Rockies on the cusp of Series berth
Torrealba's homer instrumental in 3-0 NLCS advantage
DENVER -- Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba grew up in Venezuela listening as his dad told stories of baseball's greatest teams. Little did he know he'd be living what could end up one of the greatest hot streaks ever.
Torrealba's three-run homer off Livan Hernandez broke a sixth-inning tie on Sunday and gave the Rockies a 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, putting them one win from a sweep and their first trip to the World Series.
The Rockies will go for the clincher in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series here on Monday night.
Matt Holliday also homered and starting pitcher Josh Fogg gave up one run in six innings to give the Rockies their 20th win in their last 21 games. A sellout crowd of 50,137 braved a game-long drizzle and wind chill that dipped into the upper 30s.
From a historical context, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, a team going at least 20-1 after Sept. 1 has been accomplished just three times in history. But the 1916 New York Giants, 1935 Cubs and 1977 Royals didn't win the World Series. That fact relegates them to bar trivia, rather than bedtime stories.
(More trivia: The '77 Royals called up a catcher named Clint Hurdle, now the Rockies' manager, for his first nine Major League games.)
The Rockies, however, joined two teams of legend -- the 1970 Orioles and the 1976 Reds, both of whom steamed through the World Series -- as the only ones to start a postseason 6-0. Colorado swept the Phillies in three games in the NL Division Series.
"My dad used to tell me about those teams ... but this is something. What can I say? That's crazy," said Torrealba, whose homer came on a tense, seven-pitch at-bat with two outs and the count full. "It's amazing."
That's about as close as any of the Rockies came to embracing their place in history.
That's understandable. The Rockies didn't go from 4 1/2 games out of a playoff spot before the run began on Sept. 16, to having to win a one-game tiebreaker with the Padres just to get into the playoffs, to the threshold of the World Series by being preoccupied with their legacy.
Colorado went nearly 15 years with just one nine-game win streak. They won 11 straight during their run late in the regular season, and Sunday's victory extended the current streak to nine.
"There will be time to analyze all the numbers and all the cool stuff, but we're just focused on trying to win tomorrow so we don't have to go back to Arizona," said Holliday, whose first-inning homer off Hernandez came after a 1-for-13 slump that included an 0-for-5, three-strikeout performance in Game 2.
In a sense, the run-up to the playoffs was more intense than anything the Rockies have seen in the postseason. One loss nearly ended their season. Now they have four games to win one.
But no one expects the Rockies to step out of the win-now mode.
"It's been that way for five weeks," Hurdle said.
History has little to offer the Diamondbacks, who have been limited to three runs despite outhitting the Rockies, 26-24. But at least there's something: The 2004 Red Sox, who would win the World Series, erased a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees to win the ALCS.
"I know the odds, but I was on the field the last time it happened," said Diamondbacks first baseman Tony Clark, who played for the Yankees then.
The only other teams in pro sports history to escape such a hole were both in hockey -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup Finals and the 1975 New York Islanders in the quarterfinals.
Fogg, who was making his first postseason start after pitching in relief against the Phillies, gave up singles to Chris Young and Stephen Drew to start the game. But Eric Byrnes, a former Rockie who was booed at every opportunity for saying the Rockies had luck and umpire calls on their side the first two games, smashed a line drive that Fogg snagged, doubling Young off second.
Up 3-0 in LCS
|Only the 2004 Red Sox have come back from a 3-0 deficit in a League Championship Series. The teams that have gone up 3-0 in an LCS:|
|2007||NLCS||COL||ARI||To be determined|
|2006||ALCS||DET||OAK||Won (DET 4, OAK 0)|
|2004||ALCS||NYY||BOS||Lost (BOS 4, NYY 3)|
|1999||NLCS||ATL||NYM||Won (ATL 4, NYM 2)|
|1998||NLCS||SD||ATL||Won (SD 4, ATL 2)|
|1995||NLCS||ATL||CIN||Won (ATL 4, CIN 0)|
|1990||ALCS||OAK||BOS||Won (OAK 4, BOS 0)|
|1988||ALCS||OAK||BOS||Won (OAK 4, BOS 0)|
Fogg would force double-play grounders each of the next two innings. He shook off Mark Reynolds' two-out home run in the fourth, and improved to 7-1 in his career against the Diamondbacks.
"Fogg wouldn't give in tonight," said Byrnes, whose 0-for-4 delighted the crowd. "You get ahead of him and he'd still nitpick. That's the type of pitcher he is, and he's good."
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect seventh, Brian Fuentes overcame a leadoff single by retiring three straight in the eighth, and Manny Corpas added a perfect ninth for his fourth postseason save.
In his home run at-bat, Torrealba took a 58-mph curve for strike two and, on the pitch before the homer, tapped a 60-mph curve foul. The earlier pitches made him chuckle, and then had him looking for another soft pitch. Somehow, he adjusted and crushed an 82-mph inside fastball.
"It's kind of hard to explain because, honestly, I wasn't really looking for a fastball," said Torrealba, who is tied with second baseman Kazuo Matsui for the team lead in postseason RBIs with seven.
For Torrealba, one of the team's most emotionally demonstrative players, the toughest part is waiting for Monday night -- the Rockies' next chance to extend their historic run.
"I'm sure they're feeling pressure right now, because they've got to beat us four times," Torrealba said. "If we could play Game 4 right now, I wouldn't mind playing it."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.