Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spilborghs Ends Incredible Rockies-Giants Game With Walk Off Grand Slam

There are no words to describe it.

The English language is not equipped with an adjective that properly describes the Rockies game on Monday night.

After a pitcher’s duel that turned into an extra inning game in which both teams blew scoring opportunities, the Giants finally broke through against Adam Eaton in the top of the 14th inning. San Francisco scored three runs in the top of the inning, one more run than had been scored in the previous 13 innings.

While most teams would have packed it in, these Rockies decided that a little bit of drama might be fun this late in the season. In the bottom half of the 14th, when most fans had turned off their TV, or headed to the parking lot, Dexter Fowler led off with a walk, two pitches after fouling a pitch directly off his left knee cap, clearly hurting the center fielder. With no one on the bench Fowler limped his way to first base.

After a Clint Barmes pop out the Rockies were seemingly done. Then Chris Iannetta, hitting for Carlos Gonzalez who had run for Todd Helton in the ninth inning, and is still unable to swing a bat, patiently lined a pitch into center field, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo, itching to tie the game, only got one pitch to swing at, which he fouled off. Tulowitzki ended up walking on five pitches.

Now the tying run was at first base with the winning run stepping up to the plate.

There was only one problem for the Rockies. The winning run was pitcher Adam Eaton. While Eaton is no slouch at the plate for a pitcher, he is still a pitcher. Long time Rockies fans had flashbacks to Lance Painter pinch hitting in the 1995 NLDS, facing Mark Wohlers 100 mph fastball.

Manager Jim Tracy was seen pulling Eaton over to whisper a word into his ear. Clearly Tracy feared that if Eaton would hit into a double play and end the game. If nothing else, Eaton did a good job of faking it. He did the part of a hitter, strapping on his batting gloves and taking a decent looking crouched stance to the plate. The fact was, Eaton may as well have not brought a bat to the plate. He was not going to swing.

With a free out at the plate, Giants pitcher Justin Miller missed the strike zone four times in five pitches, pushing a run across the plate and putting the tying run at second base.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy had seen enough, he went to the mound and got Miller in favor of his final pitcher in the bullpen, Merkin Valdez.

While Bochy did not have another option, he must have forgotten that Spilborghs had tripled off Valdez just two nights ago.

After a first pitch strike, with one swing of the bat Spilborghs rewarded the Coors Field faithful with a long walk off grand slam, deep into the Rockies bullpen. Known as the clubhouse clown and the constant jokester, Spilborghs sprinted around the bases, nearly beating his celebrating teammates to the plate for the celebration.

If there is a way to describe the feeling of the game, picture Todd Helton’s walk off home run that ignited the run to the playoffs mixed with the play in game that legitimized the entire run in 2007.

In the clubhouse, members of the media were begging for players to make the comparison to ‘07.

That comparison was never made.

The hero Ryan Spilborghs, when asked the question, quickly said that the team is not like the ‘07 team and that they do not even think about that team. It is in the past and this is a new team. Spilborghs stopped after he said “this team is be..” It was clear what Spilborghs was thinking, but avoiding saying.

If they won’t say it, someone needs to.

The 2009 Colorado Rockies are a better team than the ‘07 squad that etched its name onto the National League Championship trophy.

This team is more well rounded, they have a deeper pitching staff, a better bench, and a more complete bullpen. While they may not be getting the national attention that they deserve, the members of the clubhouse do not care what the so-called experts say. They believe that they are a great team and that they are going to not only land in the playoffs, but do damage when they get there.

Lost in the drama and the highlights will be the incredible outing by Jason Marquis.

Marquis pitched eight innings, giving up only one run in the first inning. Marquis kept the Giants guessing all night long with a slider that had as much bite as the Rockies have ever seen from Marquis. He missed his 15th win of the season only because San Francisco starter Barry Zito nearly matched him pitch for pitch, his only blemish coming with his six walks.

With the improbable win, the Rockies are right where they want to be. While a sweep is never expected, the Rockies are in a position where if they happen to rattle off three games in a row, they will be in a dead heat with the Dodgers for the NL West lead.

Just the fact that the Rockies are being mentioned in the same breath as first place in August, let alone in 2009 is a testament to the way this team has played and turned things around under the guidance of Tracy.

The Rockies are hoping to avoid a 14-inning hangover as they open the important series with the Dodgers.

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