In the midst of a breakout season, the Rockies shortstop may have blossomed into an elite player on the same night that Rockies fans blossomed into genuine baseball fans themselves.
After Jorge De La Rosa worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first inning, Todd Helton got a two out base hit to left field to extend his hitting streak to a season high 15 games. The hit brought Tulowitzki to the plate for the first time in what would become the best night of his career.
The first pitch that Tulowitzki saw from Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny he launched deep to left field, over the bleachers and onto the concourse. The ball bounced into the Grilleworks concession stand on the concourse. The two-run bomb was 452 feet away from home plate when it hit the ground. It got the Rockies started on what could propel them into the playoffs.
While Tulowitzki had already done damage, his night was just beginning.
After De La Rosa worked out of another bases loaded jam in the second inning, Tulowitzki came up once again with two outs, but this time with the bases loaded. On a 91 mile per hour fastball that was left over the heart of the plate, Tulowitzki hit a ball that was twice the height of the left field foul pole, and once again landed on the concourse. However, third base umpire Bill Welke ruled the ball foul. Rockies manager Jim Tracy came out to argue the call, and forced what became the first ever instant replay utilized at Coors Field. With a high Colorado sky, it was impossible to tell where the ball was on replay, and crew chief Bob Davidson came back out onto the field and ruled that the ball was six inches foul.
After the four minute and ten second delay, Tulowitzki lined the next pitch, a change up, into left field to plate two runs and give the Rockies a comfortable 6-0 lead.
Tulowitzki came up to the plate once again in the fourth inning and lined a pitch just to the left side of the second base bag for what looked like his second single of the night. However, the 6'4" shortstop, running hard out of the box, rounded first base and headed to second. Centerfielder Sam Fuld hurried to the ball and made a decent throw, but it was not good enough to get the sliding Tulowitzki.
When Tulowitzki came up to the plate in the seventh inning, the crowd was buzzing. If there was one good thing about the Cubs being in town, it forced Rockies fans to be in the game and cheer hard for their team, if only to drown out the sea of blue in the stands. Once again, on the first pitch Tulowitzki saw he lined the ball down the third base line past a diving Jake Fox. Watching Tulowitzki, it was never in doubt that he was not going to be content with a double. He motored past second base and went sliding into third. A good throw from left fielder Alfonso Soriano would have nailed the Rockies home run leader, but the ball skipped away from Fox and the scoreboard immediately recognized the feat.
The cheering from Rockies fans was reminiscent of the September 2007 night when Todd Helton's walk off home run blasted the Rockies past the Dodgers and into what would be a magical run that would lead them to the World Series. Brad Hawpe took his time walking to the plate so that the crowd could continue acknowledging Tulowitzki, who was being cheered by Rockies fans and Cubs fans alike.
Tulowitzki becomes just the second player in the history of the game to turn an unassisted triple play and hit for the cycle in his career.
The crowd continued to cheer and produced the famous "Tulo" chant on their own, with no prodding from the press box. After the inning was over, fans began to cheer louder, anticipating their shortstops return to the field. As Tulo ran out of the dugout he gave a tip of his hat to the crowd and ran to his position.
Tulowitzki returned to the plate in the eighth inning, once again with the bases loaded. With the game firmly in hand, Tulo was obviously swinging to become the first player in history to hit for the cycle - and then hit a grand slam in the game. It was not meant to be as the count quickly became 1-2. Tulo shorted his swing and delivered a base hit to center field, scoring two runs and giving the 24 year old seven RBI's for the night, a career high.
While Tulowitzki's name dominates the headlines, it should not go unmentioned what De La Rosa did on the mound. The young left hander, who has struggled mightily with confidence issues, was able to work out of two bases loaded jams in the first two innings of the game, allowing the Rockies offense to put up runs and give him a cushion to work with.
From then on out, the lefty was phenomenal, striking out 11 Cubs and giving up only seven hits in 7-2/3 innings worth of work. He may have completed the game had his pitch count not been so high. When Tracy walked to the mound to get him, he had already delivered 125 pitches on the night.
It was the perfect start for De La Rosa after having a rough outing in Philadelphia. He proved to himself that he could still get outs and was able to avoid the big inning that has haunted him his whole Major League career. The win also gave him 10 on the season, his second straight year having a win total in double digits.
If someone would have told the Rockies that De La Rosa would collect 10 wins all season long the franchise would have been thrilled. The fact that he got his 10th win on August 10th is just an added benefit for the Rockies.