Tracy gave Rockies renewed motivation
It was in Arizona slightly more than three weeks ago that Colorado manager Jim Tracy called a rare team meeting, and issued a challenge to his team, which was 11 games out of first place in the NL West with 42 games remaining in the regular season.
"I told them that their contract called for them to get paid for a 162-game season and they were expected to play 162 games," Tracy said. "I told them that we had time remaining to get the job done and if there was anyone there who didn’t believe we could go out and win (the NL West) they could take off their uniform and go home because those of us who were staying planned to play every day like we felt we could win."
Nobody went home.
And the Rockies are acting like they just may win, again.
Remember 2007? The Rockies staged an unprecedented season-ending surge, winning 13 of their final 14 games, and then coined the team Rocktober when they first swept Philadelphia and then Arizona in the playoffs to advance to the first World Series in franchise history.
Well, if there is going to be a Rocktober, first there has to be a Rocktember.
And all signs are the Rockies, whose 58-33 September record since 2007 is the best in the National League, are putting together another Rocktember to remember.
While they lost the first two games after Tracy’s talk in Arizona, they have won 17 of their last 21 games, and extended their current winning streak to 10 games, one shy of their club record, by completing a Coors Field sweep of Arizona with a 4-2 victory Sunday afternoon.
Now the Rockies find themselves just 1 1/2 games back of San Diego and San Francisco in the NL West with San Diego coming to Coors Field for three games beginning on Monday.
"Streaks do create a momentum of their own," Tracy said. "To be in position and have an opportunity to win the number of games as we have now won it has to happen I different ways."
Don’t think the Rockies are living right?
On Thursday, after Cincinnati took a 5-0 lead in the top of the second, the Rockies rallied to pull out a 6-5 win. Chris Nelson scored the game-winning run when in the bottom of the eighth with the first straight steal of home in franchise history.
After a 13-4 blowout of Arizona in the opener of the weekend series on Friday, when Troy Tulowitzki had his second two-home-run game in as many games, the Rockies pulled out a 2-1 victory when third base coach Rich Dauer inadvertently wiped off a squeeze play and Jonathan Herrera swung away, delivering the game-winning sacrifice fly.
And on Sunday, after rallying for two runs to tie Arizona at 2-2 in the seventh, the Rockies walked off with a 4-2 victory. Jason Giambi, hitless in his previous 16 at-bats against Arizona this season, delivered the two-out, two-run walk-off home run.
The Padres, meanwhile, will be trying to put an end to a Rockies’ winning streak that began with Colorado sweeping three games in San Diego Sept. 3-5. They have been in first place for 143 days, but have lost 13 of their last 17, scoring a total of 38 runs, including only five runs in losing three out of four to San Francisco during the weekend.
They have reworked their rotation, bringing up Cory Luebke from Triple-A Portland and moving Tim Stauffer over from the bullpen to replace Kevin Correa and Wade LeBlanc, who were a combined 1-5 and allowed 36 earned runs in 25 innings the last three starts each made.
But the offense continues to stumble. Late July additions Eric Ludwick has been moved from fourth to third to seventh in the lineup and has a .212 average, and Miguel Tejada is hitting .248.
The Padres have played 69 games, winning 38, decided by one or two runs.
"Hopefully it makes us more battle-ready," said second baseman David Eckstein. "It can be draining if you lose a lot of them. If you win a lot of them, it means you expect to win. But you just don't know how much we're going to score. Every single pitch means so much."
WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION
There are only two teams that the Yankees have a losing record against — Toronto (7-8) and Tampa Bay (5-6). Tampa Bay is the bigger concern because Tampa Bay is challenging the Yankees for the AL East title, although whichever one doesn’t win the division is a virtual lock for the wild-card.
The Yankees have two more shots at Tampa Bay this season, beginning with a three-game visit to the Tropicana Dome that opens Monday. Who knows, maybe even some folks will buy tickets to see this matchup. The Yankees also host Tampa Bay in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium next week.
