By the time Thursday night's 8-1 game between the Rockies and D'backs reached the ninth inning, there was only one piece of drama left to unfold. After a line out in the first inning and a pair of strike outs in the middle of the game, both Troy Tulowitzki's 29 game on base and 14 game hitting steak were on the line when he stepped into the box to lead off the final frame of the night.
After two pitches, it looked like both were in trouble. Arizona reliever Matt Stites quickly got ahead of Tulo 0-2; first with a fastball taken for a strike, and then with an 86 mph slider off the plate that Tulo chased out of the zone. Like most pitchers who get ahead of the superstar shortstop, Stites settled on a plan designed to get Tulo to whiff on a pitch down and away, and to mix things up, this time he went with fastball.
However, the plan wasn't executed. The 94 mph fastball that was supposed to be down and away sailed up and inside, and it was exactly the mistake Tulo was ready for. The pitch actually missed its intended location so far inside that it nearly jammed him, but when you're as good of a hitter as Troy Tulowitzki, you don't get jammed on pitches only a few inches inside.
Instead, Tulo got his hands inside the ball, showed off his incredible bat speed and strength, and dumped a soft line drive single into left to extend both streaks to 30 and 15 games respectively. Just like that, the fun continues for at least another day.
Both Tulo's 30 game on base streak and 15 game hitting streak are the longest active in baseball. Not only that, but these streaks also mark the longest of Tulo's career in both categories. In fact, over this 30 game period, Tulo is batting a robust .379 / .434 / .562 (.996 OPS). Not bad for a guy who's having a down offensive year by his standards.
Once again, Tulo is proving a joy to watch every time he takes the field in a Rockies uniform. Let's take a look back at how we got here:
1) May 26th: The streak begins with a single in the second inning of a 2-1 loss to the Reds on May 26th. At the time, people were asking what's wrong Tulo as his OPS dipped below .700. He's about to make them look silly.
2) May 27th: Tulo didn't get a hit the next day, but he did draw a walk in front of a Nolan Arenado three run home run.
3) May 29th: This is the game Tulo truly broke out of his early season slump. After spending his entire off day between the Cincinnati and Philly series working in the cage and trying to get his swing right, Tulo launched two home runs off Cole Hamels in his first two at bats back in action. He later added singles in the sixth and ninth innings to complete a 4-4 day. Everybody else on the field in this game for both the Rockies and Phillies combined for five hits.
4) May 30th: Only one hit in this game, but it was a double to lead off the eighth inning that led to an insurance run in a win.
5) June 1st: Tulo goes 2-4 with two singles in a blowout loss to the Dodgers
6) June 2nd: In a game that would later turn into a brutal nine inning loss, Tulo gave Rockies fans a temporary moment to rejoice when he hit a two run bomb to deep center field to give Colorado the lead and break what was a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning.
7) June 3rd: Tulo racked up an incredible .488 WPA in this game that turned into a revenge night after what happened 24 hours earlier. Tulo picked up an RBI single in the first to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead, smacked a three run homer in the fifth to put his team back ahead 4-2, and then drew a bases loaded in the ninth to plate Colorado's fifth run and push the eventual winning marker into scoring position.
8) June 5th: Tulo remained hot as the Marlins came to town, picking up three hits on an otherwise lackluster offensive night for the Rockies.
9) June 7th: Two more hits: A single in the fourth, and a double in a tied game in the eighth. Unfortunately, he was left stranded there.
10) June 8th: Everybody was hitting this night as the Rockies buried the Cardinals 11-3, but Tulo was a major part of two separate five run frames. First he got the scoring started with a three run homer in the first, and then he added another single in the middle of a long rally in the fourth. He also drew a walk later in the game.
11) June 9th: A first inning hit and a seventh inning intentional walk
12) June 11th: This the stretch of games where Tulo very nearly lost the streak. Here he went 1-4 with a single.
13) June 12th: 1-4 with a single.
14) June 13th: 1-4 with a single.
15) June 14th: No hits in this game (the only game preventing him from having a 28 game hitting streak), but he did walk twice.
16) June 15th: 1-4 with a single.
17) June 16th: 1-5 with a single. (This concludes a seven game stretch where Tulo didn't record a multi-hit effort or an extra base hit)
18) June 17th: He breaks both of those streaks here with a single and a double in his first two at bats.
19) June 18th: Two more hits here. This time both singles.
20) June 19th: 1-4 with a single, but he also had two hard hit outs.
21) June 21st: Two hits, and both provided RBI. First there was a single with LeMahieu on second in the third inning, and then there was another single with the bases loaded in the sixth.
22) June 23rd: Tulo was a little lucky in this game. First he had a ground ball that found a hole for a single in the middle of a five run rally in the fifth, and then he tacked on a pop fly single behind shortstop that fell in during the seventh.
23) June 24th: Back to strong performances. Here there was an RBI single in the first, and then a walk as pert of a three run fifth that turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead.
24) June 25th: In some ways this is the most impressive game in the streak. Tulo didn't start the game, but he was called on to pinch hit with the Rockies down 2-1 in the eighth. Not only did he get a hit, but he launched a game tying homer to the opposite field. The Rockies would end up batting around in the inning leading to Tulo reaching base a second time with an intentional walk.
After the game, Tulo told this to Purple Row's Drew Creasman:
"It's difficult to pinch hit. I have a lot of respect for those who do it so often. I'd much rather be out there playing every day and be in the flow of the game when I come up to bat."
25) June 26th: He wasn't quite as impressive as Nolan Arenado in this game (two home runs), but he was on base three times with two singles and a walk.
26) June 27th: 1-5 with and RBI single.
27) June 28th: 1-4 with a single.
28) June 29th: Three hits. All singles. The rest of the team had four hits combined.
29) June 30th: 1-4 with a single
30) July 2nd: And now we're back to where we started. Tulo's ninth inning single saves the streak at 30 games.
If you really want to nitpick something, you could point out that Tulo has just two extra base hits in his last 20 games (after picking up five home runs in his previous eight games), but at this point, I'm just going to enjoy watching this on base streak that's now gotten to a point where you want to tune into the game or check the box score just to see if he extended it. On nights like Thursday when the Rockies get blown out, it adds a little fun to the game.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the record is held by Ted Williams and I'd be surprised if any of us live to see it broken. He reached base in 84 straight games in 1949.