Rockies revive regular lineup for Game 3

Rockies revive regular lineup for Game 3

DENVER -- The Rockies bring the National League Division Series home to Colorado on Sunday, and fate and a line drive off the leg of left-hander J.A. Happ have dealt them three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez as the Phillies' Game 3 starter.

As one of the biggest big-game pitchers of his generation, Martinez still has the ability to intimidate the relatively young lineup the Rockies will send to the plate, but the team is confident that it's moving back into its comfort zone. Never mind playing at home, where the Rockies are 51-30 on the season, or the psyche job the weather could play on freezing the Phillies after the game which was originally scheduled for Saturday was postponed due to snow.

Far more important is the fact that with a right-hander on the mound, the Rockies get to make full use of their everyday lineup, likely giving Ian Stewart his first playoff start and putting All-Star Brad Hawpe back in the starting nine after sitting him Thursday when the Rockies faced their second southpaw in the first two games.

"We've put the people out there in the first two games that make sense," manager Jim Tracy said before the team worked out at Coors Field on Friday. "It goes without saying that because of what some of our left-hand hitters have been doing this year, the potency of our lineup has an opportunity to be better."

Colorado's batting average was 11 points more potent against right-handers on the season, and the Rockies bring increased power to the plate, knocking 134 of their 190 home runs against righties. With Hawpe and Stewart in the lineup coupled with the return to a comfortable home environment, Tracy expects to see the Rockies' bats wake up, Martinez notwithstanding.

"I don't think we've seen the best of Todd [Helton] just yet," Tracy pointed out, stressing that he expects to see more than just Hawpe and Stewart energized facing Martinez on Saturday. "I don't think we've seen the best of Troy Tulowitzki just yet. That for me is very, very encouraging. We've got more than those couple names, that their time is coming, believe me. It's coming. That bodes well for us."

If the Rockies have any doubts about their ability to take on Martinez, they're maintaining their perfect poker faces. Having run a gauntlet throughout an intense September, facing Cy-Young-caliber pitchers every time they turned around, the club has earned its purple pinstripes at the plate.

"This is the thing that nobody understands," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "Before we even made the playoffs, we had so many close games. San Francisco was right behind us. The Braves ... It was almost like a playoff."

Having succeeded against the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Chris Carpenter, Dan Haren and Randy Wolf to get to the postseason, the Rockies are adopting the mindset that they are not stepping to the plate against all of Martinez's past, but merely against the 2009 edition.

"He's still good," Tulowitzki said. "I don't think he has his stuff from when he won Cy Youngs. I think he'll be the first one to tell you that. At the same time, he's still someone you put out there in a Game 3 and have a lot of confidence in."

Martinez will be pitching in his fifth postseason, bringing a 6-2 record and a 3.40 ERA from 13 playoff and World Series games to the mound, but younger Rockies like Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith, who have never faced him before, are determined to bring him down to scale.

Division Series
Gm. 1PHI 5, COL 1WrapVideo
Gm. 2COL 5, PHI 4WrapVideo
Gm. 3PHI 6, COL 5WrapVideo
Gm. 4PHI 5, COL 4WrapVideo

"I remember watching him when I was younger, pitching in the really big games," Gonzalez said. "He's just another pitcher I guess. We all know he's got a lot of experience. This is my first playoff experience. I'm just going to think the same way I was in Philadelphia. It's just another game. You just need to try and do your job. It doesn't matter who's pitching."

When the Rockies have been at their best, they have been patient at the plate, making sure to see lots of pitches, running counts deep against starters, and getting to the opposing bullpen as early as possible. The challenge of balancing an aggressive instinct in a heightened atmosphere against a pitcher who knows how to exploit it will be of paramount importance when they dig in against the veteran right-hander.

"I've never faced Pedro," said Smith, whose line drive off Happ's leg on Thursday helped force Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's hand in not trotting out a third consecutive southpaw on Sunday. "I'll watch the video. He throws a lot of different pitches, so we'll see. I think it's important not to get caught up in a name. Look at the pitches he's throwing. See what's coming up there and try to get the bat to it."

Nobody in the Rockies dugout has seen as much of Martinez as Tracy, who was on Felipe Alou's coaching staff in Montreal when Martinez was hitting his peak years.

"The four years I sat there with Felipe, I watched this guy win a Cy Young Award with 17 wins," Tracy said. "He has know-how and he has moxie. From the standpoint of power, you don't have to sit here and feel like he is going to overwhelm you with his fastball. To sit here and say he's a big-time strikeout pitcher, I don't think that's the case. But you can go a long way with location and tremendous know-how."

For the Rockies, coming home and returning to their comfort zone on all levels could be the key in getting their everyday lineup back into its mid-summer stride as they look to earn an edge in the deadlocked Division Series.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.