Just when we thought they were as good as dead, the Rockies have won eight of their last nine games, including a four-game sweep of the Astros, and their second series win this season at home against the dreaded Dodgers — still sole possessors of the best record in baseball.
The Rox inaugurated this young month of June with a bang: a 13-3 clobbering of starter Chris Capuano (who came into the game with a 7-1 record) and the Dodger bullpen, courtesy of three long balls off the bats of Rosario, Nelson, and Cuddyer. The Rox dropped the second game, 6-2, as Cargo’s incredible streak of 11 RBIs in seven games came to an end, stranding six runners in some critical situations. But the home team bounced back for the rubber game, getting crucial hits from Helton and Pacheco behind the brilliant pitching of Alex White to win, 3-2.
Along with White’s surprisingly stellar outing (6.2 IP, 2H, 2ER, 5BB, 2K) Dexter Fowler continued his inspiring play, more than making up for the temporary loss of Tulo. As my colleague Zach Cohn pointed out, over the past eight games (before Monday’s game in AZ) Dex has been nothing short of sensational: 18 for 28 (.642) with 14 runs, 3 HR, 9 RBI, and 3 SB. He now sports a formidable triple slash line of .298/.400/.582.
By the way, that .400 on-base percentage and .582 slugging percentage are both good enough to place him in the top 10 among all hitters in baseball (his .982 OPS is bested only by Cargo’s 1.031 among Rox players).
Or perhaps it all started on Dexter Fowler t-shirt night, with one flick of the bat….
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Reaching the half-way point of our cross-country tour, we rolled right along from the Bay Area and arrived home to Denver in time for the opener of a nine game home stand. Although we only had the chance to catch two games before we once again hit the road, we were lucky enough to witness two of the best Rockies games played so far in this young season.
GAME 1 April 27 Rockies 18, Mets 9 Coors Field
The first game happened to be a good old-fashioned Coors Field slugfest that saw a combined 27 runs, 36 hits, and 7 errors between the two teams. Nothing could’ve been further from the extra-inning pitchers duel we saw in San Francisco a few days prior. The bottom of the fifth inning alone packed in 11 runs, 7 hits, 3 walks, 3 errors, a HBP, and two homers.
Although high-scoring affairs like this one might be anathema to some stuffy baseball purists out there, those of us who grew up with the Blake Street Bombers have learned to appreciate such hitting clinics put on by the home team. Premium quality baseball it might not be (especially when the Mets commit six errors, including a ridiculous Little League moment at the end of this play), but it most certainly is entertaining.
Especially for Rockies fans who might not otherwise be very interested in baseball.
Lots of Colorado fans seem to fall into this category. And I suppose my family is among them. My mom once claimed to be the founder of WAS (Women Against Sports) and my dad — after years of coaching little league, playing softball, and following baseball his entire life — turned his back on the game after the shameful strike of 1994, never to embrace it fully again. And although my sisters in Seattle and D.C. root for the Rockies when (and if) they come to town, they’re not particularly interested in baseball as such. But on this particular night, the Rockies were giving away Dexter Fowler t-shirt jerseys and that was enough to get mom and dad to the ballpark.
One of the great moments of the season came in the bottom of the fifth when Dexter Fowler stepped up with runners at 2nd and 3rd, as tens of thousands of fans cheered loudly, waving or wearing their free, purple no.24 jerseys, in a one-run ballgame. Fowler blasts a 1-1 curve ball to deep right field, and does that home run bat-flick for what I think must’ve been the first time in his career, watching it soar into the seats as he walks into his home run glide around the bases.
Fowler might not look like a slugger — with his gangly limbs and long, almost lanky legs — but on that majestic homer he sure acted like one. For those few wonderful seconds, as he rounded the bases to the roar of the crowd all wearing his jersey, he must’ve felt like the biggest Blake Street Bomber of them all.
Ramon Hernandez added a grand slam in the 7th inning to make it an overwhelming night of offense. Our old friend, and longtime Rockies fan, Riley Selleck, had been to dozens and dozens of games, yet never witnessed a grand slam until then. Other scorekeeping notables included a catcher’s interference, a runner getting hit by a batted ball, and a player hitting for the cycle in a losing effort.
In fact, the word of the game was “cycle”. Our friends Trey and Steph rode their bicycles to the ballpark to meet us for the free t-shirts, bringing news that Jeremy Guthrie had been injured while riding his bicycle to work. Eventually, Mets outfielder Scott Hairston ended up hitting for the cycle, the Rockies cycled through their entire lineup in the 5th inning, each team cycled through six pitchers, and I found a free scorecard in a recycling bin.