The Yankees do need to take advantage of the face-to-face matchup because the Rays have an edge in the remaining schedule. Other than the Yankees, Tampa Bay hosts the Angels, Seattle and Baltimore in three-game series, and travels to Kansas City for four games.
The Yankees, meanwhile, now only have the two series remaining with Tampa Bay, but also has a three-game visit to Toronto, and a home-and-away set up with rival Boston, and three games at Baltimore, where new manager Buck Showalter has special motivation in going up against his old team.
WHAT’S ON TAP
In addition to the Padres visit to Colorado and Yankees-Rays get together in Tampa Bay, this week’s schedule includes:
• The White Sox facing a must-win situation against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins in a three-game visit to Minnesota that opens Tuesday. The Twins host Detroit and White Sox host Oakland during the weekend.
• The Padres continue their challenging stretch with a weekend trip to St. Louis while the Rockies visit Los Angeles for three games against the Dodgers.
• St. Louis hosts the Cubs to open the week while Cincinnati hosts Arizona in a four-game series before spending the weekend in Houston.
• San Francisco is home for the week, host the Dodgers in a three-game series that begins on Tuesday and welcoming Milwaukee to town for the weekend.
• Atlanta and Philadelphia both host three-game visits from Washington, which opens the week in Atlanta and finishes it in Philadelphia. The Braves travel to New York for a weekend series with the Mets while the Phillies open the week with three games in Florida.
• San Diego activated utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., from the disabled list Sunday, but he will initially be limited to pinch-hit duties. Hairston missed 14 games with a strained right elbow.
• Colorado left-hander Jeff Francis has been activated from the disabled list and will return to the rotation in Monday’s series opener against San Diego. He takes the place of Aaron Cook who had two strong starts after coming off the disabled list, but in the sixth inning of his last start, Wednesday, he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the right fibula when he was hit by a line.
• Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus returned to the activated roster Sunday, and accounted for three of the Rangers runs in a 4-1 win against the Yankees. He was 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI.
• Minnesota left-hander Brian Fuentes worked a shutout inning on Sunday, his first appearance since being sidelined with back stiffness on Aug. 28.
• San Diego right-hander Chris Young, who made his first start of the season and then went on the disabled list, with a right shoulder strain, worked 5 2/3 shutout innings for High-A Lake Elsinore in his third rehab assignment on Saturday. Young said he feels he is ready to face big-league hitters, but manager Buddy Black said the situation needs to be evaluated.
• New York Yankee lefthander Andy Pettitte, slowed by a groin strain, will make his second minor-league rehab appearance on Tuesday and could start for the Yankees on Sunday at Baltimore.
• Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce, sidelined since Aug. 31 because of a strained side, came away with a positive report during weekend batting practice. He could return to the lineup Tuesday.
• Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins, sidelined for a third time with a strained calf, is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
• Colorado third baseman Ian Stewart, sidelined with a pulled rib cage muscle, had to scratch plans for a rehab assignment when the injury flared up during batting practice. Catcher Chris Iannetta came out of Sunday’s game with a calf strain.
ADDING THEM UP
• 4 home runs by San Francisco at San Diego on Thursday — Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, Buster Posey and Pat Burrell all going deep. It’s only the 20th time in the seven-year history of Petco that a team has had a four-home run game.
• 19 1-0 decisions at Petco Park since it opened in 2004, the most of any park in baseball during that stretch.
• 14-year drought for the Rangers sweeping the Yankees in Arlington, which ended with the Rangers taking three from the Yankees during the weekend.
• 6 wins and a loss for Rangers lefty Cliff Lee in eight September and postseason starts against the Yankees since the 2008 season. Rangers right now would face Yankees in opening round of the playoffs. Rangers have been to the postseason three times in franchise history, facing Yankees all three times and are 1-9, losing nine in a row after winning first postseason game ever.
"All these close games, you have to find ways to win. It's about executing and making plays. That's why our record is really good in one-run games, because we've executed pretty good and are getting it done," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire on the Twins’ 30-21 record in one-run games.