Commentary

Diamondbacks enjoy a little payback

Originally Published: April 6, 2008
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

DENVER -- The sun cast a bright glow to the ballpark, and the 69-diamond-filled pennant rings sparkled when the light hit the right spot. The purple carpet had been rolled out and goodwill filled a ballpark hopeful that its National League championship team was ready to begin playing like one.

And just as everything seemed back to normal in the Colorado Rockies' world, young Diamondbacks Mark Reynolds and Stephen Drew entered it and created chaos.

In a dramatic turn, Reynolds hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning and Drew hit a solo shot in the 10th to help Arizona to a 5-2 win and series sweep over its division rival on Sunday. Six months after it was swept on the same field, Arizona returned with some vengeance.

[+] EnlargeRyan Spilborghs
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesAfter getting swept by the Diamondbacks at Coors Field, the Rockies are 1-5 on the season.
"Think about that; last year, they were on their side getting crunked," second baseman Orlando Hudson said, "while we were over here [losing]."

It began as a celebratory weekend for the defending NL champions, with balloons and streamers and flyovers on Friday, and the pennant flag unveiled on Saturday. Both those games ended in losses, yet on Sunday, it looked as if a 1-0 lead through eight innings was going to put the Rockies on the road to recovery.

Then it all ended how it began: dismally. Colorado made uncharacteristic miscues, pitched poorly and failed to hit with runners in scoring position during the entire series (the Rockies are 5-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season). Gone was that magical "Rocktober" team, which won a record 21 of 22 games en route to the World Series. Here now was a woeful Colorado squad, which couldn't hit, pitch or field its way to a win.

"I don't think I've seen any panic in here," said first baseman Todd Helton, one of the few Rockies who has hit well this season. "A lot of times fans panic, media kind of gets them going a little bit. I don't think that's going to happen in here -- guys work too hard."

Already the team has been flooded with what's-wrong-with-this-team questions. And there were indications from players that all the focus on last year had been a bit draining. After all, it's what ballplayers do best: "turn the page."

Now maybe they can, but they'll have to atone for a 1-5 start in which they entered Sunday's game in the bottom of the league with a team 5.02 ERA and hitting a major-league worst .198 (now up to .209 after Sunday).

"Obviously we haven't scored enough runs to expect a win," a somber left fielder Matt Holliday said. "We've put way too much pressure on our pitching staff."

There were some bright spots, though. Franklin Morales, a 22-year-old left-hander from Venezuela, gave the team a quality outing with six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, and the Rockies' bullpen followed with two flawless frames.

Then there was the ninth, when closer Manny Corpas gave up a leadoff single to Conor Jackson. Next was Reynolds, who first tried to bunt Jackson over to second base, and thought he'd doubled to the gap when the ball went off his bat. It was only when he saw outfielder Willy Taveras' back he knew it was gone into the Rockies' bullpen in right field.

We were pretty good last year and we haven't changed up our team too much. We know what we've got here and we're not playing anywhere near our potential.

--Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki

It was a relief for the 24-year-old Reynolds, who had somewhat of a manic series in which he made two errors in one inning but also made key plays at third base. He hit .417 with two homers and six RBIs in the three-game series.

"You can be on top of the world or be the lowest you've ever been in your career," said Reynolds, who added an RBI single in the 10th. "And then the next day you get a big hit for your club. It feels good."

In what could have been a deflating moment, the Rockies came right back off Arizona closer Brandon Lyon in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Holliday hit a solo homer to tie the game at 2-2. Holliday was emotional when he crossed home plate, and it looked as if this was, finally, the Rockies' turning point. Maybe some of that magic was back.

Then Drew led off the 10th with his second homer of the year, and the Rockies' season continued to spiral. Just as it had been all weekend, the home clubhouse was a morose and quiet place after the loss. The expressions on players' faces told their early-season story.

"We were pretty good last year and we haven't changed up our team too much," said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who broke an 0-for-18 slump with two hits. "We know what we've got here and we're not playing anywhere near our potential."

That was of little consequence to the D-backs. The Little John music rang the walls of the clubhouse, which takes its "Connect Four" battles quite seriously.

"To come in here after last time around," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said, "certainly is nice to get a sweep out of it."

The Rockies won the National League pennant in '07, but Arizona took the first round of 2008.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached via e-mail at amy.k.nelson@espn3.com.

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