By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
October 15, 2007
DENVER (AP) -- The Colorado Rockies were one strike away from not even making the playoffs. Now, they're one win away from their first World Series.
With a cold rain falling, Josh Fogg shut down Arizona's bats in his first postseason start and Yorvit Torrealba hit a tiebreaking three-run homer to fuel the Rockies' 4-1 victory Sunday night in Game 3 of the NL championship series.
MVP hopeful Matt Holliday also homered as the wild-card Rockies took a 3-0 lead with their 20th win in 21 games, a streak that has taken Colorado from afterthoughts to the buzz of baseball.
"Tomorrow we're going to come here just like we have been doing," Torrealba said. "We're going to relax, watch TV, and when it's time to play, we're going to try to get one more win."
And not think about their first World Series until then.
"No, no, no, no, I'm not thinking about that," insisted the face of the franchise, Todd Helton, whose decade of disappointment has disappeared in one of the most incredible winning streaks in baseball history.
"We're still focused on the task at hand."
About two weeks ago, the Rockies had no control over whether they'd even make the playoffs.
The San Diego Padres could've eliminated Colorado on the final Saturday of the regular season. But Milwaukee's Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a tying, two-out, two-strike triple off San Diego's Trevor Hoffman that gave the Rockies a chance.
The next day, Colorado caught the Padres. The night after that, the Rockies beat San Diego in a 13-inning, NL wild-card tiebreaker.
Since then, the Rockies have been unbeatable.
Arizona, which has scored just four runs in the series so far, must win four straight times against a Rockies team that is the first since the 1935 Chicago Cubs to win at least 20 of 21 games after Sept. 1, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
They haven't looked back, sweeping past Philadelphia and taking the first three against Arizona.
They will try to sweep the Diamondbacks on Monday night when Franklin Morales faces Arizona's Micah Owings in a matchup of rookies who have never faced each other's teams.
The Rockies, who this season set a major league record for fielding percentage, turned three double plays in the first three innings.
"When you can take the sting out of them early ... I think it helped our confidence," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to overcome a 3-0 hole to win a best-of-seven postseason series. Boston did it in the ALCS against the Yankees.
"Until they win four and we can't win four at once. We've just got to get one on the board first," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. "That's what we've been trying to do all year."
Torrealba connected in the sixth inning, three pitches after watching one of Livan Hernandez's trademark "eephus" offerings poke across the plate for a strike -- so slow it didn't register on the stadium scoreboard radar.
Hernandez said he knew better than to throw an inside fastball to his buddy that he played with in San Francisco, but he had used all the pitches in his bag of tricks.
"It's the last pitch I want to throw," Hernandez said. "Yorvit is one of my best friends in baseball and I know he can handle the fastball inside very good. It's just the situation. I'd thrown everything: foul, foul. I know he can hit the fastball inside. Trust me, and he hit it out."
After a 60 mph bender that he fought off for a foul, Torrealba hit a fastball 402 feet into the left-field seats, then raced around the bases pumping his fists and hooting and hollering.
"He worked me really well all season long. He tried to throw me a fastball inside, and it stayed over the plate and I hit it really good," Torrealba said.
Torrealba, who is 8-for-21 in the playoffs with seven RBIs, nearly had a home run in the third when he doubled off the center-field wall. The stadium's pyrotechnics operator thought it was gone and set off some fireworks as Torrealba pulled into second base.
The real fireworks came three innings later from Torrealba, who had just eight home runs in the regular season.
"One pitch, one bad pitch all night," lamented D-backs catcher Miguel Montero.
"That's kind of been the theme of this series so far. They've gotten that one big hit where we haven't," Melvin said.
Holliday's homer in the first inning was the first by either team in this series. Hernandez fell to 7-3 lifetime in the playoffs, allowing four earned runs on eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Fogg, who won Game 2 of the division series over Philadelphia in relief of Morales, scattered seven hits, including rookie Mark Reynolds' solo home run in the fourth, in six stellar innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three.
With the gametime temperature hovering at 43 degrees -- and quickly dipping into the 30s -- and a light drizzle falling, the crowd showed up wearing fleece jackets, gloves, wool caps and scarves, looking like they were headed for the ski slopes west of Denver, where it was indeed snowing.
Even Montero wore a ski cap beneath his catcher's helmet.
It was only fitting that the Rockies sent a pitcher named Fogg to the mound to deal with the elements in the first NLCS game in Denver in franchise history. The Rockies have lost just once since Sept. 16, and this win at Coors Field was their ninth straight victory overall.
A cool drizzle fell all day and continued into the evening. The grounds crew didn't even remove the tarp until an hour before the game. In between innings, they brought out bags of dry dirt to keep the infield from getting too slick. In the fifth, the crews poured a wheelbarrow full of "diamond dust" around home plate.
The TBS broadcast mentioned how the grounds crew ran out of the quick-dry dirt and started calling around. They said they found some in a warehouse and showed a truck rolling up to the stadium with extra bags.
Holliday, with only two other hits in this series, neither of which left the infield, put Colorado ahead 1-0 in the first inning with a high drive. Left fielder Eric Byrnes crashed into the wall chasing the ball, much to the delight of the crowd that razzed him every chance they got.
Forty-eight hours earlier, Byrnes suggested the Rockies were a lucky bunch who had actually been outplayed by the Diamondbacks in this series.
Although that drew the ire of the fans, Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said there was some truth to Byrnes' comments "and they can outplay us all four games. If we end up winning the series, I'll be fine with that."
Reynolds hit a 422-foot solo shot in the fourth to tie it at 1-all, sending a first-pitch breaking ball from Fogg halfway up into the left-field seats to quiet the sellout crowd of 50,137.
Jeremy Affeldt threw the seventh, Brian Fuentes the eighth and Manny Corpas the ninth for his fourth save of the playoffs. In Game 2 at Arizona, Corpas blew a save chance in the ninth inning.
The Rockies are trying for their first NL pennant in the franchise's 15-year history, and history appears solidly on their side.
"Nothing has gone our way so far," Byrnes said. "For whatever reason, that's the way it's been."
Before the Rockies, the last team to put together a 19-1 run was the 1977 Kansas City Royals, and Hurdle made his major league debut for the Royals during that stretch. ... Colorado is the second team in NL history to open the postseason with six straight wins, joining the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, which went 7-0 in the playoffs, sweeping the Phillies and Yankees.