2007 National League Championship Series
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|2007 National League Championship Series|
90 - 73 in the NL
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90 - 72 in the NL
|2007 MLB Postseason|
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The 2007 National League Championship Series featured the Arizona Diamondbacks, NL West Champions and owners of the best record in the National League, against the red-hot wild card Colorado Rockies, winners of 17 of their last 18 games going into the Series. Both teams had easily swept their division series and had benefitted from a number of rest days before starting the series, allowing them to set up their pitching rotations optimally. In addition, Colorado was welcoming back centerfielder Willy Taveras, who had missed the NLDS and most of September with an injury.
The 2007 Diamondbacks were known for two things: they were the youngest team in the National League, and had its best regular season record in spite of posting the lowest team batting average and giving up more runs than they scored. A lot of this was due to the team's inexperience early on, as they played better and better as the season went on, finishing with a record of 90-72. They proved that this was no fluke by easily disposing of the Chicago Cubs in their NLDS.
They may not have hit for a high average, but the Diamondbacks had a number of dangerous hitters, led by CF Chris Young, their lead-off hitter (85 runs scored and 32 home runs), LF Eric Byrnes (21 home runs, 105 runs scored and 50 stolen bases), 1B Conor Jackson (15 home runs, .284) and 3B Mark Reynolds (17 home runs, .279). This was not a murderers' row, but except for the veteran Byrnes, everyone cited plus SS Stephen Drew, RF Justin Upton and C Chris Snyder was in their first or second season as a regular and had not reached his full potential yet. The Diamondbacks were missing regular 2B Orlando Hudson, but his replacement, Augie Ojeda had hit a creditable .274 in his place and had flashed some serious leather in the field.
No one sold the team's pitching short, however. Led by three veterans, 2006 National League Cy Young Award winner sinkerballer Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01), left-hander Doug Davis (13-12, 4.25) and the rubber-armed Livan Hernandez (11-11, 4.93), the D-Backs had three starters who could give them a lot of innings and knew how to take advantage of the team's solid defense to get out of trouble. Fourth starter Micah Owings had shown some flashes of brilliance on the mound (8-8, 4.30) but especially at the bat (.333 with 4 home runs and a .683 slugging percentage!). They were complemented by a deep and solid bullpen, including Brandon Lyon (2.68), Juan Cruz (3.10), Tony Pena (3.27) and closer Jose Valverde (2.66 and 47 saves).
The Rockies had taken everyone by surprise by seemingly coming out of nowhere to post a tremendous late-season winning streak that took them into a one-game playoff for the wild card with the San Diego Padres, and had them breeze past the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.
As is to be expected from any edition of the Colorado Rockies, the team's primary strength lay in its powerful offense. Led by MVP candidate Matt Holliday (.340 with 36 HR and 137 RBI), RF Brad Hawpe (29 HR, 116 RBI) and 3B Garrett Atkins (.301 with 25 HR and 111 RBI), the heart of their batting order could overcome an off-year by veteran 1B Todd Helton (who still hit .320 with 91 RBI). SS Troy Tulowitzki was a candidate for both the Rookie of the Year Award, thanks to 99 RBI and 24 HR, but also for a Gold Glove. Rounding out the offense were table-setters CF Willy Taveras (.320 with 33 stolen bases) and 2B Kazuo Matsui who had scored 84 runs with 33 steals. This was a line-up to give any pitcher headaches.
The team's pitching was also quite solid, albeit underrated. The pitchers managed to post the lowest ERA in the majors after the All-Star break in spite of playing in the hitters' paradise otherwise known as Coors Field. Despite this, the staff was not as balanced as Arizona's. Canadian starter Jeff Francis, who had tied the team record for wins with a 17-9 record and posted a 4.22 ERA, could match up with anyone else's ace. However, the rest of the rotation depended on two middling veterans, Josh Fogg (10-9, 4.94) and Aaron Cook (8-7, 4.12, and trying to come back from a late-season injury), and two very raw youngsters, hard thrower Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.28 in 15 starts) and left-hander Franklin Morales (3-2, 3.43 in 8 starts). However, their bullpen was outstanding: Manuel Corpas had saved 19 games with a 2.08 ERA after taking over as the team's closer in mid-season; the man he replaced, Brian Fuentes, pitched very well in spite of the mid-year slump that cost him his job, finishing with 20 saves and a 3.08 ERA. The support team of veterans Matt Herges (2.96), LaTroy Hawkins (3.42) and Jeremy Affeldt (3.51) was also solid and gave manager Clint Hurdle plenty of late-game options.
