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NL West: Rocks On, Colorado
October starts today. But October, for the Colorado Rockies, is both tantalizingly close and unfathomably far.
Somehow, the Rockies, who until Sunday hadn't been above third place in the NL West since April 7, who were 18-27 on May 21, who didn't climb out of last place for good until June 6, who as recently as two weeks ago were still in fourth ... somehow, those Rockies are one mere triumph (tantalizingly close) over 2007 NL Cy Young winner-to-be Jake Peavy (unfathomably far) from postseason play.
The NL West Bureau of SI.com's Fungoes has itself been intrigued by Colorado since the start of the season. "There's a wind blowing out of Denver -- one that perhaps should send a little shiver down the spines of the Rockies' National League West rivals," I wrote on April 2. "If (Garret) Atkins, (Todd) Helton, (Matt) Holliday and (Brad) Hawpe can just get their good games in sync with the pitchers, I can't help thinking that long-suffering Colorado, which actually found itself tied for first place on Independence Day last season, might finally follow through on its promise to bring us the most frigid October baseball we've ever seen."
That's not to say Colorado earned the faith on a consistent basis. In May, when Colorado was the only sub-.500 team in the division, major questions about the pitching emerged -- it appeared that the Rockies would in fact waste their offense.
But after posting a 3.67 team ERA over their next 31 games, by mid-June, the Rockies reinserted themselves into relevance. And though Colorado trailed the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly the entire season, those who weren't caught up in their past failures never really found an obvious moment to count them out.
"This is usually the time when the Colorado Rockies go back to shopping at Philosophies 'R' Us, trying to find a deal that will give them a chance of winning at high-altitude," I wrote on Aug. 13. "Next year typically starts every August, if not sooner.
"Not this year. The Rockies are five games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the National League West and only two behind the San Diego Padres (whom Colorado visits for a three-game series starting Tuesday) in the wild-card race."
While they've actually been in the race for most of the season, the flat-out wonder of the Rockies' playing more than 162 meaningful games for the first time since 1995 shouldn't be dismissed. On Sept. 17, the team's situation was essentially summed up as worse than desperate. But Colorado, as the rest of baseball has finally noticed by now, saved its best for last, winning 11 straight games and 13 out of its final 14 scheduled contests to forge the last-ditch tie with San Diego.
The Rockies made their run by sweeping six games from the Dodgers, who themselves were contenders until those final two weeks -- one could easily argue that Colorado was more the cause of the Dodgers' publicized clubhouse meltdown than anything exasperated second baseman Jeff Kent said. The Rockies made their run by sweeping three from the Padres in San Diego, including a Sept. 21 game in which Peavy pitched seven innings of one-run ball, only for Colorado to win in the 14th frame. The Rockies made their run by beating NL West champ Arizona Saturday and Sunday, when all the pressure in their Rocky Mountain world was coming down on them.
Colorado ultimately triumphed over needing 13 different starting pitchers in 2007, including Elmer Dessens, Denny Bautista, Byung-Hyun Kim and Tim Harikkala. The Rockies withstood the loss of Aaron Cook, Jason Hirsh and Rodrigo Lopez to season-ending injuries. They survived four consecutive blown saves in a week in late June by Brian Fuentes.
They got an underrated year from Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22 ERA), a reborn bullpen led by Manny Corpas (1.89 ERA), a defense that some would call exceptional and -- last but anything but least -- pretty much exactly the offense they were looking for from Atkins (after a slow start), Helton, Holliday and Hawpe. Holliday, in particular, became a late-emerging MVP candidate by hitting 12 homers and OPSing 1.257 in 112 September plate appearances.
And so, the Rockies get one more day of straddling the yawning gap between dreams and disappointment. Of course, it's asking too much to expect them to outlast Peavy again. But in a 2007 their fans won't soon forget, the Rockies are happily emboldened to ask away.
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Tulowitzki gets some love too for having a very good offensive year and, in his first year, becoming the best fielding SS in baseball...he was as key as anyone not named Holliday for the Rockies season...
There is alot of emphasis on the fact that Colorado beat Arizona on Sunday. The real fact of the matter is, that Arizona rested most of thier starters, and pulled thier scheduled starting pitcher on Sunday. With the 2nd and 3rd string players playing for the Diamondbacks, the Rockies were barley able to pull sunday's game out. So I am not sure how much momentum is left, they seemed pretty deflated after the loss on Friday.
How far sighted and hopeful.....wish i had read it earlier ........but its sweeter to read now, after the win. BTW...October is GREAT here....during the daylight hours.
What i find most curious about the Rockies is they are riding a momentum wave.....with no fear or fright.......almost like breathing air above sea level. I wonder if the 5 and 7 game series will allow them to patch work a pitching staff of 4.
Someone predicted a World Series of Colorado and Chicago......is this the time?
In the past week I couldn't decide on which team I'd rather see to win the Wild Card, the Phillies for their offense or the Padres for their pitching. I just took it for granted that the Mets would win the NL East and that the Rockies would come short.
Well, I still would have prefered to see the Padres but the Rockies deserve to be the Wild Card Team with a finish like theirs.
it may have been too much to ask to beat Peavy, but you know what they say............if you don't ask, the answer is always no. Go Rockies!!!!
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