Phillies-Rockies: What you need to know


Phillies-Rockies: What you need to know

Phillies (32-37) vs. Rockies (25-41)7:05 p.m. on CSN

For one night on Tuesday, the Phillies set aside their struggles and played like a complete team (see story).

The real challenge is to do it again tonight.

The Phils took Game 1 of their series against the Colorado Rockies with a 7-2 rout. Cole Hamels pitched eight innings, John Mayberry and Carlos Ruiz each hit two-run home runs, and Jimmy Rollins reached base in all four of his plate appearances, scoring three runs.

But they have won two games in a row just once this month, and have not won more than two in a row since May 23-26. Wednesday night's game presents a golden opportunity to start a winning streak against a sinking team.

Starting pitchers
Joe Blanton (6-6, 4.93 ERA) finally snapped out of his funk in his last start, twirling a complete game in Minnesota last Thursday. He allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven.

In the five starts prior to that effort, Blanton posted a 9.91 ERA, allowing 11 home runs in 26.1 innings.

The right-hander has made only two career starts against Colorado, in which he is 1-0 while giving up six earned runs in 10.1 innings.

Alex White (2-5, 5.56) starts for the Rockies, but he shouldnt last too long. Jim Tracys rotation is in such shambles (last in the majors in team ERA), he has elected to go with a four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit on his starters.

White has not lasted beyond seven innings in a start this year. He has allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts. The right-hander has never faced the Phillies during his two years in the MLB.

Rollins has looked like the J-Roll of old in June. He is hitting .320 with a .909 OPS this month, including a .433 average with six doubles and seven runs in his last seven games.

The shortstops season average has climbed from .240 to .261 during that stretch.

Big John
John Mayberry will start his third straight game, this time at first base. He has homered in three consecutive games and four of his last five to raise his season total to six.

In his career against the Rockies, Mayberry is 3 for 10 with two home runs. He gets a rare start against a righty tonight he is hitting just .213 with one home run against righties this season.

Ups and downs
The Phillies have won 23 of their past 28 meetings with Colorado, including 12 of their last 14 during the regular season at Citizens Bank Park.

Overall, the Rockies have lost 11 of their last 12. Tuesdays lost dropped their June record to 4-12, below the Phillies June record of 5-12.

Colorado leftfielder Carlos Gonzalez is a .452 lifetime hitter against the Phillies, including the 2009 Division Series. He is 4 for 5 off of Blanton, and could return after missing the past two games with a strained left knee.

Sound off
Can a hot Jimmy Rollins carry the Phillies lineup until Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return?

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

MLB Playoffs: Indians reach 1st World Series since 1997

TORONTO -- For the Cleveland Indians, the script was the same every game -- hope for the best from whoever they started, then count on Andrew Miller and the bullpen to close it out.

That plan seemed especially dicey in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, with lightly used Ryan Merritt on the mound.

But out of nowhere, the rookie delivered.

Merritt coolly kept the Indians ahead until reinforcements arrived, and Cleveland earned its first trip to the World Series since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 Wednesday.

The 24-year-old lefty defied expectations, shutting down the powerful Blue Jays before exiting in the fifth inning. Thanks to a most unlikely pitching performance, a most unexpected team won the ALCS 4-1.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Manager Terry Francona's team will try to augment what's already been a scintillating year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first major pro sports championship since 1964.

The Indians' title drought dates to 1948. In 1997, they let a one-run lead get away in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 and lost to the Florida Marlins in the 11th.

"We always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting. So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good," Francona said (see full recap).

Cubs' bats come alive to even series
LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak as the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree (26 degree Celcius) night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters -- a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games -- busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice (see full recap).

For first time all season, Cubs not the World Series favorite

For first time all season, Cubs not the World Series favorite

For the first day, and perhaps the only day all season, the Chicago Cubs are not the World Series favorite.

Down 2-1 to the Dodgers in the NLCS with Game 4 Wednesday night in L.A., the Cubs' World Series odds are now 5/2, according to Bovada.

The Dodgers have the best odds of the final four teams at 7/4. The Indians, up 3-1 on the Blue Jays in the ALCS, are next at 2/1. Toronto is the longshot at 8/1.

Veteran John Lackey starts for the Cubs tonight against 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs Thursday in Game 5; the Dodgers haven't yet named a starter.

In any event, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton are just two wins away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 2009. 

Utley is 3 for 24 with eight strikeouts this postseason. 

Ruiz contributed in the NLDS with a pinch-hit two-run homer in Game 3 and a pinch-hit, game-winning RBI single in Game 5.

Blanton, who had a great season as a reliever, has made six appearances in the playoffs and five have been clean. In the other, he allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning as the Dodgers dropped Game 1 to the Cubs.

Phillies fans still keep tabs on former players from their Golden Era and applaud them when they return, but seeing Utley, Chooch and Kentucky Joe in the Fall Classic wearing Dodger blue might be too much for some to take.