As it turned out, the blowout victory put the Rox at 10-9, the last time they were above .500 this season.
The only bit of worrying news came when starter Drew Pomeranz exited the game after only four innings, with left forearm tightness. He would be back, however, for his next start against the Dodgers in a most memorable game.
GAME 2 May 2 Rockies 8, Dodgers 5 Coors Field
And so we arrive full-circle, Rockies vs. Dodgers at Coors Field, but this time turning to the initial three-game series between the two rivals this season, and the rubber game that always seems so pivotal.
This time, the Rox, behind Drew Pomeranz, would have to face the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, and a Dodgers team that had a major league best 17-7 record.
Anne and I took the #38 bus to Coors Field an hour early to watch Pomeranz and Kershaw warm up in the bullpen, back-to-back.
I seem to forget how beautiful our stadium is sometimes. The bullpen area and center field forest pond are full of colorful Colorado characteristics like evergreen trees, boulders, and red clay dirt. The view of the Rocky Mountains from the third deck on the right field line is breathtaking.
And best of all, the sun is almost always shining for these fantastic summer day games.
Curious as to why this year in particular is being advertised as the Year of the Fan, we decided to check out the Gate A section full of fan-related games and such:
Pro Batter and Pro Batter Jr.
Rockies Fan Club
Fans are required to buy raffle tickets (10 for $8) in order to participate in these various games and activities. Since this was the last time we’d be at Coors Field this season, we figured what the hell, and bought tickets to the Fantasy Broadcast booth. It was actually really fun.
The plexiglass booth provides enough privacy for two or three people to sit comfortably at the desk equipped with two microphones and a stack of game notes. To broadcast half an inning costs 10 tickets. The booth is located in right-center field (next to section 105) and although the view of the field is quite compact, the monitor in front of you basically displays the TV feed of the game which you can switch to a high-angle shot of yourself announcing in the booth.
The whole thing is recorded and burned onto a DVD which you get at the end of the inning for no additional charge.
Since the Rockies TV broadcasters are generally disdained we also figured this might be the perfect chance to flash our skills in an effort to get a job announcing games for the Rox next season.
Nothing really happened in the top or bottom half of the 1st inning, so we made up for the lack of action with witty remarks and lashings of the tongue. Little did we know, this would turn out to be a legendary game.
From our bleacher seats in the left field pavilion, we watched a pitcher’s duel for 7 innings; Pomeranz was matching Kershaw every step of the way (even if he needed 30 more pitches to do so). Cargo tied the score at 1-1 with a solo shot in the 4th. Then Rosario put us ahead with a solo blast of his own in the 5th. Fowler came up big with a game-tying RBI in the 8th, and Cargo stole the show by hitting his second homer of the game off Kershaw — an absolute rope to right-center — marking the first time in the young Dodger ace’s career in which he gave up three homers in a game.
The back and forth contest was a real nail-biter. The best player in baseball, at the time, Matt Kemp, was intentionally walked twice. The second time, in the 9th inning, ended up backfiring on the Rox. With two outs, Kemp aggressively went first to home on a base hit and beat the relay throw from the strongest infield arm in baseball. One can see on the replay that Tulo rushed the throw, the result of excellent baserunning by a pretty darn good player.
Of course, Giambi added the encore everybody sensed was coming, and the Rox got what seemed at the time to be a huge series win against the dreaded Dodgers, 8-5 in the bottom of the ninth. Rockies fans everywhere felt this was the beginning of a winning streak.
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Alas, the Rockies would proceed to go 5-18 and become the worst team in baseball, for a brief time, before righting the ship on this most recent home stretch.
So here we are now in the first days of June, riding the wave of another series win against the Dodgers as the chants of “Beat L.A., Beat L.A.” echo through the corridors of Coors Field.
But the question remains: can the Rox figure out a way to sustain this momentum while on the road (now in Arizona), before interleague play returns to Coors Field in the form of Albert Pujols and that other team from L.A.?
Whaddya think, Rockies fans?
For the first seven weeks of the season, Kevin Kroh traveled across the country — from big city stadiums, to small town sandlots — chattering with baseball fans all over the nation on everything from the cold, hard facts of the stat sheet, to the utopian fantasies of community ownership models. With his trusty audio recorder and baseball-loving girlfriend at his side, he’ll be posting unique perspectives from around the horn, and bringing it all back home to the Rockies in this year’s “Pro Baseball Partnership Tour: cross-country conversations in the Year of the Fan.”