Rockies ride Torrealba's blast to yet another victory
Originally Published: October 14, 2007By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
DENVER -- Another night. Another win.Another night. Another collection of October heroes you wouldn't recognize if they sat next to you on a bus.
"Every night, it's been somebody else different. Either the starting pitcher, or the bullpen, or the hitters. It's amazing. I don't know what else you can say. No matter how hard you try to explain, you won't be able to explain." And maybe that's the best explanation of all. At this point, they might have reached the surreal stage at which no explanation is even possible. Because this isn't happening in April. It isn't happening in June. It isn't happening in August. It's October. It's the time when legends are born, when reputations are carved, when stories are written that are retold for a lifetime. And now the legend of the 2007 Rockies is one of those stories. Even they have a tough time comprehending that. "We can't fathom it," outfielder Ryan Spilborghs said. "We're in the midst of it. We're in the eye of the storm right now. We don't notice anything around us." Well, they did notice one thing -- that it was kind of moist out there at Coors Field on Sunday night. And kind of frigid, too, owing to those temperatures in the 30s and that glop falling out of the sky. So maybe "eye of the storm" wouldn't be the perfect expression to capture this particular feat. "Yeah," Spilborghs conceded. "Tonight, we might have been in the actual storm." But naturally, they conquered that, too. So in case you thought they'd definitely, absolutely, positively finally run out of new ways to win, eh, guess what? Nope. "I guess," Spilborghs laughed, "we even win in blizzards." But that just makes the legend even better. Doesn't it? When this series began in Phoenix, it was 99 degrees before Game 1. By Game 3, the temperature had dropped 60 degrees. Still, neither snow nor sleet nor Livan Hernandez could stop these Rockies from winning one more time. This time, they arrived in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 1-1 game, the culmination of your basic October Josh Fogg-Livan Hernandez pitcher's duel. Not that it was exactly Smoltz versus Morris, given those 14 baserunners running around over the first 5½ innings. But whatever. Then Hernandez put two more runners on in the sixth, bringing him face to face with his old catcher in San Francisco, Torrealba, with two outs.
Tom DiPace for ESPN The MagazineYorvit Torrealba's tiebreaking three-run home run in the sixth inning put the Rockies within one win of their first trip to the World Series.
By this time, the muck pouring out of the heavens was relentless. The cold stung like a snowball. Every breath out of every mouth left a vapor trail. You couldn't ask for a more vintage October setting for a stirring seven-pitch battle between two old friends. At 1 and 1, Hernandez locked Torrealba with a pitch he saves for his most special occasions -- a 58-mph eephus ball. Torrealba took it for strike two, basically because he had no choice because there wasn't a muscle in his body that would let him swing at this monstrosity. "I could probably have swung three times at that ball and still not hit it," Torrealba chuckled. But he kept fighting. To 2 and 2. To 3 and 2. Then Hernandez did it again, spinning off a second eephus attack, this one at 60 mph. But this time, Torrealba managed to foul it off. Somehow. "That one, at least I saw it," he said. "I just tried to fight it off, and I did. But I thought, in the back of my head, 'It's 3 and 2. He might throw it again.'" So he made up his mind to look for something soft, something slow. He knew Hernandez was going to come back with something soft, something slow, he said. "And I was wrong," Torrealba would say later, incredibly happy to be so wrong. Instead, Hernandez tried to bury him with a fastball in on the hands, got it just a little low and watched in disbelief as Torrealba whacked it into the seats in left. Right. Of course he did. He guessed breaking ball. He set up to try to punch that breaking ball the other way. Then he pulled a fastball for a game-winning home run. Of course he did. He's a Rockie. "He's Mr. Rock-tober," Spilborghs said.
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJosh Fogg tossed six effective innings in the Rockies' victory in Game 3.
To hit a home run in the playoffs to win the game and carry my team one step closer to the World Series, it's like a dream come true.
Spilborghs already has tossed out one suggestion. After the Diamondbacks forced the Rockies to switch from their black uniforms to gray in Game 2, whereupon they won anyway, he quipped: "Maybe we should call ourselves the Gray and Black Machine." But that one doesn't quite work, if only because it leaves out this team's most famous color -- purple. "Yeah, well, I think Purple People Eaters has already been taken," Spilborghs said. So the great Rockies nickname hunt goes on. But in the meantime, The Team That Never Loses has other stuff on its agenda. The Rockies lead this NLCS, 3 games to 0. So they need to win one more game to make it to the first World Series in franchise history. But of the 29 previous teams to take a 3-nada lead in a best-of-seven baseball series, only one (repeat after us: the 2004 Yankees) managed to blow that lead. So it's tough to think that a team that has lost one game in a month is going to lose four in a row. And if they get to the World Series, and if they keep this avalanche rolling, the whole world can join their name game. "Right now, we're not even thinking about that stuff," Spilborghs said. "But come November and December, if you guys want to start giving us names, I'll tell you this: They'll be gladly accepted." Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireIt's now 20 wins in the past 21 games for the Rockies.