A look at how the Colorado Rockies went from playoff afterthoughts to NL champions and winners of 21 of 22 games in exactly one month: Sept. 15 at Denver: Marlins 10, Rockies 2
The Rockies lose their second straight game to the sub-.500 Marlins to start a pivotal homestand. Inexperienced pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Juan Morillo combine to allow nine runs in 3 2-3 innings and the Rockies fall to 76-72. That puts them 4½ games behind the San Diego Padres for the wild-card lead, 6½ games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Sept. 16 at Denver: Rockies 13, Marlins 0
Maybe it’s too little, too late, but the Rockies pound out 20 hits, including four by Matt Holliday, and rookie Franklin Morales throws six scoreless innings. “Time is running out and we can’t afford losses,” Todd Helton says, after hitting his 300th career home run. “We’re going to have to catch some breaks and need to get some help.”
Sept. 17: Off day
The Padres beat the Pirates 3-0 to take a five-game lead in the wild-card race. Colorado has just 13 games left.
Sept. 18 at Denver: Rockies 3, Dodgers 1, and Rockies 9, Dodgers 8
Jeff Francis strikes out a career-high 10 in the opener of the doubleheader. In the nightcap, the Rockies are down to their last strike when Todd Helton hits a no-doubt, two-run homer off Dodgers closer Takashi Saito to give Colorado a stunning victory. After the sweep, the Rockies and Dodgers are both 4½ games behind San Diego. “I think our playoff chances went out today in Coors Field,” Dodgers manager Grady Little says.
Sept. 19 at Denver: Rockies 6, Dodgers 5
Another night, another curtain call. Brad Hawpe hits a two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Rockies rally to beat the despairing Dodgers, passing them in the wild-card race. The Rockies still believe there’s time to sneak into the postseason. “Why not?” Hawpe says. “We’re still within good striking distance.”
Sept. 20 at Denver: Rockies 9, Dodgers 4
Colorado finishes an improbable sweep of Los Angeles, getting home runs from Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki. With San Diego winning its seventh straight, 6-3 over Pittsburgh, the Rockies remain 4½ back in the wild-card race.
Sept. 21 at San Diego: Rockies 2, Padres 1, 14 innings
Brad Hawpe hits a two-out home run in the 14th and the Rockies outlast the Padres. Manny Corpas blows his first save chance since taking over as closer, giving up a solo homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the ninth that forces extra innings. Rookie pitcher Franklin Morales more than matches Cy Young Award favorite Jake Peavy, throwing six innings of one-hit ball for Colorado, which climbs within 3½ games of San Diego.
Sept. 22 at San Diego: Rockies 6, Padres 2
Make that six in a row for the Rockies, who get four hits and two RBIs from Brad Hawpe and 4 2-3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief from their bullpen to move to 2½ games behind the Padres.
The wild-card race turns absolutely bizarre. Milton Bradley tears a knee ligament when Padres manager Bud Black spins him to the ground to keep him from going after first base umpire Mike Winters. Bradley claims Winters baited him, and Winters is later suspended for the rest of the season. Bradley is out for the year. The Rockies climb to 1½ back with the win, which finishes off a sweep of the Padres.
Sept. 24: Off day
The Padres lose 9-4 in San Francisco, allowing the Rockies to climb within a game in the wild-card chase.
Sept. 25 at Los Angeles: Rockies 9, Dodgers 7
Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki homers to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs, and the Rockies eliminate the Dodgers from postseason contention in front of their home fans. The Rockies remain a game behind the Padres.
Sept. 26 at Los Angeles: Rockies 2, Dodgers 0
Josh Fogg slays a dragon, outpitching Derek Lowe with 6 2-3 innings of five-hit ball, and the Rockies set a franchise record with their 10th straight win. Colorado remains tied with Philadelphia, one game behind San Diego in the wild-card race. The Rockies move within two games of NL West-leading Arizona with four to play. “The goal we set coming out of spring training was to win the division,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve never turned our back on that.”
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