The most promising thing that happened in the Colorado Rockies sweep-clinching win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday did not happen on the playing field.
There were a few important developments in that department, though. Nolan Arenado continued his hot streak with a two-run home run in the first inning. Chris Rusin gave the Rockies another great game, in emergency relief this time, after starter Jordan Lyles re-aggravated a toe injury in the second inning. Rusin went 4 2/3 without giving up a run. Though he was bailed out by Brooks Brown in the seventh.
Brown threw his best 11 pitches of the season with the bases loaded and nobody out. With the game hanging in the balance, he came two pitches from throwing an immaculate inning. Brown regularly touched 95 with movement, marking up the strike zone with the precision of a world-renowned surgeon. He struck out the side.
My vocabulary becomes limited when attempting to describe an inning like the one Brown threw in the bottom of the seventh. My brain is pulling toward "stanky" ... so lets go with that.
Scott Oberg got his first career save (congratulations!) and has been excellent despite a few highly publicized poor outings. He has (h/t Thomas Wilson) held the opposition scoreless in 15/19 appearances this year including 13 of his last 14 with a 1.92 ERA. Scott Ohyeah.
But the most promising thing that happened in Sunday's sweep-clinching win over the Phillies did not happen on the playing field.
When DJ LeMahieu turned on an 0-1 off-speed pitch in the top of the fifth -- launching a two-run home run over the left-field fence -- the dugout camera caught an extended look of an elated Troy Tulowitzki, who was also the first man to greet LeMahieu out of the dugout despite not playing in the game himself:
This is not an unimportant development.
Much was made earlier this season during an 11-game losing streak about reports, rumors, and downright logical deductions surrounding the possibility that this could, would, or should be Tulowitzki's last year in Denver.
For my part, I felt the stories were over-hyped on account of mostly forgetting how much leverage the Rockies have considering Tulo's team-friendly contract. But that should not be mistaken for a belief that a disgruntled Tulo is no big deal.
Arenado has gotten an avalanche of well-deserved praise -- judging by All-Star voting he could use even more -- and it has been mostly the role players who have fueled this recent stretch of good play, but Tulowitzki remains, as he has been since 2007, the single most important factor toward the Rockies playing competitive baseball late into the season.
At his best, he is a singular force in the game, unmatched by any other. Ballplayers recognize that. Ballplayers respect that. When the big dog is happy, everyone is happy.
There is a line spoken by Brad Pitt's Billy Beane in the film Moneyball that applies to Troy Tulowitzki as much as anyone on the planet: "I hate losing. I hate losing even more than I want to win. And there is a difference."
Tulo loves LeMahieu and Arenado -- we saw that in his face today. And he, at times, loves being a Colorado Rockie, we saw that on his face today as well:
And that same competitive desire that drives his hatred of losing also drives him toward goals like being the greatest player in the history of a franchise and bringing winning to a place that desperately desires it.
But all of that can be overwhelmed by losing, and for a moment in May it almost certainly was. But it doesn't take much to remind him how much he loves winning ... here.
The more realistic that future seems -- the more he can picture a future of winning with these guys -- the less the story persists about his next destination and the more it turns back into building around him -- a far more advantageous position for the organization.
After LeMahieu's home-run in the fifth, the cameras caught an extended shot of this team coming together when they were supposed to be falling apart.