Rox play inspired game after tragedy
Eight-run third seals victory after president's death
WASHINGTON -- By the time Troy Tulowitzki's first home run of 2010 had nestled itself into the stands in left-center above the Rockies' bullpen, a muted celebration -- but a celebration nonetheless -- had begun on the Colorado bench.
For a brief moment, the pain of the news that Rockies team president Keli McGregor had been found dead in his hotel room in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning was superseded by a result McGregor would have relished, a 10-4 win over the Nationals on Tuesday night.
Tulowitzki circled the bases and found his way back to his teammates, who seemed a little unsure if jumping up and down, high-fiving and fist-bumping were really in order on such a somber day. Tulowitzki, whose 32 homers in 2009 led all Major League shortstops, even acknowledged he wasn't feeling very festive.
"It was nice to get up and get a lead. At the same time, it's not like any other day. It's hard to enjoy it," he said. "Baseball is secondary at that point in time. The No. 1 thing on our mind is Keli and that's the way it should be. There wasn't too much excitement."
Yet, Tulowitzki's solo shot off Washington left-hander Scott Olsen in the second inning definitely jump-started an offense in need of a charge after four losses in five games -- the lone exception being Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter Saturday in Atlanta. Ian Stewart added an RBI double later in the inning and the Rockies erupted for eight more runs in the third.
The Rockies shared their sorrow, then collectively paid tribute to the 48-year-old McGregor -- a down-to-earth executive with his roots in football, who liked to work out with his players in the Coors Field weight room -- with a display of team offense that pleased manager Jim Tracy.
"Obviously, we stepped up under some very, very difficult circumstances. ... You do it in [McGregor's] honor, that's what you do," Tracy said. "That's what we did."
McGregor was never far from the Rockies' thoughts on an emotional evening. First baseman Todd Helton, who went hunting and played golf with McGregor, brought a No. 88 Colorado jersey with the late executive's name on it into the dugout in tribute. Before the game, a moment of silence was observed for McGregor and the public address announcer read a list of the community groups and civic organizations to which McGregor donated countless hours and energy.
Helton, however, was at a loss for words when asked to sum up a rollercoaster day with a positive ending.
"It really hasn't set in yet," Helton said. "You think about his wife and kids, you know? ... I struggle with the words because I don't think they would do him justice. That's why it's so hard to say anything."
Tulowitzki thought McGregor would have appreciated a gritty effort under trying circumstances.
"I think if Keli were still with us, he'd want us to go out there and play the game the right way. Of course, he'd want the Rockies to win, so it was nice to do that," Tulowitzki said. "At the same time, I think the whole game, we're definitely thinking about him and he's in our prayers. The biggest thing for the team to deal with now is not to get too down, to still play the game the way he would want us to play, and continue with this organization the way it should be continued and make him proud in that way."
Still, it wasn't a normal day, in any way, shape or form.
"You weren't upset when you got out, you weren't happy when you hit a home run," Tulowitzki said.
But the eight-run third certainly lessened the burden. It provided a 10-0 cushion for left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (2-1), who doubled home three runs -- matching his RBI total for 2009 in a single swing -- before Ryan Spilborghs hit a two-run homer off reliever Tyler Walker. The inning began when Dexter Fowler tripled to snap a 1-for-13 skid, and four successive singles followed.
"It's always good when you get that kind of run support. You pitch more relaxed, and that's what I did today, I think," said De La Rosa, who tired after throwing 118 pitches and left without getting an out in the sixth. He allowed four runs on seven hits, walked four and fanned six.
Tracy had hoped to get at least six innings out of De La Rosa, who surrendered a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth and two more runs in the sixth, but turned the game over to a bullpen that shut the door the rest of the way.
"Jorge battled. The strike zone seemed to me to be a little competitive at times. ... In a game like this, you'd certainly like to see him get a little deeper, but you've got to be mindful of where the pitch count is," Tracy said.
Luckily, the Rockies' bats made that decision easier for their manager.
"On the offensive side of things, you can go up and down the lineup," Tracy said. "Tonight, there's good at-bats. ... All in all, under the circumstances, very well done."
It was, perhaps, an important first step in the grieving process.
"What took place on the field ... is a wonderful tribute to a man we obviously love. For me, the game tonight and the way it turned out, eases the pain," Tracy said. "It's there, there's no getting around it -- it's there. Eventually, with some time, it'll go away, but not immediately. In the meantime, you deal with the pain and realize that ... professional people find ways to get through very difficult circumstances like the one we're dealing with right now."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.