"Rocktober" isn't a fluke, and the sooner the Arizona Diamondbacks realize that, the better their chances are of derailing the Rockies' express.
The Rockies have become the most magical story of the 2007 season by winning an astounding 17 of their last 18 games, including Saturday night's taut, 2-1 thriller over Philadelphia to wrap up the best-of-five Division Series in three games.
They're doing everything right -- pitching with authority and effectiveness, hitting in the clutch and playing solid defense. They haven't gone 17-1 by accident.
Yes, they've gotten a few breaks along the way. Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell took a bad route to Kaz Matsui's flyball Saturday and allowed it to get by him for a run-scoring triple, and one of the hits in the Rockies' winning rally was a single by Brad Hawpe that barely eluded Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.
But just as they have almost daily for the last three weeks, the Rockies capitalized. Jeff Baker's game-winning hit was the epitome of good hitting, a solid inside-out approach that pushed a clean base hit through the hole between first and second -- a hole made larger because Hawpe had to be held on first.
That's the way "Rocktober" has gone so far after the Rockies rocked the world in September to tie for the wild card. They won't go down easily in the National League Championship Series -- if they go down at all.
--2B Kaz Matsui, discarded by the Mets earlier in his career, was one of the stars of the Division Series for the Rockies. His grand slam was the key hit in Game 2, and he drove in the first run of Game 3 with a triple.
--1B Todd Helton, appearing in the playoffs for the first time in his career, had a triple in his first postseason at-bat and then went hitless in the remainder of the series.
--RHP Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 6 1/3 solid innings in Game 3. He allowed one run on three hits and threw 55 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
--C Yorvit Torrealba went 2-for-3 to finish at .500 for the series.
--Joseph and Jacob Coolbaugh, sons of Mike Coolbaugh, the minor league coach who was killed this summer when he was struck by a batted ball, threw out the ceremonial first pitches. The Rockies have voted to give Coolbaugh's family a full playoff share.
--If the Rockies keep advancing in the playoffs, get ready for some strange weather. The temperature dropped 15 degrees into the 50s just before the start of Saturday's game, and the wind gusted to 39 mph. The game was delayed a few minutes in the top of the second when the stadium's lights went out.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Runs allowed by the Rockies' bullpen in 11 2/3 innings in the Division Series.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They are on one of the most amazing streaks I have seen a team have at the end of the season." -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel on the Rockies' surge.
ANALYZING THE LINEUP:
1. 2B Kaz Matsui
2. SS Troy Tulowitzki
3. LF Matt Holliday
4. 1B Todd Helton
5. 3B Garrett Atkins
6. RF Brad Hawpe
7. CF Ryan Spilborghs
8. C Yorvit Torrealba
Comment: Tulowitzki, Holliday, Helton and Atkins didn't do a whole lot in the Division Series, but Matsui was hot and the Rockies got enough production at the right times to get the runs they needed. Their winning run Saturday was a good example -- three two-out singles.
ANALYZING THE ROTATION:
1. LHP Jeff Francis
2. LHP Franklin Morales
3. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
Comment: Jimenez was just as good in Game 3 as Francis was in the opener. This may be a no-name staff, but it's effective.
ANALYZING THE BULLPEN:
RH closer Manny Corpas
LHP Brian Fuentes
RHP Matt Herges
RHP Ryan Speier
RHP LaTroy Hawkins
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
Comment: Another strong effort Saturday -- 2 2/3 innings of shutdown pitching. Herges has resuscitated his career in Colorado.
OF Willy Taveras (strained right quadriceps) left the Sept. 8 game and hasn't played since. He was not on the roster for the Division Series.
RHP Jason Hirsh (fractured right fibula) went on the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8. He might be ready for the National League Championship Series.
RHP Elmer Dessens (strained left hamstring) left the Sept. 7 game. He threw a bullpen session Sept. 16 and pitched a simulated game Sept. 19. He has not pitched for the team since.
RHP Aaron Cook (strained rib cage muscle) went on the disabled list Aug. 15. He threw batting practice Aug. 28 and pitched for Class AAA Colorado Springs on Sept. 1. During that game, he aggravated the injury, and he was shut down for the regular season Sept. 2. He later was moved to the 60-day disabled list but still hopes to pitch in the postseason.
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