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Resurgent Rollins catalyst atop lineup

Resurgent Rollins catalyst atop lineup

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It was Jimmy Rollins who scored the winning run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, leading off the ninth inning with a single and eventually scampering home on a sac fly.

It was Rollins who ignited the Phillies' improbable series-clinching comeback in Game 4, stroking an infield single with one out in the ninth.

And when the hugging and reveling was complete, it was a champagne-soaked Rollins who led the talk of defending Philadelphia's title. No NL team has won consecutive World Series since the 1975-76 Reds, known as the Big Red Machine.

"Maybe they'll call us the Little Red Machine," said Rollins, who made the most of his his three hits against the Rockies. "We're going to give it our all. I can tell you that much."

But for Rollins, this is all nothing new. The Phillies' longest-tenured -- and, at 5-foot-8, shortest -- player has always had a flair for the dramatic, from his 38-game hitting streak in 2005-06 to his leadoff home runs in Game 4 of the 2008 NLDS and Game 5 of the '08 NLCS.

That characteristic Rollins spunk was missing for much of 2009. He hit .205 with six home runs, 27 RBIs, a .250 on-base percentage and a .319 slugging percentage through July 1. He was benched for four consecutive games in late June, and fans were screaming for manager Charlie Manuel to drop him in the lineup.

But after snapping a career-worst 0-for-28 slump on July 2 against the Braves, Rollins hit .288 with 28 doubles, four triples, 15 home runs, 50 RBIs, 59 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. He had a .334 on-base percentage and .510 slugging percentage over that span.

Rollins finished the year with 21 homers and 31 steals -- his third career 20-20 season, and one of a franchise-record three Phillies to have 20-20 campaigns in '09.

And the 2007 and '08 Gold Glove Award winner did not miss a beat defensively, posting the highest fielding percentage (.990) and third highest zone rating among Major League shortstops.

His midseason resurgence is especially important as the Phillies stroll into their second straight NLCS against the Dodgers.

Last October, Rollins hit just .143 (3-for-21) against Los Angeles. Philadelphia won that series, of course, in five games. Yet the Phillies tend to do better when Rollins gets hot. They were 13-7 (.650) when he homered this season, 32-15 (.681) when he recorded two-plus hits and 61-19 (.763) when he scored at least one run.

Although Rollins doesn't have much experience against the Dodgers' projected staff, some matchups appear favorable. He is 3-for-6 (.500) with a home run against lefty Randy Wolf and a respectable 3-for-11 (.273) with a double and an RBI against lefty Clayton Kershaw.

Facing righty Chad Billingsley, whose status for the NLCS is still undetermined, Rollins is 4-for-12 (.333) with two doubles, a triple, a hit-by-pitch and an RBI.

It's no wonder, then, that Rollins is expecting big things over the next couple of weeks.

"It's going to be one of those epic series," he said. "We're not afraid. We're not afraid of anybody."

David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Todd Zolecki contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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