"I think we have a good team. I think we have talented guys and they're willing to lay it on the line."
And then it started. At the end, you could only watch in awe. In the bottom of the 13th inning, down by two runs with closer Trevor Hoffman on the mound for the Padres, the Rockies still managed to win their way into a wild-card playoff berth against the Phillies with a 9-8 victory.
The story will be told and re-told. To start the inning, Kaz Matsui banged a double to right-center off Hoffman and scored when rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki followed with a double of his own. Then Holliday, the Rockies' MVP candidate, clubbed a triple to rightfield that scored Tulowitzki. Then, after an intentional walk to Todd Helton, Jamey Carroll lofted a sacrifice fly to rightfield, with Holliday just beating the throw to the plate.
At the moment of the collision, there was a kind of suspended animation taking place. Plate umpire Tim McClelland made no initial call. Nearby, Holliday lay sprawled and not moving. Then it became clear that Padres catcher Michael Barrett did not hold on to the ball. That's when McClelland called Holliday safe. That's when Coors Field erupted.
"I don't know," said Holliday, whose chin now features a raw, bright red welt. "The umpire just called me safe. That's all I know, and then these guys were pounding on me. I don't even know.
"I was in a daze. I hit my chin pretty hard. I don't even know. But it feels all right. I'm better now."
And you can only shake your head and wonder.
What a rocket they are riding to Philadelphia.
They are not mirror images, the Phillies and the Colorado Rockies, but there is more than a passing resemblance. It is what Phils manager Charlie Manuel and Rockies manager Clint Hurdle talked about the last time they saw each other.
"You know what - I don't see things the way a lot of other people see them, I guess," Hurdle said.
"Charlie and I talked about some things when we were in town," he said. "Our teams have a lot of common fabric. Did [their winning the NL East] surprise me? It didn't surprise me the way they played. It surprised me that the Mets weren't able to do what they wanted to do, but it did not surprise me the way the Phillies finished and it doesn't surprise me that they're the champs . . .
"If you've followed both clubs, [it's] the injuries to the pitching staff, the fact that they're probably more known for their offense than anything else. But when push came to shove, they got enough pitching to win that division and enough bullpen help to win that division. Their offense didn't always score eight runs - it's been the same thing here - [and] they've pretty much had a core of players come together to produce."
Their talk was during the Sept. 10-13 series at Citizens Bank Park. The teams split that four-game series and, when it was over, each had 16 games remaining. The Phils trailed the Mets by 6 1/2 games in the National League East. The Rockies trailed the Padres in the NL wild-card standings by 2 1/2 games.
No one knew it at the time, but this was the pivot point for both teams. The Phils went 12-4 as the Mets imploded. The Rockies went on an outrageous 14-out-of-15 run, including last night.
In this game, they hammered Padres starter Jake Peavy for six runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Yorvit Torrealba and Helton homered for the Rockies. Going into the game, Peavy's earned run average was 2.36.
The Rockies held a 6-5 lead going to the eighth inning. The Padres tied the game there when Geoff Blum singled to center, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on a fly ball that was badly misplayed into a double by Holliday. It was the only time all night when something Holliday did failed to result in a resounding, ringing chant of "M-V-P, M-V-P."
Then began the interminable wait. When Hairston finally broke the tie with his two-run homer in the top of the 13th, the Rockies seemed doomed.
Then it happened. No one will forget.
On to Philadelphia.
"I believed in this team, even in some very lean times," Hurdle said. "I am not surprised by what this team has accomplished. This team started playing very unselfishly very early in the season. They complemented one another. They bonded well together. All they wanted to do was win. We just kept playing the next game, and playing the next game . . .
"I'm still that big blackboard guy: You put the blackboard up and we'll figure it out as we go along and see where it ends up. Let the guys draw the pictures and make the statements, and they have."
Last night, the statement was resounding. They sound a lot like the Phillies. *
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