- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | Every key element of the Philadelphia Phillies’ run to the 2008 World Series championship was available to them in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Thursday - a raucous crowd at Citizens Bank Park, last year’s World Series MVP on the mound and the chance to pad a series lead at home, which they did so well last October.

The path to a two-game lead on the Colorado Rockies was so obvious, it seemed almost automatic that the Phillies would do it. And yet, it didn’t happen.

Behind an opportunistic offense and five solid innings from starter Aaron Cook, the Rockies beat the Phillies 5-4, evening the series at 1-1 and sending it back to Coors Field with a snowy forecast for Saturday’s Game 3.

They dealt the Phillies their first loss in their past eight postseason home games and ended a five-game postseason unbeaten streak for Hamels before a record crowd of 46,528, becoming the first team to win in the playoffs in Philadelphia since the 2007 Rockies.

That team, which swept the Phillies on an improbable run to the World Series, did it by repeatedly getting lifts from unlikely contributors. This Rockies team did Thursday, too.

After the top two hitters in the Rockies’ lineup looked wide-eyed and sometimes lost in their first postseason game, manager Jim Tracy swapped them in the lineup - left fielder Carlos Gonzalez replaced center fielder Dexter Fowler in the leadoff spot. They surged in their second playoff game; Gonzalez had hits in his first three at-bats, stole a base and scored two runs. Fowler dropped a sacrifice bunt to help Gonzalez score in the first and drove in two runs later with sacrifice flies.

“They came up very, very big today - both of them,” Tracy said.

Hamels, the rock of the Phillies’ 2008 postseason run, offered no such dependability Thursday. Pitching with his wife, Heidi, about to go into labor with the couple’s first child, he gave up four runs in five innings after allowing seven in 35 postseason innings last year, the costliest blast coming in the fourth inning.

He threw a first-pitch curveball to Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba for a strike and tried to come back with the same pitch after missing with a fastball outside. Only this one caught a little more of the plate, and Torrealba, who hadn’t homered since May 6, blasted it well into the left-field seats to put the Rockies up 3-0.

“I knew right away when I hit it, it was gone,” Torrealba said. “It’s just a great feeling to help the team win. It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting home runs.”

Sixty-two of his 83 pitches were strikes, but Hamels couldn’t cross up the Rockies with his off-speed stuff as well as he can with most other teams. By the end of the fifth, he was lifted for a pinch hitter.

Manager Charlie Manuel said he would have pinch hit for Hamels regardless of what was going on with his wife, but the early exit did allow Hamels to leave by the seventh inning, when his wife had started labor.

“I know he was concerned about his wife - and his child, too. That’s an exciting time,” Manuel said. “You’d have to ask him [if it affected him]. I don’t know exactly what was on his mind and what he was thinking.”

That he couldn’t push further into the game, though, was doubly damaging for the Phillies because it sent them on a tour through a shaky bullpen and forced into action two pitchers who were candidates to start Saturday’s Game 3 (Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ) among a total of six relievers. Happ left the game after one batter in the seventh, suffering a left lower leg contusion when Seth Smith hit a liner off him.

The play, which came one batter after Blanton belatedly tried to throw out Ryan Spilborghs at third on Clint Barmes’ sacrifice bunt, added more trouble to an inning that eventually gave the Rockies their fifth run.

Fowler drove in the insurance run, punching a sacrifice fly to right off Scott Eyre and rendering Jayson Werth’s eighth-inning homer harmless.

“[Fowler] stayed with the pitch. He didn’t roll over it. I’ll guarantee you back in May or June that would have been a grounder to short,” Tracy said. “Instead, it’s a sacrifice fly to right field.”

It was the kind of little moment that has become a key part of the Rockies’ postseason formula. And Thursday, that formula beat one that otherwise has been a lock.

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