Five Colorado Rockies we hope the Phillies underrate
You're the Philadelphia Phillies -- the defending World Series champs, and winner of three consecutive National League East crowns. You've got a lineup filled with stars like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee. The entire sporting press, and much of the public, expects you to roll over the Rockies in the first round of the playoffs, set to begin a little over an hour from now, gaining revenge for being swept by the Colorado club in 2007. As such, you can be excused for looking at the Rockies' roster and saying, "Who the hell are these guys?" And please continue to do so -- because the Rockies have excelled during the Jim Tracy mini-era thanks to unexpected contributions from players whose national reputations are only a little bit higher than that of the team's bat boy. Here are five you can feel free to overlook until after they've made you pay for your lack of respect.
5. Ryan Spilborghs. He doesn't look that impressive, either physically or statistically. After all, his batting average tends to hover at or just below .250. But the one hit he gets out of every four tends to take place at a key time. Need we remind the Phillies of his grand slam in the fourteenth inning of an important August 24 game against the San Francisco Giants -- the first walk-off slam in Rockies history? Hope so.
4. Jose Contreras. The White Sox gave up on Contreras this year following a horrendous start and a stint in the minors -- perhaps because, like many Cuban ballplayers, there's no telling how old he really is. His official age, 37? Forty? Fifty? Who knows -- but since coming to the Rockies, he's provided steady middle relief. That skill will be especially important given Jorge De La Rosa's untimely groin pull.
3. Matt Belisle. It's been an up-and-down season for Belisle, literally. It's been less than a month since he was promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs. But in his last ten games for the Rockies, his earned-run average has been an ultra-stingy 1.98 -- which makes him a damned good option if Franklin Morales makes like Three-Mile Island.
2. Eric Young Jr. At first, EY Mark II seemed to have made the jump to his dad's old club mainly for nostalgic reasons -- that and his blinding speed. But he's proven surprisingly scrappy at bat and in the field, inspiring Clint Barmes to step up his own game in order to remain in the lineup. And did we mention how fast he is?
1. Seth Smith. This beefy white boy hardly looks like a major threat at the plate -- unless the pitcher is hurling cheeseburgers, in which case, watch out! But he hits for both power and average, and he's got a knack for heating up when he's most needed -- as in early September, when he deservedly earned National League player-of-the-week honors. Sleep on him at your peril, Phillies. But don't be surprised if you wake up with a headache.