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Phillies, Rockies destined to meet again

Phillies, Rockies destined to meet again

DENVER -- They've met in the Division Series in two of the last three Octobers, and each team has gone to the World Series.

Their rosters feature well-balanced mixtures of young pitching, sluggers, dynamic infielders and athletic outfielders while old-school managers call the shots.

Heck, they even play in ballparks where the fans wave white towels.

In other words, if the wild and crazy 2009 Division Series that the Philadelphia Phillies finally won over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night in stirring, stunning fashion told the baseball world anything, it's that it's a good bet these two teams will mix it up again on the big stage.

"These two clubs are very similar," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

"That's a great club over there, and they gave us everything we could handle. They've got great talent and we've got great talent, and we'll be seeing them again, I'm sure.

"We knew this was going to be a very difficult series because of the type of team they have."

And what about the type of club the Phillies have?

The defending World Series champions, experiencing bullpen problems throughout the season and the first four games of the series, suffered another late letdown in Game 4 when Ryan Madson gave up a run-scoring single to Jason Giambi and a two-run double to Yorvit Torrealba that gave the Rockies a 4-2 advantage.

Division Series
Gm. 1PHI 5, COL 1WrapVideo
Gm. 2COL 5, PHI 4WrapVideo
Gm. 3PHI 6, COL 5WrapVideo
Gm. 4PHI 5, COL 4WrapVideo

No problem for the Phillies, who were down to their last strike in the ninth against Rockies closer Huston Street when Ryan Howard tied the game with a two-run double of his own, setting up Jayson Werth for what proved to be the game-winning single.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Giambi said. "But you know what? That's why they're the defending world champions. It always seems like when the middle of their order comes up, they always get it done when they need to."

The core of that lineup should be around for a while, and by adding a former Cy Young Award winner in Cliff Lee, who tossed 16 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs in the series, they're set with arms moving forward.

Meanwhile, the Rockies aren't going anywhere, either.

Their duo of young outfielders at the top of their lineup, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, were electrifying in this series. Gonzalez tied a Division Series record by tallying 10 hits in the series and wound up batting .588 (10-for-17) with multiple hits in each game, a home run, two doubles, two stolen bases and five runs scored.

Fowler turned in one of the most athletic plays of the season when he leaped over Phillies second baseman Chase Utley to avoid being tagged out during a pivotal fielder's choice in the eighth inning that led to the Rockies' big rally.

"I was anticipating him running into me," Utley said. "Apparently he leaped over me or something. He's a good athlete."

And so are shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hit 32 home runs in 2009, and Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, a 15-game winner during the regular season who bounced back from a shaky Game 1 start to limit the Phillies to two runs in seven innings Monday while striking out seven and throwing 126 pitches, one off his season high.

"I think the future of this franchise is extremely bright," manager Jim Tracy said. "When you looked around our field tonight ... we had a young shortstop out there who is a very, very special player. Carlos Gonzalez has emerged and in my opinion has a chance to be a star, a Major League player that's a star in the industry.

"Dexter Fowler, another guy. Our starting pitcher tonight who just gave us seven wonderful innings. We just have so many young players -- when you have a foundation like that to build from, that's definitely a major step in the right direction."

But in addition to players on the rise, there's a connection between the Phillies and Rockies that comes from the education each has received from their Division Series meetings in 2007 and this year.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, for example, said the Phillies could not have won the World Series in 2008 if they had not suffered the devastatingly important lesson they learned at the hands of the Rockies, who swept them out of the playoffs two years ago.

"I think [in 2007] that I sat over in that office and Colorado swept us, and I think we've come a long ways since then as far as getting experience and playing in the big moment," Manuel said. "I think the fact that they did beat us three years ago, three straight ... that kind of told us that we weren't quite ready, and that we had to improve mentally and physically."

And while the Rockies went all the way to the World Series that year, this is a different Colorado club, and the 2010 version will likely change a bit more. Tracy, however, echoed Manuel in saying that this year's loss will help his team mature and come back stronger.

"The evolution of this team that just beat us, if you go back and look at where they were at prior to winning their world championship last year, they suffered some heartbreak, and they grew from that," Tracy said. "And I think that's exactly where we're at. I don't really personally see this ballclub going away for a while.

"I really don't."

Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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