DENVER - Two games and five innings had wiped out more than a month's worth of miracles. At least in the court of public opinion.
But the Rockies had not forgotten. They knew the recipe to what had gotten them here. Not only that, they still had the belief they would produce a delectable treat for their fans and remind the baseball world of the game's most incredible September rush. The 21 wins in 22 games? The comeback from being 6 1/2 games back in mid-September? The one-game playoff win over the Padres, thanks to three runs off All-World reliever Trevor Hoffman in the last inning?
The Rockies had faith that it was still with them. They almost pulled it off, too, but in the end, a 10-5 loss in last night's Game 3 at Coors Field pushed the Rockies into a hole that has never been climbed out of in a World Series.
"I don't know the record," responded Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle when asked how his team would react to being down, 3-0, in the World Series.
Teams in such a situation are 0 for 22, he was told.
Hurdle nodded his head. "I guess," he said, "that we're in groundbreaking territory."
There were a few laughs and even a slight smile from Hurdle, though to be honest, he still had to be trying to absorb what had happened on this cold evening. His team had seemingly come alive . . . only to fall again.
Over their first 23 innings, the Rockies had generated just 11 hits and two runs. Down in the Series, 2-0, they were down in Game 3, 6-0. Not only were they down, their fans were quiet, and a sea of waving white towels was a distant memory. Instead, visions of sweeping brooms entered their minds, at least for those who weren't already turning their thoughts to their beloved Broncos.
And then, some excitement with one out in the sixth. Now, back-to-back walks to Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins against Daisuke Matsuzaka may not qualify as excitement in your corner of the baseball world, but when you've been outscored, 21-2, in 23 innings, it's stadium-rocking stuff. Next thing the Coors Field faithful knew, Brad Hawpe had singled off Javier Lopez and so, too, had Yorbit Torrealba, snapping an 0-for-10 postseason slump.
With two runs pushed across, the Rockies had consecutive hits for the first time in the World Series, but with two on and one out, Ryan Spilborghs hit a fly ball to the wall in center field off Mike Timlin that was caught by Jacoby Ellsbury and pinch hitter Jeff Baker laced a screaming line drive that seemed destined for left-center, only shortstop Julio Lugo leaped high and snared it for the third out.
A collective groan settled in at Coors Field, but Hurdle wouldn't dwell on the heartache.
"It's one of the interesting aspects of any big-time sports," he said. "The wouldas, couldas, ifs, and buts are always out there. But there comes a time when you have to find a way to get runs, to get outs."
His team had done that throughout its frantic fall finish, and on this night, they nearly did it again. That's because in the seventh, the Rockies got the towels a-wavin' again.
Kaz Matsui singled to start things, then stole second. Then, a great sight for Rockies fans - a ground-ball single by their heralded Rookie of the Year candidate, Troy Tulowitzki.
Oh, how the young man had been such a huge part of this Rocky Mountain dream, his .291 average, 24 home runs, and 99 RBIs an impressive set of numbers. But when he struck out with a man in scoring position in the first and popped out with two on the fifth, he was 7 for 37 in the postseason and slamming his bat into the dirt. Not in the seventh, though, because his seeing-eye single kept things alive - and speaking of alive, that is what Coors Field was when their MVP choice, Matt Holliday, greeted Hideki Okajima with a 437-yard shot to straightaway center, a three-run home run that trimmed the deficit to 6-5.
"He's a big-time player," said Hurdle, who led the cheers and the back-slapping from the dugout.
The Rockies had discovered their bats, at long last.
The only problem is, they had run out of relief.
Having been shellshocked at the sight of Josh Fogg giving up 10 hits and 6 runs against just 19 batters, Hurdle turned to his bullpen and begged for help. Franklin Morales, Jeremy Affeldt, and Matt Herges provided just that, not by simply shutting the door, but slamming it with an emphatic shake. They combined to retire 13 of the 14 Boston batters they faced, including Herges's three straight strikeouts in the seventh.
The only problem was, this was a National League game. No DH was in order, so when it was Herges's turn to hit in the seventh, there was a pinch hitter. Herges was out, lefthander Brian Fuentes was in. The Red Sox' bats were in, the Rockies' spirited comeback was out.
It was a no-nonsense three-run eighth against the overmatched Fuentes and just like that, the one-run deficit was a 9-5 hole, and the plug had been pulled on the Coors Field electricity.
Down went the towels.
What sank faster were their spirits.