Rockies Win First Playoff Series in Team History, Besting Phillies
DENVER – The blackout at Coors Field was caused by a cranky computer. Blame the Philadelphia Phillies' power outage on rookie Ubaldo Jimenez and a Colorado bullpen that has been lights out for three weeks.
The Rockies roared into the NL championship series Saturday night, completing a three-game sweep by beating Philadelphia 2-1 on pinch-hitter Jeff Baker's tiebreaking single with two outs in the eighth inning.
Colorado's 17th win in 18 games was fueled by Jimenez, the hard-throwing 23-year-old who allowed one run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings during a pitchers' duel at Coors Field, of all places. Then, those reliable Rockies relievers silenced the Phillies' dangerous bats for the third straight game.
The wild-card Rockies get four days off before opening the NLCS on Thursday in Arizona, the first time two teams from the NL West have met in the league championship series.
The young Diamondbacks, also a big surprise this season, finished a first-round sweep of the Chicago Cubs earlier Saturday.
The Phillies rode a September surge of their own to the NL East title and their first playoff berth in 14 years. But they went flat in the postseason despite a lineup that includes Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and MVP contender Jimmy Rollins.
Philadelphia hasn't won a postseason game since Joe Carter's famous homer off Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams to win the 1993 World Series for Toronto. The City of Brotherly Love is still looking for its first major pro sports championship since 1993.
This series was supposed to be a slugfest between the NL's two highest-scoring teams — in two of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball. But the Rockies put on a pitching performance that rivaled any in recent memory, shutting down Philadelphia's sluggers time and time again.
They did it with a rotation that featured ace Jeff Francis and two rookies, plus a bullpen that has become dominant over the last three incredible weeks.
After rallying against career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the 13th inning to beat San Diego 8-6 in a wild-card tiebreaker Monday night, the Rockies quickly dispatched Philadelphia for their first playoff series win in their 15-year history.
Colorado's only other postseason appearance was a loss to Atlanta in the 1995 division series. On Saturday night, the Rockies earned their first win in a home playoff game.
This was the first postseason game in Colorado since the humidor was introduced in 2002 to keep baseballs from drying up in Denver's thin air. The ballpark has lost much of its reputation as the "Coors Canaveral" launching pad ever since, but the problem for hitters on this night wasn't moisturized baseballs but strong winds, strange weather and a bizarre blackout.
In the second inning, a computer malfunction caused the lights to go out while Victorino was up. The players retreated to their dugouts while flashbulbs freckled the stands and auxiliary lights flickered on, casting Coors Field in a dim glow.
The lights returned and play resumed 14 minutes later with winds gusting up to 39 mph inside the stadium, knocking down any balls hit to the outfield.
With two outs in the eighth, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe hit back-to-back singles off J.C. Romero to put runners at the corners. After a conference on the mound, Romero stayed in and Baker sliced a 1-0 pitch through the hole on the right side.
Manny Corpas, who has blown just one save in 22 chances since taking over as closer, pitched the ninth for his third save in the series.
Jimenez's only mistake was a hanging curveball that Shane Victorino sent into the right-field seats in the seventh to tie it 1-all. It was the first hit Jimenez allowed since Howard's single in the first inning.
After Carlos Ruiz followed Victorino's homer with a single to left, right-hander Matt Herges came in and retired the next two batters.
Jimenez matched Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia's 44-year-old left-hander who allowed just one run and five hits in six innings and wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the second.
Kaz Matsui, who had five RBIs in Game 2, broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a triple that skipped past diving left fielder Pat Burrell, scoring Yorvit Torrealba from first base with two outs.
Colorado won the series' first two games in Philadelphia by holding the high-scoring Phillies to seven combined runs.
The first playoff game in the Mile High City since 1995 was everything you'd expect from a baseball game in the Rocky Mountains in October.
A cold front hit the stadium just moments before the Rockies took the field, dropping the temperature 15 degrees into the upper 50s, with gusty winds stirring peanut dust and hot-dog wrappers around the stadium.
The night began with a poignant moment when the young sons of late minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
Coolbaugh was a first base coach for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers. The former major leaguer was killed July 22, when a line drive struck him in the neck while he was coaching first base. He left behind a pregnant wife and two sons, 5-year-old Joseph and 3-year-old Jacob.
The Rockies voted a full playoff share for Amanda Coolbaugh, due to give birth to the couple's third child later this month.