Rockies slide past Phillies
The Denver Post
PHILADELPHIA – Playoff games are really nervous breakdowns divided by innings. Handle the stress and leave with a win. Losers get ulcers.
So how do you quiet a rowdy throng of 46,528 fans? Closer Huston Street made them bite their tongues, securing the Rockies’ 5-4 victory over the Phillies to even the division series at one game apiece.
Red October meet Rocktober, the sequel.
Everything is up in the air now, a Mile High if you will, as the series returns to snowy Denver on Saturday for the first of two games.
“We have had a lot of must-win situations this season,” admitted outfielder Ryan Spilborghs. “But none like this.”
The victory broke the Rockies’ five-game postseason losing streak.
Once the game reached the ninth, odds tilted heavily in Colorado’s favor. The Rockies are now 84-1 when leading after the eighth. It didn’t come easily. Street walked nemesis Matt Stairs before hanging a breaking ball that Jimmy Rollins lined into right field. With runners at first and second and two out, manager Jim Tracy called in the infield and discussed strategy against Shane Victorino, who stepped into the box with three hits.
Victorino lined a 2-2 changeup into Clint Barmes’ glove, squashing the Phillies’ rally.
This game had a different vibe from the start.
It was more than two hours before the game when the rapping sound could be heard outside the indoor batting cage at Citizens Bank Park. If the Rockies were going to win, Tracy insisted from the calm of his office Thursday morning, “we need sensible at-bats.”
The Rockies exercised more patience with Cole Hamels, whose entire day was defined by hard labor. Looking nothing like the World Series MVP, Hamels grinded gears for five innings, tagged for four runs on seven hits. He then left the park to be with his wife, who had gone into labor.
Several Rockies admitted that their youth showed in Wednesday’s loss. They let good pitches go, and expanded the zone late against Cliff Lee. The Phillies’ win, as a result, was Phil-Lee.
Everything was different Thursday. Carlos Gonzalez led off with a single and scored in the first inning on Todd Helton’s 15-foot dribbler up the first-base line. Hamels should have let the ball roll foul, symbolizing his rugged outing. Gonzalez scored, giving the Rockies’ their first lead of the series.
Playoff baseball is about punishing mistakes. Wednesday, the Rockies had a one chance to break the open and Garrett Atkins misfired on a fat 2-0 changeup from Cliff Lee. In a similar circumstance Thursday, Yorvit Torrealba didn’t miss.
Hamels, who has been bothered by elbow problems this year and is 0-7 in day games, hung a sloppy curveball to Torrealba in the fourth inning. The catcher crushed it into the left-field seats, conjuring up memories of his home run against Livan Hernandez in the 2007 National League Championship Series. He has 10 RBIs in 12 playoff games with the Rockies.
Torrealba has been clutch this season, but not powerful. This was only his third home run this year and his first on the road since April 8 off Arizona’s Billy Buckner.
The Rockies inflated their lead to 4-0 after the first of two sacrifice flies from Dexter Fowler. Aaron Cook (five innings, three earned runs) went from premier sinker to a sinking feeling in the sixth. He left a mess for Jose Contreras to clean up. The ageless right-hander avoided a meltdown, but allowed two runs on Raul Ibanez’s single up the middle.
Colorado pushed its advantage to 5-3 in the after Spilborghs’ double and a sacrifice fly.
Tracy left himself open to second guessing in the eighth, turning the ball over to Rafael Betancourt with lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard waiting. Of course, the setup man retired them both before the right-handed Jayson Werth homered to center field. Exit Betancourt. Enter Franklin Morales, who retired Raul Ibanez on a hard groundball to second setting up Street’s first save.
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