On Wednesday afternoon, Colorado took on the Phillies in the first game of the National League Division series and won 4-2. Once again, Jeff Francis came up big for Colorado as the 17-game winner pitched six innings with eight Ks. What’s more impressive to me is the way Francis shut down the Phillies’ top hitter, Chase Utley (.332 batting average), by striking him out three times in nine pitches. That’s domination on the mound.
Helton, at his first postseason plate appearance, hit a triple, and Matt Holliday continued to play in MVP form as he hit a homerun later in the game. Colorado’s win on Wednesday was their 15th in 16 games. The intensity of Wednesday’s afternoon game was nothing compared to Monday’s nail-biting, gut-wrenching, coronary-inducing wildcard playoff game against the division rival Padres.
For the Rockies, the 13-inning win was their first nationally televised game of the season, and what a game it turned out to be. Probably the best I have seen in recent memory. It was an all-out war on the diamond between the two clubs’ hitting during the first nine innings, and then a bullpen duel the last four. The surprising win was beautifully managed by Clint Hurdle who wasted no time in going to the bullpen in the fifth inning, relying on what Colorado has never had – go-to relief pitching. And that’s what kept the Rox in the game.
Let’s talk about that now-infamous 13th inning. Hurdle, in his only mistake of the night, brought in right-hander Jorge Julio at the top of the 13th. From the get go, Julio looked disastrous. And he was. In his first few pitches, as you probably saw, he was all over the place. He tried to settle down and stop overthrowing the ball, and it cost him. He sent a meat-pitch down the pipe that ended in a Padres’ two-run shot. You could hear a pin-drop in Coors field after that. What a downer.
But maybe that’s just what the Rockies needed to bust through their hitting logjam. Up until that point, both sides were swinging for the fence – hoping to be the walk-off hero of the evening. The Rockies were not swinging the bats like the Rockies during those tied innings.
When they dropped by two runs, they all knew what to do. Get base runners on and work them around the diamond. With their season on the line, they started making contact, fighting off pitches, and their hitting came through.
The hard part for the Rockies was actually getting into the playoffs. The NL West Division is currently the most competitive division in the majors. (I think Monday’s game proved that to the nation.) If Colorado can get by the Phillies (the second-hottest team in baseball, behind the Rox) and then by the Diamondbacks (also a NL West Division foe), the sky will be the limit, and we have already seen what they can do when they play AL teams, sweeping the Yanks and taking two of three from the Rouge Sox.
Let’s talk about the TBS coverage. Frankly, I can’t wait until the coverage moves to Murdoch’s Fox network in later rounds – and I never thought I would say that. The two flunkies who called the wildcard tiebreaker on Monday were absolutely terrible and had to have some payola in their pocket for talking up the Padres. Not once did they make a positive comment about the Rockies and it seemed evident that TBS was hoping to see the Padres win for the larger market. TBS hired bums for announcers and that is all the more reason for the Rockies to make it into later rounds – so we can watch a game with decent, unbiased national announcing.
Hopefully, as you read this the Rockies will be heading home 2-0 after Thursday’s game, awaiting game three on Saturday.
My recommendation: Put your anti-Pera prairie rat research on hold and sit down to watch this young, exciting team soar into the postseason.