Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
Todd Helton didn't have the only crucial two run home run against the Dodgers at Coors in September of 2007
Author's Note: Dear Purple Row, we have come upon the five year anniversary of the most significant moment in our franchise's history; the run to Rocktober. In honor of that stretch of games, and because the 2012 Rockies team has given us very little to get excited about, I have decided to document my experience of those few weeks from 2007, over these few weeks in 2012. Purple Row was in its infant stages during this time, so most of us have stories to tell that have never been told here. As I share my experiences of the Rocktober run, I invite you to share yours in the comments.
I'm holding out some hope that this entire series becomes a memorable reference point for team archivists.
- Rox Girl (September 19th, 2007)
During the first 14 years that the Rockies coexisted with the Dodgers, they failed to finish ahead of them all 14 times. Halfway through September of 2007, it appeared as though they were headed for a 15th as Los Angeles was two games ahead of Colorado when a late season four game series against the boys in blue began on September 18th. However, by the morning of the 19th, things were already looking better for Colorado in this regard. The Rockies had just swept a double header the day before on the back of Todd Helton's walk off home run against Takashi Saito, and suddenly a sweep didn't seem out of the question.
In order for them to get one step closer to doing this though, they would have to take down LA's ace in Brad Penny. The big righty was in the middle of his career year, entering this game with a 16-4 record and a 2.88 ERA. Perhaps the worst news for the Rockies however was the fact that they had already faced Penny three times this season and had lost all of those games. Momentum was certainly on Colorado's side after the finish to the previous night's game, but history most definitely wasn't.
The Rockies meanwhile were sending Josh Fogg to the mound. He hadn't earned the "Dragon Slayer" title yet, but he had already picked up wins when facing Brandon Webb (twice), Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina that season. It was something positive to focus on anyway in a pitching matchup that was a clear advantage to the Dodgers on paper.
All of these things were in the forefront of my mind as I sat down ready to listen to the first pitch at 8:30 eastern time. After what happened the night before, I made sure I got done whatever else I needed to do before this game. There would be no interruptions on this night. The idea of taking down the Dodgers seemed so sweet to me, regardless of where the Rockies season was going. My XM satellite radio was hooked up again, my computer was open the MLB's Gameday so I could track the box score when needed, and my adrenaline was as high as I could remember headed into a Rockies game.
The enthusiasm was quickly tempered however as Fogg surrendered a first inning run on an RBI single to James Loney. A thought that I had before the game even started was only stronger now. "We have to get to Brad Penny early" I said to myself. (Now I know that doesn't sound like much of a daunting task now, but in 2007, Penny was really, really good)
When the Rockies got their turn at the plate, the evening began with two frustrating at bats. First Cory Sullivan flew out to deep center field, and then Troy Tulowitzki worked a nine pitch at bat only to also fly out to Juan Pierre in deep center field. I was pretty angry; two well hit balls to center field and nothing to show for it. Then Matt Holliday stepped up to the plate. He also hit a ball to deep center field, only this time, it made it over the wall. (Tied ballgame at the end of 1)
In the bottom of the second inning, the Rockies got a gift. Yorvit Torrealba led off the frame and popped up the third pitch he saw in foul territory on the first base side. It should have been an easy out, but James Loney misplayed it and the ball fell to the ground. Torrealba was given new life, and he wasn't about to waste the opportunity. Two pitches later he launched just his 7th home run of the season out to right center field and gave the Rockies a 2-1 lead. "That's something good teams do" I thought to myself.
The clubs would spend the next few innings exchanging small punches. James Loney would tie the game with his second straight RBI single in the top of the third, only to see Matt Holliday give the Rockies the lead back in the bottom inning with his second straight solo home run. Cory Sullivan added to the lead with a two out RBI double that scored Yorvit Torrealba from second in the 4th, but James Loney tacked on yet another RBI in the 5th to cut the lead to 4-3. Despite that run, I was quite pleased overall at this point. Josh Fogg left the mound at the end of five innings with the lead. If the bullpen could hold on to it I thought, we were home free.
