of course, lost the first game of the World Series that year to Boston and was swept in four games.

To get back into this series, to forge a spit at Citizens Bank Park, the Rockies will need to get after Hamels, who was thoroughly roughed up in his first start of the season against Colorado at Coors Field on April 10, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"Our left-handed hitters have swung the bat all year consistently against lefties all year," Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes said. "And me being a right-handed batter, I like facing lefties. But I think that we have shown we can hit lefties as a team pretty well."

A One-Sided Series?
First it was Cliff Lee. Now the Rockies get another left-hander in Cole Hamels. And maybe J.A. Happ later in the series and Lee again. A breakdown of how the Rockies and some of their prominent left-handed hitters fared vs. southpaws during the season.
Player vs. LHP AB H HR RBI vs. RHP
Giambi .333 3 1 0 0 .286
Gonzalez .276 58 16 2 6 .286
Hawpe .243 144 35 6 20 .303
Helton .311 183 57 1 28 .332
Smith .259 58 15 3 10 .300
Stewart .178 101 18 5 11 .244
Team .253 1586 401 56 212 .264

Colorado, as a team, hit .253 against left-handed pitchers in 2009, only 11 points lower than it did against right-handers. And in the NL West, where the Giants have two left-handers in Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez and the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf, the sample size was a decent one.

Helton hit .311 against lefties this past season, while Fowler hit .321. But as was the case on Wednesday, the Rockies aren't in a position to exactly stack the order with right-handed bats against a formidable left-hander, like Lee.

Look for Colorado to employ a similar game plan to the one it had against Lee, but, as Jim Tracy's team hopes, with much better results.

The Rockies wanted to make Lee work Tuesday, make him throw a lot of pitches and work himself into deep counts. It was obvious early on that Lee, who took a shutout into the ninth inning, wasn't going to play along.

"That went out the door pretty quick," Helton said with a grin. "He definitely threw us off our game plan. We wanted to make him work more than he did. Probably the first pitch strike was big for him today."

Colorado did have three doubles in Game 1, including one by Troy Tulowitzki in the ninth inning that broke up the shutout. But Helton, Gonzalez and Hawpe were just 2-for-11 combined against Lee.

As for the Phillies, Hamels is relishing a chance to pitch at home with a chance to give his team a commanding 2-0 lead in the five-game series.

"I think any time you're able to pitch here in Philadelphia, and especially on the right side of Philadelphia fans, it's exciting," he said. "You kind of take that energy and you try to channel it and direct it towards the opposing team."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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