|1||Colorado Rockies 5 at Arizona Diamondbacks 1||October 11||8:30pm||Jeff Francis (1-0) vs. Brandon Webb (0-1)|
|2||Colorado Rockies 3 at Arizona Diamondbacks 2 (11 inn.)||October 12||10:00pm||Ubaldo Jimenez (ND) vs. Doug Davis (ND)|
|3||Arizona Diamondbacks 1 at Colorado Rockies 4||October 14||8:30pm||Livan Hernandez (0-1) vs. Josh Fogg (1-0)|
|4||Arizona Diamondbacks 4 at Colorado Rockies 6||October 15||10:00pm||Micah Owings (0-1) vs. Franklin Morales (ND)|
|WP: Jeff Francis (1-0), LP: Brandon Webb (0-1)|
|Home Runs: none|
- Attendance: 48,142
Game 1 featured a match-up of the teams' two aces, Brandon Webb for Arizona and Jeff Francis for Colorado. Arizona got on the board first, when Stephen Drew hit a one-out single in the bottom of the 1st inning and scored on a double by Eric Byrnes. However, Francis induced the next two batters to pop up, and in the top of the 2nd, the Rockies got the run back as they loaded the bases with none out on two weak singles and a walk; Troy Tulowitzki hit into a double play to tie the score. Webb was lucky to escape with only that one run, but things went badly for him in the next inning. Willy Taveras hit a one-out single and then stole second base. Kazuo Matsui hit another single to drive him in, then Matt Holliday hit a squibbler down the third base line that hit the bag for a base hit. After a second out, Webb threw a wild pitch that put both runners in scoring positions. He then walked Garrett Atkins and allowed a bloop single to Brad Hawpe that gave the Rockies a 4-1 lead.
Colorado had not hit a ball solidly all night to get that lead, and indeed, would not get a single extra-base hit on the day, but the Rockies made the most of whatever chances they got. For the Diamondbacks, though, Francis gave up a few hits, but had his defense turn three double plays behind him to get out of trouble. The last of these, in the 7th inning, was quite controversial. Chris Snyder led off the inning with a walk, and Francis hit the next batter, Justin Upton, with a pitch to put two runners on. Augie Ojeda followed with a ground ball to Tulowitzki, who threw to Matsui at second for the force out. At that point, Upton barreled into Matsui with his shoulder and second base umpire Larry Vanover called interference, declaring Ojeda out at first and returning Snyder to second. The crowd was incensed at the call and threw various objects on the field, but play resumed after a few minutes' interruption. When order was restored, pinch hitter Jeff Cirillo pulled a surprise bunt for a single, putting runners on the corners and ending Francis's workday. Relief pitcher Matt Herges walked Chris Young to load the bases, but Clint Hurdle brought in lefthanded reliever Jeremy Affeldt to face Drew, who hit a harmless fly ball to Hawpe to end the inning.
Colorado had put a fifth run on the board in the top of the 7th, taking advantage of a less-then-sharp Juan Cruz as Yorvit Torrealba scored an unearned run on a walk, a wild pitch and an error by first baseman Conor Jackson. This was a glitch in what was otherwise a dominating performance by both bullpens, as three other D-Back relievers gave up one lone hit while striking 5 in 1 2/3 innings, while the Rockies' relievers only gave up two singles over the same span. Pinch hitter Miguel Montero ended the game when he hit a single to left off Manuel Corpas but was thrown out by Holliday when he overran the bag as he was trying to stretch the hit into a double.
|WP: Manuel Corpas (1-0) , LP: Jose Valverde (0-1), SV: Ryan Speier (1)|
|Home Runs: none|
- Attendance: 48,219
The Colorado Rockies juggernaut kept rolling in Game 2, claiming a 2-0 lead in the series with an 11-inning 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, although this win was much more difficult than their previous four postseason victories had been. The pitching match-up featured a contrast in styles, with the veteran breaking ball pitcher Doug Davis starting for the Diamondbacks, and the young fire-thrower Ubaldo Jimenez opposing him for the Rockies. Both starters had their A-game going, though, and the two teams could only muster minimal offense in the early going.
Colorado drew first blood in the 2nd inning when Todd Helton reached on an error by third baseman Mark Reynolds. Davis struck out the next two batters, but Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torrealba hit back-to-back singles, Torrealba's bloop hit landing on the right-field line to score Helton. Arizona replied in the 3rd, when Davis, not known at all for his hitting prowess, hit a lead-off double. Chris Young followed with a single up the middle to tie the score at one. Colorado then took a 2-1 lead in the 5th when Willy Taveras drew a lead-off walk, went to second on a single by Kazuo Matsui, then made up the last two bases on consecutive fly outs by Matt Holliday and Helton. Arizona threatened that slim 2-1 lead in the 5th, when Reynolds struck out with the bases loaded, and again in the 7th, when center fielder Taveras made a superb diving catch on a long drive by Tony Clark with a runner on board.
