Colorado sweeps Philadelphia, will face Arizona
By Troy E. Renck
The Denver Post
Destiny is not halfway. Either you believe or you don't.
The Rockies' faith began three weeks ago and hasn't wavered. A September push has turned the Rockies' into Legends of the Fall, Colorado trumping the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Saturday night to advance to the National League Championship Series. They will face the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix beginning next Thursday. As the Rockies sprayed Domaine St. Michelle champagne and gulped Coors Light in the clubhouse, it felt more like a beginning than an end. It was a scene - Todd Helton drenched in celebration - that was 15 years in the making, made possible by 17 wins in their last 18 games.
"To be within one strike of being eliminated (with a San Diego win eight days ago), you start to think maybe it's our time," third baseman Garrett Atkins said. "It's things you just don't see. After a few more of those things keep happening you start thinking maybe we are destined for this." For a team that has toiled in obscurity - they have been on National TV more the past week than over the past two years - the final act naturally blended anonymity. After consecutive eighth-inning singles by Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe, seldom-used Jeff Baker wandered into the spotlight. He had only three pinch-hit RBIs in 46 bats. He survived a frightening beanball to the face, to scratch his way back onto the playoff roster. And With the Phillies sticking with left-hander J.C. Romero rather than going to closer Brett Myers, Baker delivered. On a 1-0 count, he lashed a 90-mph fastball into right field for the decisive run. "What do you think of that?" said Baker, known as the Bake Show to teammates.
Three outs, fireworks and a relatively tame on-field celebration later - hey it was their second in six days -- the Rockies had won their first playoff series ever. Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins insisted all season that Philadelphia was the team to beat. Now the Rockies are the dream to beat. "Baseball is all about confidence and our confidence continues to grow with each win," outfielder Brad Hawpe said. Saturday was not just another night on the calendar. It was circled in purple. The last time the Rockies hosted a playoff game Bill Clinton was president and John Elway was pining for a Super Bowl ring. Elway, as he has done for the Avalanche and Nuggets, provided the pregame boost on the Jumbotron, urging a win in what has become known has ROctober. "It was crazy. All those fans. I love them," pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez said. Pleasantly bizarre was perhaps a more apt description. Game-time temperature was allegedly 73 degrees. It dropped to 55 within 20 minutes, a wicked wind swirling in Coors Field that turned flyballs into floating obits for four innings.
Not long after the sellout crowd zipped its coats, the lights went out at 7:56 p.m. A 14-minute delay followed because of a computer malfunction, not a late electrical bill. Jimenez made the Phillies, the National Leagues highest scoring team, look as if they were swinging in the dark. He permitted just one hit through five innings, relying largely on his sinking fastball and big curve. Jimenez finally gave way in the seventh, a hanging 82-mph slider to Shane Victorino the outfielder deposited into the right-field seats the only blemish on this record. Problem was, he had no margin for error. Jamie Moyer played the ice to Jimenez's fire. He never topped 83 mph, stepping on and off the gas with his parachute changeup. Manager Clint Hurdle watched an hour of film on Moyer before the game, stressing the importance of patience with his hitters. The Rockies' first run came from their two best offensive players in this series - Yorvit Torrealba and Matsui. Torrealba singled in the fifth and scored on Matsui's triple that left fielder Pat Burrell took a poor angle on as it reached the fence. "It's always somebody new," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. It was proven as the Rockies bathed in champagne, smiling, laughing, and more than anything, wondering who's next. "I really thought we'd win," owner Dick Monfort said. "What about these guys? They are unbelievable. I am so happy for them."