Past & Present: Helton's finest hour

Not the walk-off in question, but you get the idea. - Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

As his career winds down, a retrospective on Todd Helton's greatest moment in a Rockies uniform.

It was six years ago yesterday, the Rockies entered a series-opening doubleheader with the Dodgers five games over .500 at 77-72, six games out of the NL West and five games behind San Diego for the Wild Card.

Jeff Francis earned his 16th win of the season in the opener, allowing just one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts to outduel Chad Billingsley. Offensively, Helton provided the game-winning RBI, driving in Cory Sullivan with a single in the sixth, extending the Rockies' lead to 2-0 in what would eventually be a 3-1 win.

The nightcap was a more eventful as David Wells and Mark Redman pitched about as well as you would expect David Wells and Mark Redman to pitch in 2007.

The Dodgers got on the board in the top of the first against Redman thanks to a single from Tony Abreu that brought home Juan Pierre and a two-run home run by Luis Gonzalez that gave LA a 3-0 lead.

The Rockies responded by batting around against Wells in the bottom of the first. Jamey Carroll led off with a single and scored on a double from Troy Tulowitzki, who scored on Matt Holliday's ensuing double. After Helton reached on a fielder's choice and Garrett Atkins singled, Ryan Spilborghs evened the score with a ground-rule double.

Both pitchers escaped the second unscathed, but the Dodgers re-gained the lead in the top of the third when Pierre singled and scored on Matt Kemp's double that gave the visitors a 4-3 advantage.

The Rockies took until the bottom of the fifth to answer. With one out, Tulowitzki singled and Holliday followed it up with his 33rd home run of the season, giving the Rockies a 5-4 lead.

Matt Herges relieved Redman on the mound in the top of the sixth and promptly gave up a game-tying home run to James Loney. He then proceeded to allow Ramon Martinez to single and walk Mike Lieberthan before being pulled in favor of Jeremy Affeldt, who got two outs before allowing a two-run triple to Abreu, giving the Dodgers a 7-5 lead. That lead was extended to 8-5 in the top of the eighth when Russell Martin homered off of Jorge Julio.

Los Angeles brought on Jonathan Broxton to pitch the bottom of the eighth, and he responded by giving up a single to Atkins and a two-run home run to Spilborghs. However, he did retire three straight pinch hitters to preserve the Dodgers' 8-7 lead.

Ryan Speier entered the game for the Rockies in the ninth and retired the side in order to maintain the one-run deficit.

With a one-run lead headed to the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers turned to their closer, Takashi Saito, who entered the game with 39 saves and a 1.21 ERA. It was Saito's sixth appearance against the Rockies in 2007, and he had earned the save in each of the previous five. Even worse, just two of the 16 previous Rockies hitters to face Saito in 2007 had reached base, both via walks. The Rockies were 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts against him on the season.

It looked like Saito's dominance of the Rockies would continue that night, as he needed just eight pitches to dispatch Omar Quintanilla and Tulowitzki to start the inning. Holliday finally broke Saito's spell on the Rockies with a sharp single to right on the first pitch he saw. That brought Helton to the plate as the winning run, and on a 1-2 count, this happened...

You know the rest, that was the third game in stretch that saw the Rockies win 21 of 22 contests on their way to the World Series. Without that home run from Helton, there is no Holliday slide in Game 163, no Eric Byrnes with his face in the dirt as the last out of the NLCS, none of it.

Helton may have had better seasons than 2007, but that home run against Saito is the defining moment in his storied career in a Rockies uniform.
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