Snakes on the Rocks

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

DENVER – Guilt, that ugly beast, could have lassoed itself around Yorvit Torrealba and tightened like a boa constrictor Sunday night. He ruined his best friend's night and, in all likelihood, his season too, and ruinous action usually results in just a little bit of remorse, even a thimbleful.

"No," Torrealba said.

He kicked back in the Colorado Rockies' clubhouse, his high still fresh. Torrealba's three-run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks starter Livan Hernandez, his tightest ally in the sport, broke a tie in Game 3 of the National League championship series and broke almost any hope of a D'backs comeback following the Rockies' 4-1 victory that put them ahead three games to none in the best-of-seven series.

"Livan's already got a World Series ring," Torrealba said. "Now it's my time to get one."

As the days go by, such a thought gets less and less absurd. Playing in a rain at Coors Field that refused to relent, the Rockies mimicked it, winning their ninth consecutive game, their 20th in 21 and respect around baseball as a legitimate challenger for the American League representative in the World Series.

And, no, it is not presumptuous to all but crown the Rockies as NL champions. The Diamondbacks are not the 2004 Red Sox. They do not hit like them. They do not pitch like them. They do not field like them. They do not swagger like them. They get beaten by a catcher named Yorvit, which, by the way, fuses the names Yorman and Victor – Torrealba's parents couldn't decide between the two – while orphaning the C.

"In 20 years, they won't believe it," Torrealba said. "Every night has been somebody different. Either the starting pitcher, the bullpen, hitters. It's amazing. What can I say? It doesn't matter how hard you try to explain, you won't be able to explain."

The Rockies do defy explanation. Encapsulating this game, however, is rather easy, because it begins and ends with one at-bat with two men on and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Some history first: Torrealba and Hernandez played together during the 2002 season in San Francisco, so they not only know each other personally but, in terms of baseball likes and dislikes, rather intimately. Torrealba loves inside fastballs and hates anything outside, so Hernandez started with an 83-mph fastball on the outside corner for a called strike.

After a ball, Hernandez threw a 58-mph curveball. No policeman could have ticketed it for speeding. Likewise, Torrealba couldn't even muster the strength to swing at it. Strike two.

"I could've probably swung three times and still not hit it," Torrealba said. "To be honest with you, it made me laugh."

Two on, two strikes, two outs, with the score tied 1-1, and he's laughing. Torrealba understood. This wasn't just hitter vs. pitcher. This was Yorvit vs. Livan, man vs. man more than friend vs. friend.

After two balls, Hernandez tried the curveball gambit, this time at 60 mph, and Torrealba fouled it back. Next pitch had to be a breaking ball, Torrealba reasoned. Hernandez knows his weaknesses. He could expose them.

Only Hernandez thought too hard. He peered in at catcher Miguel Montero and waited for the fastball sign. And Livan Hernandez, one of this generation's great postseason pitchers – and one who now labors through starts – went with that fastball. It registered at 82 mph and curled back over the plate.

"Was it a good pitch?" Hernandez said. "Miguel said it was a good pitch, but I say, 'It's never a good pitch when a guys hits a home run.' "

Yes, Torrealba did homer, a 402-foot shot into the left-field bleachers. Halfway up the first-base line, he raised his fist and pointed his index finger upward. Torrealba said the home run was an ode to his grandmother, Aurelia Hernandez, who passed away recently.

More than that, it was a paean to the Rockies' run.

"Yorvit's an excitable guy," said Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday, whose solo home run accounted for Colorado's other run. "That's great. Some other guys maybe aren't. And that's great too. This is a great team that allows each other to be who they are, and we feed off guys with energy."

In the beginning of the season, Torrealba was the Rockies' backup catcher. Never did he latch on to the full-time job in San Francisco, and injuries thwarted the 29-year-old's ascent toward Colorado's. Rookie Chris Iannetta occupied the spot until manager Clint Hurdle could suffer no more.

Torrealba infused the Rockies with joy, the kind evident in his trot around the bases. He smacked a home run off San Diego ace Jake Peavy in the one-game playoff that got the Rockies here in the first place. In the postseason, Torrealba is hitting .381 with a team-high seven RBIs from the eight hole, sweeping up the middle of the lineup's messes.

"They make comments about 1 through 7 being a tough out," Torrealba said. "They forgot about 8."

Everyone did, and who could blame them? The Rockies are like a nesting doll. You keep opening and opening and opening, trying to find what's inside of this beautiful thing, and realize that the little speck in the center means so little. The layers – all of them in concert – make it such a treat.

And on this particular night, Torrealba happened to be the integral layer. On the biggest stage of his career, in the biggest at-bat of his career, with the biggest swing of his career, he worked himself into the hearts of 50,137 at Coors Field and 24 others in Rockies uniforms.

Actually, make that 23. With the rest of the clubhouse cleared out, Rockies starter Josh Fogg, who threw a brilliant six innings, stopped in front of Torrealba's locker on the way to the shower.

"Way to show me up," Fogg said.

Torrealba looked confused. Fogg smirked.

"Couldn't you have just gotten a single," he said, "so I could've batted?"

Oh, well. The at-bats can wait a few days. There will be plenty in the World Series.

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