This is a response to the fanpost "Five killer blown-lead losses that ruined Rox 2010 playoff chances", which is honestly a great read. But, as tough as those losses were for the Rockies, they only find themselves a handful (4) of games out of the wild card lead as of this moment. Why? Well, first of all, strong play at home, obviously. Koors Kanaveral has been very good to the Rockies this season. Relatedly, the Rox have also taken a large number of unexpected, come-from-behind, and/or thoroughly shocking wins this season.
Let's revisit the top 5 in chronological order....
June 23 vs. Boston
This game pitted Ubaldo and Lackey a day after a 2-1 pitchers duel. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that this one would be too given Ubaldo's then microscopic ERA and Lackey's pedigree. However, this was not the case. The Rockies jumped out to a seemingly comfortable 5-2 Ubaldo-day lead, lead by Miguel Olivo's 2 run blast. However, an apparently ailing Ubaldo couldn't get out of the 5th inning, punctuated by a Darnell McDonald HR and John Lackey double, who would later score the go-ahead run. If a Rockies fan told me they weren't extremely down by these developments, I would have been shocked. John Lackey continued to settle in and didn't give up another run in his day--followed by Daniel Bard who threw 1.1 perfect innings. With absolutely no signs of rallying, it seemed hopeless to avoid Ubaldo's first home loss.
Papelbon was brought into the 9th inning and missed with his first delivery on a hard fastball. He had converted 16/17 saves at that point. Second pitch....DESTROYED into the second deck. Absolutely mutilated no-doubt game-tying homer. Crowd goes crazy, WOW! Coming into the game, the Rockies were something like 0-29 when losing into the 9th inning, and here, they had a chance to take it. A Clint Barmes bleeder and Spilly bunt set the stages for Giambino.
"HIGH DRIVE RIGHT FIELD, DID HE GET IT? BALL GAME OVER! ROCKIES WIN IT!"
July 6th vs. St. Louis
The pitching match up seemingly favored Colorado on this day. Francis vs. Hawksworth at Coors seemed like a nice match up to attend--so I went down to Coors from Boulder after work and took my spot out on the left field concourse hoping Francis could rebound from his poor previous starts. Those dreams were quickly shattered. Felipe Lopez got the Redbirds off and running with a 2 run bomb, and they just kept adding on. CarGo did squeeze in a homerun, but after a Matt Holliday 3 run bomb (groan), the Rockies were down 9-2. That's right, 9-2. Wow.
The big theme in this game was missed opportunity for the first 8 innings. Coming off of a win in which the Rockies blew 3 bases loaded opportunities in extra innings before squeaking out a win on a Todd Helton sac-fly on July 4th, this was a HIGHLY disturbing trend. Bases left loaded in the 2nd and 3rd, 2 left on in the 4th, 5th and 6th, only squeezed a run in after having corners with no one out in the 7th, and left one in the 8th. It was a thoroughly frustrating game to watch. The Rockies actually had the same number of hits, and actually more base-runners than the Cardinals going into the 9th.
This is, however, when all hell broke loose.
Olivo single, Melmo single, Barmes walk (+ passed ball). 9-4. Ryan Franklin brought in--CDI 3 run bomb! And suddenly a 9-3 deficit was a 9-7 deficit. The Rockies still had 2 outs to work with as Seth Smith made the only out of the inning on a sharp line drive.
Then, Fowler smoked a double to right, and the Rockies had the tying run at the plate in Brad Hawpe, who bounced out controversially on an amazing pick from Albert. This brought up Carlos.
In a move simply to empty the bench, Tony LaRussa had brought Randy Winn into the game in right field in place of Jon Jay, who was in the game pinch hitting for Nick Stavinoha since the Rockies pulled Francis. Little did he know at the time that Randy Winn would play an important role in the Rockies comeback.
CarGo lined the 1-2 pitch to right. It was crushed, but had very good hang time. However, instead of make a move on the ball, Randy Winn was playing no-doubles, didn't move and played it on a bounce. Perhaps this was an effort to prevent the ball from getting behind him, but it is agreed by many that if he made a proper read on it. the ball may have been catch-able. 9-8. Now Giambi came to the plate representing the winning run. He hit one in the same direction, and Randy Winn VISIBLY slowed up while approaching the ball and let it short hop him and roll away. CarGo scored from first....9-9!!!!!!!! WOW.
After Olivo found another hole to put runners on the corners with two outs, Seth Smith came to the plate.
Huson: "All you have to do is fist one over the head of the infielders."
Goodman: "Here's the 2-2....this ball is crushed high and deep...THE ROCKIES HAVE DONE IT!"
Now, I'm not sure what possessed me to actually stay at that game, especially since even the usher in the section I was behind had left for home, but when that homerun left the ballpark, I absolutely lost it. That was...unreal. Though this is no longer the biggest comeback of the season, this is still my favorite win of the season and second only to the wild-card tiebreaker as far as games I've attended. 9 run 9th will live on in my mind forever.
July 7th vs. St. Louis
With Jaime Garcia toeing the rubber for St. Louis and Aaron Cook on the mound for the Rockies, this one looked like an unlikely win. So, feeling bad for my roommate, a Cardinals fan, about the previous night, I took him out to the ballpark to catch the game. And of course, the Cardinals jumped out to a 5-0 lead punctuated with a HR from a guy named Holliday, again. Big Country Brad Eldred, who was just brought up from the minors to replace DL-bound Todd Helton, had himself a ball game thought, and go the Rockies started on a 3 run rally in the 5th. After a terrible error by Tyler Greene, an Ian Stewart 2-RBI hit, and a Melvin Mora poke, the Rockies were back in it at 5-3. The teams traded runs in the 6th, and then Holliday hit another monster jack in the 7th to put the birds up 7-4.
