Rockies let Game 1 slip by |

Rockies let Game 1 slip by

Troy E. Renck
the denver post
Colorado Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe misplays a ball hit by Philadelphia Phillies' Carlos Ruiz during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the National League division baseball series, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009, in Philadelphia. The Phillies' Raul Ibanez scored on the hit. Ruiz advanced to second on Hawpe's error. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA – The largest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history was stretched like a rubber band, waving white towels. The swirling wind hurled debris across the stadium.

Down on the field, temperature dropping, the Rockies played the victims in a lousy day-time drama. They were punchless, nearly hitless, and at times, because of the wind, clueless in a 5-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 1 of their National League Division Series.

Prior to the game, they seemed relax, talking about their playoff beards and their ability to savor this trip compared to the blindside burst that occurred in 2007.

“All you can do is leave it all on the field, right?” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.

Effort wasn’t the question.

Never is with this group of grinders. The execution, however, was flawed against Cliff Lee, leaving the Rockies 8-17 on the road against left-handers with World Series MVP Cole Hamels waiting Thursday.

The Rockies’ lone run came in the ninth on a Troy Tulowitzki double to right field.

Hitting instructor Don Baylor told the players that they needed to follow a detailed plan against Lee, someone they saw multiple times in spring training with the Indians.

The report: lay off the high fastball, inflate his pitch count, hit the ball the opposite way and turn it into a bullpen game. Baylor warned that if you see the Rockies firing early and trying to pull the ball that they would be in for a long day.

Lee had 69 pitches through six innings, retiring 16 straight at one point. He didn’t allow the Rockies’ fifth hit until the ninth inning.

There were signs that an autopsy would be avoided, but life, for all intents and purposes, expired in the first inning.

Lee showed cracks, clearly amped up by his first postseason start. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki singled, leaving runners at first and third with two outs for Garrett Atkins. A forgotten man after losing his job in June, the third baseman earned the start because of his work against left-handers.

He worked the count, got a fastball to hit then popped aimlessly into the wind, the ball disappearing into Shane Victorino’s glove. That was the Rockies’ first, last and best chance to score. It will be interesting to see if manager Jim Tracy will adjust to his regular lineup, removing Fowler and Atkins, in favor of Seth Smith and Ian Stewart.

Jimenez matched Lee for four innings, deftly mixing a 98-mph fastball, 89-changeup and 81-mph curveball. He fell behind 2-0 in the fifth on run-scoring hits by Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz. The Rockies were still within handshaking distance of victory. Then came the disastrous sixth. Chase Utley singled and swiped second, one of three steals in four attempts. It’s clear the Phillies are going to run until the Rockies stop them.

A double by Ryan Howard and a triple by Jayson Werth – he thought his shot was gone, before the wind slammed it into the center-field wall – shoved the Phillies ahead 4-0.

It felt like 40 the way Lee was pitching.

Escape with a win Thursday, and it won’t matter. Lose, and it points to an early fade to black for Rocktober.

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