By Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
October 17, 2007
The book on the Colorado Rockies reads as such: dangerous lineup, statistically record-breaking defense, lockdown bullpen, tremendous cache of young starting pitchers – oh, and no one still has a freaking clue who they are.
No need to fret. The World Series doesn't begin for nearly a week, and over that time those on the Eastern seaboard can consume everything they missed because of late start times while those in the West can polish their knowledge with this primer of what could be the greatest late-season run in baseball history.
In honor of the Rockies' 21 victories in 22 games, we present their 21 most memorable events during the streak.
21) On Sept. 23, a week into the Rockies' jag, Garrett Atkins smashed a fly ball to left-center field in the seventh inning. San Diego center fielder Mike Cameron dove and missed, injuring his thumb and knocking the ball away. Milton Bradley's throw was late, and the lumbering Atkins scored an inside-the-park homer. The next inning, Bradley got mad at an umpire, threw a temper tantrum and tore his knee. Without Cameron and Bradley for the remainder of the season, the Padres' lineup was crippled, and they blew the wild-card lead to Colorado.
20) Rookie Franklin Morales, who spent most of the season at Double-A, threw his 20th consecutive shutout inning on Sept. 28 against Los Angeles. The Rockies turned to the left-handed Morales after injuries knocked out their Nos. 2-4 starters Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh and Rodrigo Lopez.
19) Rockies fans weren't savvy enough to chant MVP for Matt Holliday on Sept. 19, when he homered twice off Dodgers starter Brad Penny. Colorado's P.A. announcer played the drumbeat, the scoreboard flashed the letters M-V-P and still, nothing. Today, they don't need any cues. The chants just start.
18) Scrap-heap pickup Mark Redman threw five innings and allowed no earned runs against Arizona in an 11-1 victory Sept. 29, the day after the Rockies' only loss in the past month. The last time Redman had struck out six, as he did that day, was more than a year earlier.
17) Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who took the starting job from rookie Chris Iannetta at midseason, played Fort Knox on the plate Sept. 25 as Jeff Kent tried to score on a sacrifice fly. Cory Sullivan's throw from center field skipped off the pitcher's mound, trickling home, but Torrealba's block rendered that moot – and rendered Kent's left leg bruised enough that he missed the remainder of the season.
16) TBS cameras caught Rockies closer Manny Corpas dousing his jersey with water, then rubbing dirt in the area during Game 1 of the NL division series. Whether Corpas cheated didn't matter. Neither the umpires nor the league did anything, and Corpas went on to pitch in all seven of the Rockies' playoff games.
15) Rookie Troy Tulowitzki's grand slam put the finishing touch on the Rockies' win Sept. 29 and might have helped him win the NL Rookie of the Year. Though Milwaukee's Ryan Braun put up incredible power numbers, Tulowitzki's defense and leadership – not to mention his 24 home runs and 99 RBIs – make a compelling case.
14) On the day the Rockies started to believe, ace Jeff Francis struck out 10 over 6 2/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader against the Dodgers, a 3-1 victory. The last time a Rockies pitcher struck out that many: Aug. 28, 2003, when Jason Jennings fanned 10.
13) The unluckiest number should be home to the weirdest occurrence of the streak: The lights died at Coors Field during Game 3 of the NLDS, forcing a 14-minute delay. The Rockies blamed it on a computer malfunction.
12) Tulowitzki ranged into the hole between shortstop and third, picked the ball on his backhand and … just take a look. Because there's only one word for this: Wow.
11) So, does the word wow-er exist?.
10) The Dragon Slayer – that would be the thoroughly mediocre Josh Fogg, who has earned his nickname beating the likes of Derek Lowe, Jake Peavy, Brad Penny, Brandon Webb and Chris Young down the stretch – saved his best for Game 3 of the NL Championship Series. Back at home, Fogg stared down Arizona starter Livan Hernandez, a former World Series MVP, and gave up just one run over six innings.
9) The first time Peavy faced the Rockies during the streak, he limited them to one run over seven innings Sept. 21. Morales happened to better him, going six scoreless, and the battle of the bullpens lasted until the 14th inning, when right fielder Brad Hawpe poked an opposite field home run to give the Rockies a 2-1 victory.
8) Of all the unlikely names to appear on this list, Seth Smith would register first, second and third. And yet his excuse-me double down the left-field line in Game 4 of the NLCS scored two runs and provided the spark Colorado needed to go to the World Series with a 6-4 victory.
7) In their final game of the regular season, the Rockies turned to rookie Ubaldo Jimenez. He throws 100 mph, which was promising. He also joined the Rockies after posting a 5.82 ERA at Triple-A in the first half. As it has all postseason, Jimenez's stuff overwhelmed the Diamondbacks hitters, as he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and helped secure a 4-3 victory.
6) The NLCS' exclamation point came from the likeliest source: Holliday, one of the game's great power hitters, who plastered a three-run home run 452 feet to center field in the at-bat after getting hit by a pitch. Micah Owings' plunking came on a breaking ball, so it probably wasn't intentional. But no one was going to tell Holliday.
5) To string together a run like the Rockies', protagonists must emerge from all corners of the clubhouse. Which makes it no surprise that the final five moments come from different players, starting with second baseman Kazuo Matsui's grand slam in Game 2 of the NLDS. Run out of New York, Matsui has thrived with the Rockies, and after Phillies manager Charlie Manuel yanked Kyle Kendrick for Kyle Lohse, Matsui deposited a pitch in the right-field stands.
4) Perhaps the Rockies would have come back. Maybe if Willy Taveras didn't sprint halfway across the outfield and lay out for a diving catch off the bat of Tony Clark, Colorado still would have managed to eke out a victory. The hypotheticals are moot, of course, because Taveras did make that incredible play in Game 2 of the NLCS – and then tacked on the winning RBI with a bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning for good measure.
3) Second-best fact about Yorvit Torrealba: His parents couldn't decide between Yorman and Victor, so they combined the two names. Best fact about Yorvit Torrealba: He stepped in against his best friend in baseball, Diamondbacks right-hander Livan Hernandez, with two runners on and a 1-1 score in Game 3 of the NLCS, looked for a breaking ball outside, got a fastball inside and still managed to turn on it quickly enough that it flew over the left-field fence for the go-ahead home run.
2) Even if the streak began Sept. 16, the players started believing Sept. 18. Todd Helton, the 11-year Rockie so frustrated with the team's losing ways that he wanted a trade to Boston in the offseason, stepped in with Holliday on first and two outs in the ninth against Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, one of the NL's best. Saito worked Helton for two strikes before making the mistake that saved Colorado's season: Helton blasted a home run into the right-field stands and gave the Rockies a doubleheader sweep, a sonic boom of energy and a sign that, yes, no matter how hard it seems, this could be done.
1) And it was Oct. 1, in the one-game playoff against San Diego. Jorge Julio had imploded in the 13th inning, allowing a two-run home run and setting the scene for Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, to close out another. Only the Rockies wouldn't roll over. Matsui doubled. Tulowitzki doubled. Holliday tripled both in. Helton was intentionally walked. And Jamey Carroll lined a ball to right field, making it a race between Holliday's legs and Brian Giles' arm. The ball lofted toward home. Catcher Michael Barrett awaited it. Holliday dove. The ball arrived. Barrett blocked the plate. Holliday's chin bounced off the ground, leaving a scrape that today continues to heal. His hand, sealed off by Barrett's leg, never touched the plate. And yet home plate umpire Tim McClelland called him safe.
Rockies win. Rockies win.
Jeff Passan is a national writer for Yahoo! Sports. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Thursday, Oct 18, 2007 12:54 am, EDT
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