Giambi Speaks; Fowler Listens
By Tracy Ringolsby
PHILADELPHIA – A glance at the stats from the first two games of the NL Division Series between the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies will show thathad only one at-bat, and he struck out, on four pitches with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning of Game 2 on Thursday afternoon.
Don’t be misled.
The Rockies held on for a 5-4 victory against the Phillies in that game, evening the best-of-five series that now heads to Colorado for the next two games, and Giambi’s impact was significant.
Hours before a pitch was thrown, when the frustrations of a Game 1 loss was still fresh in the mind of rookie center fielder, who had gone 0-for-4 and flied out to right on the first pitch of the game as well as the first pitch of the ninth, Giambi spoke.
“I told him, `You have never played in the post-season before (Wednesday), but now you have, so go out there (in Game 2) and play like you did all year. Dexter was pressing, swinging at first pitches, wanted to go something. You got to understand he’s a young kid.
“I know. I’ve been there. And I learned that the big thing is you have to relax, and do what you are capable of doing.’’
“He made me feel comfortable,’’ said Fowler. “He told me, `You’re up there for a reason so go out, relax, have fun and play.’’
The Rockies benefitted.
Moved from the leadoff spot to No. 2 in the lineup for Game 2, Fowler’s first time up, afterled off the game with a single and stole second when he beat a Cole Hamels’ pickoff attempt, Fowler put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Gonzalez to third and setting up the Rockies first run.
And then, after striking out looking in the third, he yanked a 1-2 pitch from Hamels to left field for a sacrifice fly in the fifth that gave the Rockies a 4-0 lead, and on a 1-2 pitch from lefty Scott Eyre, he drove a pitch away to right field for a sacrifice fly that not only put the Rockies up 5-3 but was the only run they scored out of bases-loaded, no-out situations in both the seventh and eighth innings.
“What we saw (Thursday) says a lot about Dexter,’’ said Rockies manager. “(Game 1) he looked like a 23-year-old who has never seen a pitch at Triple-A and certainly hadn’t seen 47,000 white towels being thrown in a circle (by the fans). “(Game 2) he played with the poise of a veteran. I credit Jason Giambi.’’
It’s part of the package that the Rockies expected when they signed the 38-year-old Giambi in August, after he had been released from Oakland.
They initially sent him to Triple-A Colorado Springs to get regular at-bats, and then called him up when rosters expanded September 1 to provide a veteran presence, both on the bench and at the plate. He is, after all, a .282 hitter in a 15-year big-league career. And this is his eighth trip in the last 10 years to the post-season, where he has hit .287.
“With certain players, you talk about their presence,’’ said Tracy. “Jason is one of those players. It’s a special quality.’’
Fowler has plenty of special qualities, too, which is why he is in the big leagues right now. He did, as Tracy pointed out, make the jump directly from Double-A last year to the big leagues out of spring training this year, and established himself as the Rockies primary center fielder.
“I put things in God’s hands,’’ said Fowler. “When I got to spring training everybody said I was going to Triple-A, but obviously I wanted to be here. I went out and tried to make sure I showed everyone I could handle it.’’
The Rockies hang up was they didn’t want to impede Fowler’s development. They didn’t want to rush him to the big leagues, having him struggle, receive limited playing time and then get shipped back to the minor leagues.
“We finally reached a point, watching how quickly he adapted and how eager he was to learn, that you had to ask yourself how he was going to benefit from being sent out instead of keeping him (in the big leagues),’’ said Rockies hitting coach Don Baylor. “This a special kid. This is a kid who has the tools to have an impact, and he wants to be in a situation where he can have that impact.’’
Fowler was in that situation on Thursday and he came through.
With Gonzalez on second, he put down a textbook sacrifice bunt on an 0-1 pitch, allowing Gonzalez to move to third from where he scored on’s ensuing bouncer that Hamels’ fielded, but hesitated before throwing home too late for the out at the plate. Then, after pitcher singled and went to third on a Gonzalez double with one out in the fifth, Fowler drove that Hamels pitch to deep left.
And then, with the Phillies having cut the Rockies lead to 4-3, after left-hander Scott Eyre came on to strike out Gonzalez with the bases loaded, Fowler delivered a sacrifice fly to right, driving a 1-2 pitch deep enough forto score easily.
“(The Phillies) had been getting me out in, and then Hamels struck me out away (looking in the third),’’ said Fowler. “Eyre probably saw that. First he tried me in and I felt he was probably going to go away, which he did.’’
Fowler made him pay for it, with an assist from Giambi.
“When a guy who has been through all the things he has been through talks to you, you listen,’’ said Fowler.