Hump Day Report: Phils vs. Rockies; Flyers 3-0

Rants and raves about burning topics that have caught my attention midweek, be it greedy corporate shenanigans, frustration or joy in regards to the Philly sports teams, a movie, show or DVD that has fired up my imagination, an intriguing personality, or my on-going battle to lose weight in our fast food world. — Lori Hoffman, Associate Editor, Atlantic City Weekly

Phillies fans remember the pain of the 2007 playoffs. Back in the postseason for the first time since 1993, the team ran into a buzzsaw, the Colorado Rockies, who smoked the Phillies in a three game sweep.

The repeat bid begins today. Photo by: Tom Briglia / PhotoGraphics Photography

The repeat bid begins today. Photo by: Tom Briglia / PhotoGraphics Photography

That was then. This is now. The 2009 Phillies are the defending 2008 World Series Champions. While many of the players are the same on both teams (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins; Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe) there are key differences. The Rockies don’t have Matt Holliday; the Phillies have Cliff Lee, who starts today, and the home run pop provided by Raul Ibanez. The Phillies didn’t have “Lights Out” Lidge in 2007.

Ah, all right, the Phillies don’t have Lights Out Lidge this year either. They have a version of Brad Lidge that has 11 blown saves with a 0-8 record and a 7.21 ERA. The back of the Phillies bullpen will be the biggest concern as the series begins at 2:37 this afternoon. Damn that schedule that disses the World Champions.

The Phillies lefty-dominated pitching will be a big advantage vs. the Rockies. The Rockies are barely .500 against left-handed pitching. Lee cooled off after winning his first five games as a Phillie, but one of his early wins was against the Rockies. Cole Hamels has had a rollercoaster season, but he is still the defending World Series MVP. Rookie-of-the-Year candidate J.A. Happ pitched a complete game shutout against the Rockies, which is why he will not be in the bullpen for this series; instead, Phillies manager Charlie Manual added lefty Antonio Bastardo to the roster in a surprise move.

Both these teams can hit. The Phillies led the National League in homers and runs scored (224, 820); the Rockies (190, 804) were second in both categories. The Rockies have the “lights out” bullpen with set-up man Rafael Betancourt and closer Hudson Street.

The pick: The Phillies will need to out slug the Rockies, and they will, winning in four games.

Goalie Ray Emery.

Goalie Ray Emery.

Confession: When it comes to the Flyers, I’m a bandwagon jumper. I became a true fan of hockey when the Boardwalk Bullies came to town and I got to see the whole game. You miss a lot watching ice hockey on TV. However, since the Bullies abandoned the city, my passion for hockey has been set to low.

However, this Flyers team has me jumping on the bandwagon early this year. Ray Emery is a real number one goalie, and so far he has put his troubled past behind him. We knew the Flyers had a flock of talented kids led by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter; now we have a potential rookie of the year candidate in James Van Reimsdyk. Don’t let the name fool you; he ain’t from Holland, he’s a Jersey boy. With monster defenseman Chris Pronger on the back line, this Flyers team could go all the way with a balanced offense, solid defense, a great goaltender and excellent special teams play. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but it has been 11 years since the Flyers started the season 3-0. Next up are the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday (Oct. 8).
I’m Flyered Up.

P.S. While it is way too early to evaluate the Sixers, they have a lot of explosive young talent, and I’m beginning to buy into the idea that Eddie Jordan is a good coach and he just might be the perfect fit for this young team with his defensive principles and his version of the Princeton offensive. My biggest concern is Lou Williams running the offense, but I hope he proves me wrong and is a good enough passer for the job.

P.P.S. The Eagles play the 0-4 Bucs Sunday, which is the perfect game to ease Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook into the swing of things after their bye week recovering from injuries. It should be a blow-out victory, say 48-21.

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