Rox mount furious charge in stunning win
Smith's walk-off caps club's largest ninth-inning rally
DENVER -- Rockies players say that comebacks start with a string of good at-bats. They require patience, durable defense through the end, savvy baserunning and steadfast pitching, to provide the offense with an opportunity to pull through.
This year, Rockies comebacks often end with Seth Smith.
The sweet-swinging outfielder delivered in the clutch again in the bottom of the ninth, this time to cap a dizzying nine-run rally, stunning the Cardinals, 12-9, on Tuesday night at Coors Field. So dizzying, in fact, Smith said he'll rely on late-night highlights for the details.
"I don't even know what happened," he said. "I'll have a chance to watch some highlights later tonight and enjoy it."
The Rockies battled a cold wind, rain and a dismal early performance with runners in scoring position to earn a walk-off in their second consecutive game, as Smith's three-run shot plated Miguel Olivo and Aaron Cook, from first and third base, respectively.
"You go from, 'Let's not give any at-bats away' and, 'Good try,' to, 'Oh, wait, we can do this,'" Smith said. "We're all competitors, and we're not going to go up there and give at-bats away. If we all go up there and give the effort we know we will, then stuff like this can happen."
What happened was the highest-scoring inning of Colorado's season, which has seen a team find ways to win through injuries and setbacks galore. It was the largest ninth-inning rally in club history and the largest outpouring of runs in the ninth frame that the Rockies have ever produced.
A lack of early execution (Colorado was 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 men) and the nasty weather deterred fans from staying through nine regulation innings and left a hush over the game as Colorado entered the ninth trailing 9-3.
But five of the Rockies' first six batters -- Smith lined out to first base for the first out -- reached base, including a three-run homer to left from Chris Iannetta, cutting St. Louis' lead to 9-7. Thereafter, a reinvigorated group gathered in the first-base dugout.
"You get guys on and keep getting guys on," said Iannetta, who made his second career appearance at third base. "That's really it -- there's no formula. You've got to keep getting guys on and get to the next guy and keep the train rolling. We were able to do that. Sometimes, a home run can be rally killer, but the guys behind me did a good job of getting on base and starting it up again."
Those guys included Dexter Fowler, who doubled and Carlos Gonzalez, who came around for the tying run on a single to right field off the bat of Jason Giambi.
Playing Giambi deep to prevent a double, Cardinals outfielder Randy Winn misplayed the line drive, allowing Gonzalez to score the tying run from first.
"I was expecting Giambi to put the ball in play," said Gonzalez, who finished the night 4-for-6 with an early two-run homer. "I'm not expecting him to do anything special. If he puts the ball in the gap, I was going to try to score from first base. [Winn] made a mistake, he was playing deep, and he bobbled the ball twice. We have a really good third-base coach in Richard Dauer and he made the right choice and sent me home."
Indeed, Gonzalez scored with ease and the Rockies' players emerged from the dugout to its steps and railing for the final at-bats.
With Cook running for Giambi, Olivo singled to bring Smith to the plate. Already 2-for-3 on the night with two walks and a run, the lefty drove Cardinals' reliever Ryan Franklin's 2-2 offering into the seats in the right-field corner.
"There's no way you can not get three outs with a six-run lead," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "It's just one of those games. There's no way to explain it, no excuses you make. It's a very difficult loss. We haven't lost too many times we've been ahead in the ninth. It's just brutal."
The last time the Cardinals allowed nine runs in the ninth inning was Aug. 6, 1959, when they surrendered 10 to the Pirates in an 18-2 drubbing, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Tuesday's nine had a bit more bearing on the outcome.
"If there's a huge lesson learned from this game, the game's 27 outs long, and you play every single one of them," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "You don't give an at-bat away because the score starts to get away from you. When you come in to pitch, you come in to succeed."
The Rockies mounted the rally only after starter Jeff Francis and reliever Jhoulys Chacin surrendered nine runs in the first six innings. Gonzalez, one of five National League finalists for the Final Vote for the 2010 All-Star Game, homered in the second for his team-best 15th of the year, and Iannetta drove in the third run with a grounder to shortstop in the seventh, before the real drama took place.
"There was not a bad at-bat the entire inning. Not one," Tracy said of the memorable ninth. "Never in my career have I been associated with a better comeback than that."
Reliever Manuel Corpas threw two innings without allowing a baserunner, earning his third win of the year.
Smith said that while the inning as a whole blurred quickly through his mind, his focus was on not letting his last at-bat of the evening get away. He also said he had one other thing on his mind.
"I was the second batter [in the ninth] and made an out," he said. "I didn't want to make two in one inning."
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.