Destiny's team? Rockies just might be
Storybook season could end with World Series championship
DENVER -- The thread running through recent World Series has been a fixation on droughts and curses. Well, get ready for a new fix, on destiny darlings and charms.The Colorado Rockies inspire that new theme. They will float into the 2007 Fall Classic on an unprecedented high, carried by timely hits, clutch pitches, defensive thievery and just enough inexplicable acts to sell the notion that they are blessed. "Like they were touched by the hand of God," is how one unbiased observer put it, even before the Rockies had blooped-and-blasted the D-backs into the offseason in Monday night's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. The Miracle on Blake Street will now go on hiatus. Eight days hence, on Oct. 24, the Rockies will return to the altar in either Cleveland or Boston -- whichever city dares the sacrilegious act of taking them on in the World Series. Todd Helton waited 1,578 Major League games to play postseason games and still doesn't know what it feels like to lose one. "I don't want to find out, either," the Rockies first baseman said late Monday night on the Coors Field infield, which had been turned into a presentation stage. It was close to the witching hour. Since Sept. 16, the Rockies' clock has been stuck on that time. Curses have been all the recent rage. In 2004, the Red Sox broke one 86 years old. In 2005, the White Sox ended one of 88 years. The current postseason began with the Cubs' 99-year-old curse on guard. Still in play is the Indians' 59-year-old World Series curse. Would that even have a shot against the Rockies' one-month-old charm? Justin Upton, the youngest member of the young Arizona Diamondbacks, warned the eventual American League champion with mature clarity:
"Any team that hot, going into a World Series, there's nothing you can say. You can say the AL's better or whatever, but when a team is that hot, there's nothing you can do."Since mid-September, they have been baseball's Microsoft, U.S. Steel and General Motors all rolled into one Big Rocky Machine. They've been playing Monopoly on the diamond. Carried into the playoffs by a this-can't-last tear, they've violated the law of averages to become the first team to enter the World Series with a 7-0 postseason record -- 8-0, if you wish to cut through semantics and include the Wild Card tiebreaker win over San Diego that got them through the door. Saying that no team in baseball history has done that is misleading praise, because only those since the 1995 debut of Division Series could try. But the fact that no team has ever sustained such a streak -- 21-1 now -- from the regular season into October is unqualified gospel. Chew on that for a while, Rockies. "Maybe we'll be able to digest it in the offseason," Matt Holliday said. "When you're in the middle of it, you just go out and try to win the next game. "When it's over, we might sit back and say, 'Man, that was quite a run.' And to be able to do it with these guys ... I feel blessed." Blessed is a neighbor of charmed, of course.
The spell held right through to the end of the D-backs. Pinch-hitter Seth Smith dropped a two-run double one foot to the right of the left-field foul line. A fumbled grounder gave the Rockies a fourth out. Kaz Matsui and Holliday turned it into four runs."Destiny? I sure hope so," said Troy Tulowitzki, the electric rookie shortstop. "I hope that remains the case to the end. Obviously, something is working." This is what the American League World Series representative -- which, it can be safely assumed, will be favored -- will have to deal with: The Rockies' run includes its share of blowouts, a trademark even in the down years of a team that could always hack, but it also includes a dozen one- and two-run wins by a team that feels and plays invincible. "It's amazing the streak they're on and how hot they are and the breaks that they're getting," Upton said. "It's unbelievable the way they've been playing. That streak is unbelievable. I don't know any other way to describe it."
Jeff Salazar, the Arizona outfielder, spent the NLCS dismissing the notion of Rockies kismet. To anyone who would listen, Salazar said, "Luck comes from preparation. You make your own luck."An admirable attitude, certainly. And a lot saner than trying to explain all the sorcery happening around him. "Mojo? I believe in confidence," Holliday said. "This group of guys has great chemistry, and I do believe in that. You can call it mojo, or whatever you want to call it. But it's working for us." Before the game, the scrawl on the greaseboard across the door from the Rockies' locker room read: NOT DONE.
Stats of the Rockies' Streak
|Runs per game||6.2|
|Opponents' batting average||.232|
|Last at-bat wins||6|
"I'd be lying if I said I never had any doubts," said Helton, reflecting mostly on the undistinguished start of a season in which the Rockies did not conquer .500 for keeps until their 103rd game. "But we believed in each other. And it got us a National League pennant."Another sign, inside the clubhouse, warns: "Well done is better than well said." Right fielder Brad Hawpe felt edgy once the Rockies had grabbed that 6-1 lead in the fourth. "What happens is, you start counting down outs," Hawpe said. "When it gets down to three, two, you start to feel it." After the game, "NOT" had been crossed out on the greaseboard. "The focus the last few years had been on what a bad team we were," Hawpe said. "To most of us who've been around, to come full circle to become the best in the National League ... that's what feels great." The biggest, most raucous cheer during the postgame presentation greeted honorary NL president Bill Giles' utterance of the words "World Series." During the past two days, inveterate Rockies fans melted at the sight of the design painted atop the grass in front of both dugouts. "NLCS ... on our field. The whole country will tune in and see that," the fans marveled. In a couple of weeks -- Denver will make its World Series debut with Game 3, on Oct. 27 -- the grass will read, "World Series." "This is crazy, and emotional, and exciting -- not only for ourselves, but for the fans and the whole city," said Helton, the senior Rockie. "I hope it feels right that I can be a part of this." In the wee hours, as Coors Field gradually emptied, fans approaching the gates stopped to scoop up empty cups, tattered scorebooks, broken broomsticks ... anything that could be tied to the night the Rockies made a World Series reservation. A couple of hours earlier, the same fans had chanted "MVP! MVP!" and had been heard. Upon accepting the NLCS MVP Trophy, Holliday looked at it long and hard and got an idea: "I don't deserve it. I got it, and that's great. But I wish I could share it with the guys," Holliday said. "Hey, maybe I'll get someone and cut it into 25 pieces. That's a thought." Then he ran off with his teammates to partake in the ritual of popping corks and spraying champagne. Before entering the clubhouse, they paused to don pairs of slippers from a row neatly lined up against the wall. We want to say they weren't glass slippers, but we can't be sure. Their World Series chariot awaits, and the Rockies are determined to remain the bellwethers of the October ball.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.