It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
For the Colorado Rockies, 2011 has been a tale of two seasons.
The Rockies began on a mile high, at 11-2, they enjoyed the best record in the MLB. The Rox were playing baseball as beautiful as Pike’s Peak on a clear Colorado day.
The Rockies’ starters sizzled, the bullpen was the best in the National League and Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton carried Colorado’s offense.
But after their best in baseball beginning, the Rockies went through the worst stretch in baseball, going 9-16 in their next 25 games leading up to a match up Monday night with the dreaded Giants.
At their high point, the Rockies led the NL West by four games over LA, they were five up on San Francisco, but when Monday’s mini two-game series against the Giants began, Colorado found themselves 1.5 games back of SF.
And to make matters worse for the Rox, they had to face Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ ace and arguably the best pitcher in baseball.
Things looked bleak in Denver Monday night, if they wanted a win that they needed in the worst way, they’d have to get some mile high magic.
That’s exactly what happened.
Colorado was being out-matched by Lincecum, they could only manage two hits through the first four innings and saw themselves down 1-0.
But things started clicking in the fifth inning; starting pitcher Clayton Mortensen walked, Dexter Fowler singled and Jonathan Herrera sacrificed to move the runners up to second and third. After Lincecum walked a patient Carlos Gonzalez, the stage was set for Tulo to carry the team with his big bat again. Tulowitzki singled sharply, Mortensen and Fowler scored and the Rockies took their first lead of the game, 2-1.
But the Giants are a good team, they came back with one swing of the bat, as Andres Torres went yard on Mortensen in the top of the sixth to tie the game at two. Not to be outdone, Nate Shierholtz hit a bomb into the bleachers as well, his a two-run jack job, and just like that the Rockies were again down, now 4-2.
This was an extremely pivotal point in the game.
At only 3-10 to that point in May, the Rockies could have rolled over and died, especially with Lincecum still on the mound.
But Colorado kept fighting in a game they knew they had to win.
Seth Smith started the super-sized sixth inning with a solo home run off of Lincecum to lead off, bringing the Rox back down only one run (4-3) while injecting life into the lineup.
Jose Lopez was next up, and the man that has struggled mightily at the plate a mile high came through with a single and Jose Morales reached when Lincecum couldn’t field the ball cleanly and toss it to second to throw Lopez out.
After an Alfredo Amezaga strikeout, Fowler came up and came through again with a single, sending Lopez home and tying the game up at four.
Jonathan Herrera kept the huge inning going with a line drive to the outfield that was bobbled by Andres Torres, but Fowler was too aggressive and took off to third, where Morales was, forcing Morales to run home and get thrown out easily at the dish.
Enter into the batter’s box Carlos Gonzalez, who had only been hitting .220 with RISP on the season, only .230 overall on the year. Colorado fans know CarGo though, he finished second for the batting title last year—it’s only a matter of time until he starts hitting the ball with consistency.
And with one giant swing of the bat, CarGo smashed the baseball deep into the Colorado night for a 430-foot bomb that gave the Rockies the 7-4 lead, their eventual margin of victory.
That sixth inning, in which the Rockies scored five runs, including two homers against one of the best pitchers in baseball was exactly what the doctor ordered in Denver—not only for that particular game, but for the season as well.
It was confidence-boosting inning, the bats came alive against one of the most live arms in the game and Colorado toppled the Giants.
It was a serendipitous and sweet way to win a game they desperately needed and it brought them back to within only half a game of San Francisco for the division, with a chance to take the out-right lead Tuesday afternoon.
Make no mistake about it, this was just another game in mid-May with four and a half months to go in the season, but this win was a signature victory of the season, one the Rockies will likely look back to as the year rolls on.
And if they can win the series Tuesday, it will prove even more crucial for Colorado as the Rockies will once again be in first place in the NL West.