Then the Rockies decided to rally again in the 8th. Country started off the rally again with a double off Mitch Boggs, then Trever Miller was brought into get Stewart....but walked him instead. Cardinals then called upon Jason Motte, who came in absolutely firing gas. At this point, my roommate and I were next to the bullpen, and I was raving about Motte's velocity in the bullpen. And sure enough, he came in throwing 98 mph rockets. Fowler was at the plate, and at the time, I was telling the roommate that Fowler had very little to almost no power. He worked the count full, then on a 98 mph fastball....absolutely DESTROYED one to right field! 422 feet it was recorded--and suddenly the game was tied at 7-7. Cardinals fans all over the park were in absolute shock. Boy was that sweep...I mean sweet! After Jonny and CarGo got on base, and Jonny to third on an error, Seth and Giambi struck out to the end the inning.
"High in the air...deep left field....way back....HE'S DONE IT AGAIN!"
July 9th vs. San Diego
MORE of these in the span of a week? Yep, and once again, I was in the ballpark. The Rockies were looking to sweep the Padres going into the all-star break to take a piece of the NL West lead, and called upon DLR, making his return to the rotation, to get them there. Jorge had a great first inning--good velocity, got some strikeouts. However, he didn't look ready to be back during the rest of his outing. Soon the Rockies were down 3-0 after an Adrian Gonzalez jack.
The theme of the offense was 5 run innings--the first of which came in the 3rd to give the Rockies a 5-3 lead. CarGo and Stew hit a two-run bomb each. However, the Padres continued to add on and ultimately knocked out Jorge by the 5th after knocking him around for 7 runs, 5 earned. Aaron Cunningham added to the lead in the 7th with a double, making it 8-5, setting the stage for another comeback.
After Fowler K'd off of then red-hot reliever Ryan Webb, the Rox got 3 consecutive singles to make it 8-6. Luke Gregerson was brought in, who at the time was actually struggling a little bit (for him, at least). He walked Olivo, setting the stage for Stew.
"This ball is hit a long way to left.....and it isssss.....GONE! GRAND. SLAM. IAN. STEWART!"
After good work from the bullpen, the Rockies won 10-8. What a week!
August 25 vs. Atlanta
The best comeback in team history. True, the 18-17 game in 2008 was also a 9 run comeback, but this was against a first place Braves team throwing Jair Jurrjens. Additionally, after a crippling loss for the Phillies the previous day, and a crippling loss for the Giants a little bit later, this win was ENORMOUS for the season's hopes.
Admittedly, I was not able to watch the middle innings (5 through 7) when the first 6 runs of the comeback occurred, but I was around for the beginning and the end.
First off, Esmil Rogers got flat out shellacked. No other way to put it. Then Manny Corpas got flat out plastered as well. 12 hits and 10 ERs later, the Rockies were down 10-1 in the 4th inning, the sole run coming off of a Seth Smith homer. A Stew sac fly made it 10-2, but this is when I had to leave for my thermodynamics lecture, which was in a basement floor with awful cell phone service.
When I got out of the class an hour later, I texted for the score....10-8 in the 8th. WHAT?!??!?!?
Later found out that Dexter Fowler hit a 2 run triple to drive in reliever Matt Reynolds (LOL!) and EYJ, then scored on an error on the same play to make it 10-5, then in the 6th, TODD FRIGGIN HELTON tripled, ultimately raising his OPS back over .700 which seemed impossible before, was driven in by Smeth, then Spilly made it 10-8 with a two run double driving in Smeth and Netta. Unbelievable! Interestingly, I later heard that famed documentarian Ken Burns, who is one of my heroes, was in the booth and he something to the effect of "it's never over in baseball." Boy was he right. Thanks for the mojo Ken!
After hurriedly taking a circuits quiz, I booked it home to catch the end of the game. I joined the action right after Iannetta's second walk of the day against 25 year old Jonny Venters, easily one of the best shut down relievers in the MLB this season, who had only given up 2 runs in the entire month. MelMo poked one up the middle, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. EYJ, then bounced out on a fielder's choice to 2nd on a play that almost got away from the Braves--Infante made a terrible feed while trying to turn a double play and Alex Gonzalez SAVED the game, at the time, for Atlanta with a diving catch and kick of the base. Now with two down, Fowler worked out a 4 pitch walk on 96 mph fastballs setting up the stage for Carlos Gonzalez, which is likely what Venters wanted--a lefty-lefty match up.
Carlos looked foolish on the first pitch, however, as he swung and missed. I'm still a little confused as to why he was swinging at the first pitch after a 4-pitch walk. Next pitch was also well outside, but CarGo hit a lazor into CF in front of Rick Ankiel! 10-10! WOW!
This set the stage for Troy Trevor Tulowitzki.
"Here's the 1-0....ground ball toward the hole....through for a base hit! ROCKIES TAKE THE LEAD! 11-10 COLORADO!"
Todd added an insurance run, and Matt Belisle, who came into the game in the 8th, finished off the Braves with the help of an amazing catch from Mr. Gonzalez going into the left field corner. So after 11 unanswered runs, the Rockies won 12-10! UNBELIEVABLE!
The unsung hero in this game was Matt Reynolds, who threw 3 shutout innings and score a run on the bases. Great job!
Honorable mention "big wins"
May 5 @ San Diego
May 12 vs. Philadelphia
June 19 vs. Milwaukee
For better or worse, this has been one ridiculously exciting season, and I think I speak for every Rockies fan in the world right now when I say that we hope for more of the same in Rocktember and Rocktober!