Friday, October 2, 2009

Colorado Rockies Clinch Playoff Berth, Set Sights On NL West Title

Who would have guessed this?

Who would have believed that the Rockies, 12 games under .500 and better than only the Washington Nationals on June 3rd, would be heading to the playoffs. The Rockies defeated the Brewers 9-2 on Thursday afternoon at Coors Field. It was a methodical offensive onslaught and the dominating pitching from resurgent and clearly healthy Aaron Cook.

Cook pitched eight innings, giving up just one run on a Ryan Braun home run. In all, Cook gave up just four hits in eight innings, with one walk and one strike out. He threw just 83 pitches.

The end of the game provided yet another memorable moment for longtime Rockies fans. Todd Helton, normally very emotionally independent, jumped up and down in celebration, hugging teammates while continuing to jump up and down. In 2007 the Helton celebration was one that looked as if he never really expected to get the chance for a champagne shower. On Thursday, Helton’s reaction look as if it was the finish that he had been expecting the whole time.

What Rockies fans might get most excited about was that the celebration seemed somewhat short and to the point. That is exciting for the simple fact that with three regular season games to go, and a two game deficit in the National League West, this Rockies team does not feel like they have completed their goal. They know that a sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the weekend would give the club their first ever division title in their 17th year in the league.

While a sweep in L.A. seems improbable due to the fact that the Rockies have just three wins in 15 tries against the Dodgers on the season, it may not be as difficult as it seems. The first nine games against the Dodgers came under the command of Clint Hurdle. Anyone following the Rockies knows that this is not the same team that took the field during the first two months of the season.

Since Jim Tracy took over as manager, the Rockies are just 2-7 against the Dodgers, but four of those losses have been by two or less runs. The losses came at the hands of great pitching performances by the Dodgers starters. That is the difference that may help the Rox attain their goal. The Dodgers starting pitchers have struggled for the last three weeks. Chad Billingsley looks warn out, Clayton Kershaw has been hurt and Jon Garland and Vincente Padilla have only done what their talent allows them to do. The fact is, this Dodger team is very beatable.

The weekend series in L.A. will be unfamiliar territory for the Rockies and their fans. Never in their history has the club guaranteed themselves a spot in the postseason before the final game of the campaign. The three game set in Los Angeles has the potential to mean nothing at all to these Rockies.

Even though the goal is to win all three games, the fact of the matter is that the Rockies have punched their ticket to the postseason and can afford to take a deep breath and relax for at least a day or two.

What the Rockies will do in the postseason remains a mystery, but the fact of the matter is, this Rockies team is 159 games into the season and they have ensured themselves a spot to play in games that really matter. That is a position that no one would have thought possible at the beginning of June. These Rockies have shown a perseverance that few teams have ever exuded. They believe in each other and they believe in themselves. There is not a day that arrives that this team does not believe that they are going to win. That is what makes them so dangerous in the postseason.

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