It would be really easy to blame the end on Conor Jackson. The first baseman’s error opened to door for the runs that were the winning margin in Colorado’s 6-4 Game 4 victory over Arizona. And I’m sure CoJack is blaming himself today. But you win as a team and you lose as a team, and that error does not, in and of itself, account for a four-game sweep.
There were a lot of contributing factors, not the least of which was the very streaky nature of the Diamondbacks all year. You just knew they’d be done for if they went on a skid where, as a group, they couldn’t deliver. And that’s just what they did. The Rockies pitched well, but not so well that they couldn’t be beaten with some timely hitting. The D’Backs actually out-hit the Rox 36-30 in the series. To a certain extent–how much exactly, I don’t know–you’ve got to give the Rockies pitchers credit for hanging tough with runners on base. But the D’Backs were not exactly a Murderers’ Row that got stopped in their tracks by the Colorado pitching staff. To some extent–again how much exactly, I don’t know–the Snakes stopped themselves.
Errors did matter. On the basepaths, where Upton, Montero and Drew were out at second at very inopportune times, and in the field, where 3 errors all led to the Rockies’ scoring unearned runs. Meanwhile, the Rockies played flawless defense…spectacular defense at times. Taveras’ catch of Tony Clark’s fly ball in Game 3 was pivotal. Garrett Atkins grabbed an Eric Byrnes smash that was headed down the left field line for two bases. Josh Fogg caught a Byrnes line drive in an act of self-defense and very nearly turned it into a triple play. And what can we say about shortstop Troy Tulowitzki except that he’s the Second Coming of Derek Jeter?
Luck also cames into the picture. While the Diamondbacks seemed to be hitting with all the Rockies 25-man roster on the field, the Rockies hit balls that seemed to have eyes. Or at least the spirit of Wee Willie "Hit ‘em where they ain’t" Keeler guiding them. Brandon Webb was victimized by dinks and dunks in Game 1 and that bloop in no man’s land down the left field line last night by pinch-hitter Seth Smith gave the Rox a lead they would never relinquish. When you’re going well — and it’s the understatement of the year to say that the Rockies are going well — you get that kind of luck. It’s like a reinforcing feedback loop.
This column would not be complete if I didn’t tell you I have a bone to pick with Eric Byrnes. I just knew someone would get on in the 9th to give Eric one more chance. But it was over in a flash when he took an "excuse me" swing at the first pitch and grounded out, fittingly for the Rockies, Tulowitzky to Helton, with Byrnesie diving for the bag. (With all the technology in baseball nowadays, someone should conduct some tests in Spring Training to show once and for all that sliding into first is actually slower than running through the bag). If Byrnes had actually swung hard at that pitch, he might have had a single. He who hesitates is lost, EB.
After last night’s game, Manager Bob Melvin told reporters, "It hurts right now. But when you
sit back and reflect on where we came from, obviously it was a
successful season." I’ll agree with that. Most of us were hoping/predicting that the team would play above .500. Third place would have been a respectable finish. At the beginning of the season, no one saw 90 wins coming; no one saw the NL West crown; and most assuredly, no one saw a victorious sweep in the first round of the playoffs. That’s success for a team that was under .500 last year. More success than the Cubs on a lot less payroll, experience, and on-the-field firepower.
In a way that is hard to see now, the loss in round two may be a blessing in disguise. Some very interesting discoveries were made along the way to that ignominious end to a good season: particularly Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda and Jeff Salazar. Next year, the BabyBacks will be a bit older and wiser and a lot hungrier. O-Dog will be back. I hope Tony Clark will be back also, though you never know with these free agents. And Eric Byrnes, who finally made it past the first round of the playoffs, will come into his own as a team leader, because he’s finally going to learn how to be a second-half player.
In the meantime, there really isn’t anyone who loves the game who objects to Todd Helton getting into the World Series. I just wish it didn’t have to be this year.