On Wednesday afternoon at Petco Park the Rockies looked like a completely different team then they did through the first eight games of the road trip, and frankly, a different team then they have been since they were the best team in the Majors with a record of 11-2.
With two runners in scoring position in the top of the ninth inning, Tulowitzki stepped to the plate against a guy who has had his number. Heath Bell had held the Rockies superstar hitless in 14 career at-bats. Apparently, the 15th time is the charm. Tulo ripped a fastball over the drawn in infield, scoring both runs and giving the Rockies a 5-3 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
It was the exact moment when most Rockies fans figured something bad was going to happen. It has gotten that bad for the Rockies that the best player on the team would be coming up with the winning run 90 feet away and there is no hope for victory. However, contrary to the common feeling, Tulowitzki pulled through and gave the Rockies a decent road trip, despite their lackluster offense.
Tulowitzki has to be the guy. He must be the leader who comes through in clutch situations. This team belongs to him, and he must find a way to put the club on his shoulders when they are struggling like the have over the past six weeks. He took a big step towards that on Wednesday, not giving in to a high-profile closer, not giving in to his career against Bell, and not believing that the Rockies were not the better team.
With Tulowitzki taking home top honors for his clutch performance, don't forget Todd Helton. The almost-38-year-old has officially found the fountain of youth. After the Aaron Cook gave up a second inning run, it was tough to not think that the game was over with the way the Rockies had been swinging the bats.
However, Helton provided a huge lift in the next half inning, one-handing an inside pitch down the right field line for a game-tying homer. It was Helton's eighth. That is not a huge number by any standards, but considering it matches his total for 2010, it says something. Not only is Helton able to drive the ball out of the park better than he has in the past few years, he simply continues to hit and take good at-bats. On Wednesday he went 4-for-4 with the home run and two doubles. He scored three runs.
Sometimes in baseball, one at-bat can spring a resurgence. Sometimes struggles have nothing to do with physical actions, but become so mental that they compound on themselves. Those types of struggles take one game, or one at-bat to turn around. It takes one or two guys who fight through that mentality and carry a team to victory. That is what Helton and Tulowitzki did on Wednesday. Whether that carries over to tomorrow is yet to be determined.
A tip of the cap has to go to Aaron Cook, who looked solid in his return to the mound. He gave up three earned runs in less than six innings, but was good enough to keep his team in the game. That is all that can be asked of a guy who hasn't thrown a Major League pitch since September.