The bullpen couldn't hold on to it though as a disastrous 6thinning threatened to completely wreck the game for the Rockies. Ryan Speier entered for Josh Fogg and he immediately gave up a parade of hits; although most them weren't really his fault. First there was a little blooper that Russell Martin dunked into shallow right field over Helton's head, then there was a groundball that had eyes off the bat of Nomar Garciaparra and found its way into the outfield, and then there was a solid line drive from Tony Abreu which loaded the bases. However, the most rage inducing at bat of all came when Brad Penny followed that up with an infield single to score Martin. It was first ruled an error on Tulo who made a diving stop just to get to the ball but couldn't control it. The guys on the radio seemed to agree with it being changed to a hit as they believed most shortstops don't even get to that ball.
Speier was done, and despite only one ball being hit hard, he left the mound with the game tied at four, no outs, the top of LA's order coming up, and the bases still loaded. Jeremy Affeldt came in next and had to find any way possible to minimize the damage. First he got Juan Pierre to hit a grounder to second. Omar Quintanilla quickly fielded it and fired home in time for the first out. The tie was preserved for the moment. Then Matt Kemp hit a weak ground ball to short that Tulo had to charge to get. It was hit too softly for a double play, and Tulo took the only option he had which was to get the out a first. However, Tony Abreu came in the back door from third to give the Dodgers a 5-4 on the play.
After the old unintentional / intentional walk to James Loney with first base open (Loney already had RBIs in each of his first three at bats), Jeff Kent was the batter. At this moment was curled up in my chair, chin on my knees, begging for the last out of the inning. Then Kent lifted an 0-1 pitch to deep left center field. I closed my eyes as if that would help while listening to the call. That ball was going back, back, back.......and was caught by Cory Sullivan in deep left center field. I opened my eyes and took a huge exhale. Then I looked upwards and smiled. "Okay" I thought. Damage was done, but a complete disaster was averted.
The score remained 5-4 into the bottom of the 8thwhen Jonathan Broxton entered the game. The situation had now become clear for the Rockies, and it wasn't good. Even though they were only down by one and had six outs to work with, Takashi Saito was waiting in the wings to pitch the 9th, and while the Rockies were able to get to him the night before, the odds of getting to him and his 1.49 ERA two nights in a row were about as long as the Pacific Ocean is wide. Saito had thrown just 13 pitches when Helton walked him off the previous evening, and was coming off three days of rest before that. So it was obvious that he would be more than ready to go if called upon. The best way, and possibly only way to beat Saito in this one, was to keep him from ever entering the game.
Even that task would not be an easy one though as the Rockies were facing Broxton who himself had an ERA under 3.00. The first batter he faced was Garrett Atkins who promptly lined a ball into right center field for a single and then was replaced with a pinch runner in Kaz Matsui. "Oh boy" I thought. "A steal attempt is coming". Broxton thought the same as the first pitch he threw wasn't home, but instead to first. Perhaps Matsui really distracted Broxton in this spot, because he was unable to get either of his first two pitches to Brad Hawpe over for strikes. Then on the 2-0 pitch, Matsui took off. The pitch was ball three and the throw to second was not in time. "YES" I shouted out loud while making a small fist pump. "Now we're in business!!!"
With a count of 3-0 and Torrealba, Quintanilla, and the pitcher's spot due up next, I thought Broxton might just put Hawpe on base and play for the double play, but instead he continued to fight and worked the count back to 3-2. Then on the 6thpitch of the at bat, Hawpe lifted a fly ball to deep right field. I knew right away from the radio call that it had a chance, and boy did it ever. The ball sailed up and out over the right field wall for Colorado's 4thhome run of the game; and just like Helton's blast the night before, it turned a one run deficit into a one run lead.
Manny Corpas came in to pitch the bottom of the 9thand protect a 6-5 lead but even that didn't go completely without drama. Jeff Kent led off the inning with a line drive base hit and the pinch runner Wilson Valdez moved to second on a ground out. The Dodgers now had two shots a single that would tie the game again, but fortunately for the Rockies, they couldn't turn the tables. Russell Martin flew out to center for the second out and Nomar Garciaparra hit a weak groundball in the infield grass to short that Tulowitzki charged and fired to first seal the game.
I didn't know how, but the Rockies had won again and were suddenly ahead of the Dodgers in the standings. It wasn't quite as shocking as the night before, but this game was still a pretty amazing moment. I didn't know where this thing was going yet, but I sure knew this; I couldn't wait for the next game and a chance to sweep the Dodgers.