Manuel Corpas was brought in to pitch the 9th for Colorado, trying to close out a fifth consecutive playoff win. However, the usually flawless closer ran into some difficulty. He plunked Young with a pitch, then allowed a single to Stephen Drew to put runners at first and third. Eric Byrnes hit a ground ball to Matsui, who, having no chance to nail down Young at home, tried to start a double play, but his flip to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was off target. Drew was safe but missed the umpire's call, overran the bag, and was tagged out. The D-Backs had tied the game but wasted an opportunity to win it outright. In the top of the 11th, with Arizona closer Jose Valverde given a rare second inning of work, the Rockies loaded the bases on an infield single and two walks. Taveras then drew another walk to drive in Ryan Spilborghs for the third run. With Corpas now out of the game, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle sent Ryan Speier to the mound. He retired the Diamondbacks in order, including pitcher Micah Owings pinch-hitting for Valverde; the man who had set a Pacific Coast League record with 33 saves for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox earned his first major league save and gave the Rockies a sweep of the two games at Chase Field.
|WP: Josh Fogg (1-0) , LP: Livan Hernandez (0-1), SV: Manuel Corpas (1)|
|Home Runs: ARI - Mark Reynolds (1); COL - Matt Holliday (1), Yorvit Torrealba (1)|
- Attendance: 50,137
The Series moved to Colorado's Coors Field for Game 3, played on a cold drizzly night. The Diamondbacks sent grizzled veteran Livan Hernandez to the mound to face Josh Fogg, who had earned a reputation for earning key wins for the Rockies all year, making his first postseason start.
Colorado opened the hostilities in the bottom of the 1st inning on Matt Holliday's third home run of the postseason. The Diamondbacks put plenty of men on base against Fogg in the early innings, but each time hit into a double play that took the Rockies out of trouble. They did manage to tie the score in the 4th inning on Mark Reynolds' solo home run. Fogg completed six innings of work on the mound, scattering seven hits and not walking a batter, and allowing only that lone run. In the bottom of the 6th, with two outs and Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe on base via a walk and a single, catcher Yorvit Torrealba settled into a long battle with Hernandez. Livan used his whole bag of tricks, including an eephus pitch for a strike, against the red-hot Torrealba, who had already banged a long double off the outfield fence in the 3rd. Torrealba fouled off pitch after pitch until he turned around on an inside fastball to send it into the left-field seats for a three-run home run.
With a 4-1 lead, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle could safely remove Fogg for pinch hitter Jeff Baker and let his late-inning bullpen specialists go to work. Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect 7th, Brian Fuentes got three outs after a Jeff Cirillo lead-off single in the 8th, and Manuel Corpas, called on to close his sixth consecutive postseason game, did not falter this time, retiring the D-Backs in order, to give Colorado a three games to none lead.
|WP: Matt Herges (1-0), LP: Micah Owings (0-1), SV: Manuel Corpas (2)|
|Home Runs: ARI - Chris Snyder (1) COL - Matt Holliday (2)|
- Attendance: 50,213
The Colorado Rockies completed their second consecutive postseason sweep by rolling over the Arizona Diamondbacks, 6-4, in Game 4. The D-Backs took an early 1-0 lead off rookie starter Franklin Morales in the 3rd inning, when pitcher Micah Owings, famed as much for his bat as for his pitching prowess, led off with an infield single; after two outs, Morales walked Eric Byrnes and Conor Jackson followed with a single that scored Owings from second base.
Arizona's lead was short-lived, however, as Colorado poured on the runs in the 4th inning. With one out, Owings issued back-to-back walks to Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki. He induced Yorvit Torrealba to ground out for the second out, bringing up Morales's spot. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle called on young Seth Smith to pinch hit. Like seemingly every move Hurdle had made in the previous three weeks, this turned to gold: Smith smashed a two-run double to left field that put Colorado up, 2-1. The next batter, Willy Taveras, hit a soft ground ball to first baseman Jackson that should have ended the inning with no further damage, but Jackson misplayed it for an error. Kazuo Matsui followed with a run-scoring single, bringing up Matt Holliday who gave a 1-1 pitch a 452-foot ride for a 6-2 lead. Holliday would be named the NLCS MVP at the end of the game.
Colorado's bullpen then went to work. Matt Herges retired six consecutive batters, then LaTroy Hawkins followed with a scoreless 7th inning. In the meantime, Colorado was unable to pad its lead off Arizona's relievers, so the score still stood at 6-1 in the top of the 8th. The D-Backs then mounted a comeback effort against Brian Fuentes with singles by Stephen Drew and Jackson. With two outs, catcher Chris Snyder hit a ball that cleared the fence just inside the left-field foul pole for a three-run home run. Hurdle quickly yanked Fuentes in favor of Manuel Corpas, who got the inning's last out.
In the 9th, Arizona attempted one last-ditch effort to salvage the series. Jeff Salazar grounded out for the first out, but Chris Young followed with a double to left. Corpas, looking for his fifth save of the postseason, ran a three ball no strike count on Drew, who swung at the next pitch and popped softly to center field. Byrnes, who had raised the anger of Rockies fans by claiming after the first two games that the Rockies had been outplayed by Arizona but had won only because of luck, then grounded to short on a checked swing, diving head-first into first base in a doomed attempt to beat the throw by Tulowitzki. Colorado was going to the World Series for the first time in its history, riding on an incredible streak of 21 wins in its last 22 games. The Rockies would have to wait a record nine days for the World Series to start, though, given the newly-revised postseason schedule adopted by Major League Baseball in 2007, a long wait that would sap their momentum.
|Major League Baseball National League Championship Series