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Let's go back and revisit one of the greatest finishes to a game in Rockies history.
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.
In baseball, as in life, you almost never know when something truly amazing and wonderful is about to take place. Actually, it's typical for things to work the other way. You hope for that three run home run with two on and two out late in the game, you hope for that big base hit when your team is down to its last strike, and you hope for that late season surge that might be able to push your mediocre ball club into the playoffs. More often than not though, these pleas to the sports gods fall on deaf ears, and the cruel baseball realities of inaction and disappointment are waiting to greet us. A fly ball to end the inning - A strikeout to end the game -Or a team, that just wasn't good enough. That's just baseball; it's designed to break your heart. Every once in a while though, it catches you off guard and captures it instead. It sure did for me on this day.
September 18th, 2007 was a perfect weather afternoon across southern New England. Sunshine, fresh air, low humidity, and that "just right" temperature that's only briefly found between the heat of late summer and chill of early autumn. I specifically remember this because at about the same time the Rockies began play in a double header against the Dodgers, I found myself walking across the Bryant campus on my way to a group project meeting for my Macroeconomics class.
The weather was so nice that I debated taking the long way over to the Unistructure (the building where most of Bryant University's classes are held) so I could enjoy it a little longer, but I decided against it as I wanted to check the updates on the game as quickly as possible. I was particularly interested to see how Jeff Francis would bounce back from his disastrous outing last time out in Phila delphia in which he went just 3.1 innings while allowing a season high eight runs on eight hits and four walks.
Moments later I found myself ensconced in the agreed meeting place (I believe I was a little early) watching a scoreless contest unfold pitch by pitch on MLB's Gameday. From what I could tell, Francis was looking good. He hadn't given up any runs through three innings anyway, so that was certainly a positive. At the same time though, the Rockies hadn't scored any runs for him yet either.
The first member of my group (Matt) arrived within minutes and he immediately recognized the website I was on.
"What game's on now?" He asked with interest. "Rockies and Dodgers" I said. "They're playing two today - No score in this one yet." His Mets cap made it easy to tell why he had at least some interest in this game.
We talked briefly about baseball before the others arrived. He vented his displeasure about the Mets losing four in a row (including three straight over the weekend to the Phillies which he was none too pleased about) and I tried to cheer him up a little by pointing out how much better the Mets playoff chances were than the Rockies at that point. (Yeah, he would remember that conversation in a couple of weeks)
I followed the rest of the game by checking updates on my computer when I had a free moment. The Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the 4th on Matt Holliday single, and a 2-0 lead in the 6th on another RBI single by Helton. Jeff Francis meanwhile accomplished something in this game that he had never done before, and has never done since in his career. He struck out ten. The only Dodger run of the game came in the 7th inning on a pinch hit solo home run off the bat of Olmedo Saenz - the last of his career - and the Rockies won a tidy game by a score of 3-1. "One down, one to go I thought."
Unfortunately, the meeting ran long (very long) and the majority of the group voted to go out and grab a late dinner together and continue working after that. The result was me missing the majority of the second game, but thankfully not all of it.
It wasn't until shortly after 11:00 pm that I was on my way back to my dorm. I walked quickly, both because the air had cooled off considerably and it was chilly, and because I wanted to catch the end of the double header. Upon arrival, I discovered all of furniture had been rearranged, and I was not a happy camper. I would have a conversation with my suitemates about this later, but in the short term I had a bigger problem. The XM satellite radio I used to listen to games was moved away from the window in the "remodel". This was a big issue because the walls of the building we were living in were made of thick concrete, making it difficult to pick up a signal away from the window. I frantically tried to get it to work for a couple of minutes and then realized it was a longer project that involved moving wires back into place and resetting a couple of things.
I was furious! My only option now was to hop back on the computer and try to follow the ending on Gameday. So I did, and before long I was starring down a situation in which the Rockies were down 8-7 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the 9th. The only good news was that the two best hitters were coming up in Holliday and Helton.
Holliday was first and immediately the screen flashed "In Play - No Outs".
/Small fist pump
"Please be a double or a triple" I said to myself. It would be so much easier to tie this game with a runner in scoring position.
No such luck. "Matt Holliday singles on a line drive to right field" appeared on the screen. "Better than nothing" I thought.
Todd Helton was next. "C'mon Todd" I said out loud, which garnered a glace from my roommate. "Just don't make an out. I don't care if it's a walk or a hit; just don't give them this last out."
The first pitch was taken for a strike, the second for a ball, and the third was fouled off.
I took a deep breath while starring at the screen with wide open eyes waiting on the next pitch. "C'mon Todd", I whispered to myself again.
"In Play Run(s)" the screen flashed. "YESSSSS!!!! - Tie game!!!" I screamed while fully picturing a patented Helton double into a gap or down the line somewhere. I stood up and pumped my fist. I was elated.
Then I turned back to my computer and saw it... "Todd Helton homers on a fly ball to deep right center field."
"ROCKIES WIN!!!" I yelled, as I leaped out of my chair. I couldn't believe it. Suddenly, nothing else mattered - Not my day, not all my stuff being moved around by my suitemates, not even the deficit the Rockies still faced the standings. The Rockies had just taken both ends up a double header against the Dodgers and were at the very least making things interesting. This article in particular really got my juices flowing for some reason; just reading made it feel great to be a Rockie fan.
We couldn't have known it at the time, but Rocktober was underway with a bang. The 2007 Rockies were about to put together one of the greatest, if not THE single greatest last second charge to a pennant that baseball has ever seen.