Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rockies Win Another Thriller On Iannetta's Walk Off Homer

Good teams find ways to win close games.

The Colorado Rockies found a way to win a game in a huge situation on Tuesday night at Coors Field. Leading 5-2 going to the top of the ninth inning, Huston Street, the most dependable closer in Rockies history, gave up a three run home run to the least likely hitter in Jason Kendall.

It was only Kendall's second home run of the season, and at one point in his career he had gone over 900 consecutive at bats without a home run. It was not a good feeling for the Rockies, who seemed to be cruising, and with the Braves loss earlier in the night, the burden was lifting off the team's back.

Instead of being shell shocked and losing the game, the Rockies fought back and unlikely hero Chris Iannetta blasted a two-run home run into the bullpen to secure the 7-5 victory in 11 innings.

Iannetta was pinch hitting in the pitchers spot in the lineup and seemed like a long shot to contribute for the Rockies. During the current homestand Iannetta had a total of three plate appearances before the 11th inning blast. He has suffered through a tough season, with the low point coming when manager Jim Tracy officially named Yorvit Torrealba as the starting catcher.

Iannetta has long been seen as the catcher of the future. He is extremely strong and has the perfect body for a catcher. He is very analytical, which goes a long way for calling pitches. His strong throwing arm and quick mechanics make him a complete package. Before the season, ESPN's baseball expert and Hall of Famer Peter Gammons made the prediction that Iannetta would be an All-Star.

The problem for Iannetta in 2009 has been the strikeouts. Iannetta has long been known for his patience at the plate. Even his rookie season on '07, Iannetta had to be told to be more aggressive at the plate instead of walking so often. With just a .225 batting average, Iannetta has walked just 41 times to 72 strikeouts.

Chris Iannetta's season turned the corner with one swing of the bat on Tuesday night.

On a game that the Rockies needed to win, Iannetta came through in a big way.

While Iannetta being the hero came as a surprise, in this season, it really should have been expected.

This Colorado Rockies team is the definition of team. It seems like they take turns playing the hero role from night to night. Sometimes it is the usual suspects, such as Todd Helton or Troy Tulowitzki, but in this season of dramatic victories and incredible rallies, the purple pinstripes have a plethora of heroes in their arsenal.

Another Rockie working his way through a tough season has been Ryan Spilborghs. He had his chance to play hero on August 24th as the Rockies went into the 14th inning tied with the Giants at one run apiece. After Rockies pitcher Adam Eaton gave up two runs in the top of the inning, and while it looked like the Giants had the game wrapped up, Spilborghs made his mark, pounding the game winning home run to right field and sprinting around the bases to a cheerful mob of teammates waiting at the plate.

While Seth Smith has had a breakthrough year with the Rockies it is easy to forget that he really hasn't been an everyday starter all year long. In fact, he has been used primarily off the bench for all but about three weeks of the season. His role off the bench was not what he anticipated coming into 2009. After Matt Holliday was traded, Smith was ordained as the starting left fielder. That all changed when Dexter Fowler made the team out of camp and Spilborghs took over in left field.

Smith, however, has had his fair share of heroic moments. He came through twice in one home stand, the first time against the Diamondbacks, sparking a comeback from a 4-1 deficit, then coming through with a walk off single against the Reds.

Despite Clint Barmes' struggles at the plate, his over the shoulder catch on Sunday that started a game ending double play was a huge contribution to a team looking for every single win down the stretch.

Another unlikely hero has been Yorvit Torrealba. In San Diego with the Rockies down to their last strike, Torrealba helped Padres closer Heath Bell to his first blown save at Petco Park on the season. He laced a fastball into the gap, scoring three runs and helping the Rockies to victory. On Friday night against the Cardinals Torrealba did it again, taking an excellent approach at the plate, Torrealba turned an 0-2 count into a fly ball to right field, deep enough to score Tulowitzki from third base and giving the Rockies a huge win.

This Rockies team is well known for having a tight knit clubhouse. They are all very good friends and are very comfortable around each other. When Iannetta's ball landed over the fence in right field, the first teammate to hop the railing to meet Iannetta was Torrealba.

This team is full of players who care about each other and want each other to succeed, regardless of how that affects the playing time of the individual. They all want to win and they are going to find a way to win at all costs. Their relationships make it where despite a season full of struggles, a player can step to the plate in a big situation and know that their teammates are not just hoping that they can get the job done, they truly believe that they will get it done.

When a player at the plate in a big situation knows that his teammates believe in him it goes a long way for the confidence. These Rockies have become a very good team because they believe in each other.

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