Coming into a four game series with the Giants the Rockies had a two game lead. With 40 games to go entering the series, 10 were coming against the Giants, four at home and six in San Francisco. To say that getting a few wins in this series is important is an understatement.
Friday night and the first four innings of Saturday night's game made fans briefly think that the Rockies were not really contenders, but more pretenders, winning games against teams from the inferior NL East and NL Central.
That is when the Rockies decided to prove that they are for real.
On Sunday the Rockies were down 2-0 after a second inning home run off the bat of Edgar Renteria. With Tim Lincecum on the mound for the Giants, a two run lead may as well have been a 10 run lead. Well, maybe for a different team. Instead the Rockies, who were held hitless through 5-1/3 innings until Todd Helton lined a single into center field, showed the guts that have put them in the postseason driver's seat.
After Helton's single and a Troy Tulowitzki walk, Ian Stewart stepped to the plate. Stewart was a whopping 0-for-14 in his career against Lincecum and before the game on Saturday night was quoted as saying that he has no idea how to hit the San Francisco righty and that he is the best pitcher he has ever faced.
Well, Stewart picked a good time to pull the trigger on Lincecum. On the second pitch of the at-bat Stewart lined a fastball to right field. Helton, running hard from second base, ran through the stop sign at third base and would have been out at the plate by 10 feet. Instead, Ryan Garko, acquired from Cleveland for the stretch run, cut off the perfect throw from Nate Schierholz. The relay was not in time and Helton was safe, scoring the first run for the Rockies.
In the next inning after Omar Quintanilla took a huge walk to lead off and Ubaldo Jimenez bunted him to second base, Seth Smith, starting in left field because Carlos Gonzalez hurt his hand in a freak accident the previous night, took an 0-1 pitch and put it where very few balls have ever gone at Coors Field. 451 feet later the Lincecum pitch landed half way up the second deck at Coors Field. After adding another run in the eighth inning, the Rockies had beaten the beast that is Tim Lincecum, giving them a sizable three game advantage over the Giants.
While Smith's blast will show up on all the highlight reels, enough cannot be said about blossoming star Ubaldo Jimenez. He stepped up to the challenge and proved that while Lincecum has a Cy Young on his mantle, he is not that far behind. Over eight innings he completely dominated the Giants lineup, mixing his pitches while sticking with his 99 mph fastball as his out pitch.
Coming into the series the Rockies goal had to be to win the series. They knew that with Lincecum on the mound on Sunday it was going to be a tough match to win. Lincecum is coming off a Cy Young season and has already racked up 12 wins with an ERA in the mid two's.
After a Friday night in which the Rockies made it seem like they may struggle, the Rockies looked like they would be in a tough spot just to earn a split of the series.
After a remarkable comeback on Saturday night and getting to arguably the best pitcher a day later, the Rockies look like they may never lose again.
The Rockies head into the Monday finale of the series with the Giants facing Barry Zito, whose record does not show how well he has pitched. He gets very little run support, but has been very capable of dominating a lineup, reminiscent of the days when he pitched on the opposite side of the bay.
However, if momentum plays a part, the Rockies are hopeful that they can complete the series victory when Monday night's game is all said and done.
With Jimenez pitching like he is, to go along with a Rockies offense that is getting hits when it counts and winning the games that really matter, the Rockies may be in a position to make all of the doubters eat crow as they continue to win games.
Most experts from the major networks are still suggesting that the Braves are the team to beat in the Wild Card race, but with the Rockies finding ways to win, ignoring Colorado may be something that is only possible for another week or so.
This team is for real. This team is good, and this team is the most talented squad in the NL Wild Card race.