Streaking Rockies ride wave into first World Series
Posted: Tuesday October 16, 2007 3:52AM; Updated: Tuesday October 16, 2007 10:26AM
DENVER -- The broom came sailing from somewhere in the outfield decks at Coors Field, flying out of the heart of a mile-high throng of delirium-struck baseball fans. It stuck, handle first, into the outfield grass in right-center field, standing there as a kind of inverted exclamation point to a statement that the hometown Rockies made loudly and oh-so-clearly here Monday night.
The Rockies are going to the World Series. Believe it, world. Believe every single bit of it.
Colorado's Rockies rolled into the first World Series in their 15-year history with a 6-4 win over the Diamondbacks, sweeping the National League Championship Series and adding another notch to an historic string of wins that has become both unbelievable and undeniable. The Rockies have won 10 straight now, seven of them in the postseason. They are the only team in the wild-card era to win their first seven postseason games, and only the second team in Major League history to do so. (The Reds won all seven games they played back in 1976, when only two postseason rounds existed.)
The Rox have won 21 of their last 22, too, something that's never been done at this time of year. The out-of-nowhere streak has pushed the city into a virtual Rockies frenzy -- more than 50,000 people packed Coors Field on Monday -- sent baseball historians scurrying into the stacks and stunned everyone around baseball.
The Diamondbacks, who won more games than any other team in the NL and came into this series on a roll of their own after sweeping the Cubs in the NL Division Series, just happen to be the latest group of one-time non-believers to slink away from Denver shaking their heads.
"I don't know what they got," Arizona ace Brandon Webb said in a stunned clubhouse Monday, "but they got something."
The Rockies have both blooped and blasted their way through this last magical month, literally sweeping through the NL like it was ... well, the National League. They've pitched superbly the whole time, from their cobbled together rotation through a deceptively good bullpen, and played nearly flawless defense, the kind that helped earn them the league's wild card in the first place.
Still, for all they've done in the past month, for all the doubters they've converted on this side of the league dividing line, the Rockies will continue to swat at some nagging questions before the start of the World Series next Wednesday.
Does beating up on the bedraggled NL really count? Can the Rockies -- as hot as they are, as good as they might be, as lucky at times as they undoubtedly are -- hang with the mighty American League?
Can the Rox, underdogs simply by dint of the league in which they play, beat the Indians or the Red Sox?
"This is unbelievable. Indescribable," said retired third baseman Vinny Castilla, who was with the Rox the only other time they played in the postseason, in 1995. He now serves as a special assistant to GM Dan O'Dowd. "That's OK. We'll take that, man. We'll be the underdogs again."
The Rockies have some legitimate reasons to think that they can compete with the big, bad AL winner. In their seven postseason wins over the Diamondbacks and Phillies, Colorado pitchers had a 2.08 ERA. The Rockies have a lineup that scored almost 5.3 runs a game in the regular season, second in the league. Then, there's that defense.
And the Rockies are -- I think this has been said, but it bears repeating -- unbelievably, unconsciously, ridiculously hot. Sometimes, in fact, they can't even believe how hot they are. That is, when they allow themselves a chance to reflect on it at all.
"I'm just enjoying it, going with the ride," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the anchor of the best-fielding team in baseball, said. "I try not to think about it."
Monday night's win was as typical as they come in this atypical month, which started Sept. 16 with a 13-0 win over the Marlins, the first in what would become an 11-game winning streak. They lost one game, to the Diamondbacks on Sept. 28. And that's it.
In Game 4 Monday, the Rockies trailed, 1-0, going into their half of the fourth inning when manager Clint Hurdle decided to pull his starter and pinch-hit lefty-swinging Seth Smith with two men on and two outs. Arizona right-hander Micah Owings, ahead in the count 1-2, jammed him with an 88 mph slider that Smith fought off the other way, dropping a bloop double two feet off the left field line that scored two runs.
Lucky? Sure. But a little luck in a streak like this one is not only inevitable -- given how long this thing's been stretched out -- it's absolutely necessary.
"That was a tough one to swallow," admitted Arizona manager Bob Melvin. "On that one, you're thinking 'What do we have to do?'"
The next batter reached on an error, the next hitter smacked a run-scoring single up the middle and then Matt Holliday, the NLCS MVP, crushed a 452-foot, three-run homer to dead-away center field to put the game out of reach.
That's the way, as they say around here, the Rockies roll.
Now, Colorado has eight days before facing the Indians or Red Sox, which should be enough time to shake off the aftereffects of a rip-roaring champagne party that the Rox had in the clubhouse after their win. The Rockies will hear a lot in the next week-plus about how they beat up on a defenseless league, how they rate as the best of the minors, how they are nothing more than boys among boys.
And then they'll take their streak to Boston, or to Cleveland, and they'll see whether it's all as unbelievable as it seems, or whether it's something else entirely.
"I just think it's destiny. That's what I think," Castilla said. "I mean, for us to just be in the playoffs. It's destiny, man."