You know, I get static from folks sometimes because I collect baseball hats and jerseys from teams besides the Rockies and wear them all the time. I've said it before: more than I am a Rockies fan, I am a baseball fan whose favorite team is Colorado. For the most part I am suspicious of people who only follow one team. That's great that you love the Angels, or the Pirates, or whomever, but you should still know the names of players on other teams and be interested in what is going on even after your rooting interest gets eliminated.
So even though the game last night was one the Rockies absolutely could not afford to lose, their ace pitcher facing off a team ahead of Colorado in both the wild card and the division race, I couldn't feel that awful after Jorge Julio took the mound in the top of the ninth and sealed the victory for the Padres. You just don't get to see enough games like that if you mostly watch Rockies baseball -- two fantastic pitchers engaged in a battle of one-upsmanship, setting guys down with guile and willpower. As dazzling as Greg Maddux was (man, I hope he pitches until he's 50), yesterday was maybe the best programming I've ever seen on the Francis Channel, and that's saying something. Jeff didn't have command of his fastball when the game started and he was doing his best to pitch to contact and give the Rockies as many innings as he could. Then he saw how completely dominant Maddux was and he somehow managed to will his control back. From the third through the eighth, the Padres were completely helpless. It was beautiful to watch.
The Rockies' offense got their chance, and in what's becoming an increasing rarity of late, they didn't seize the opportunity. Heath Bell struck out Matt Holliday (on an absolute bastard of a fastball) with the tying run on third in the eighth. It was a great backhand stop by Khalil Greene that kept that run from scoring on a Kaz Matsui infield single. That was the least of the drama in the bottom of that inning, as the Rockies somehow managed to lose Willy Taveras and Kaz to hamstring injuries on back-to-back plays. What is that? I mean, COME ON. We've already lost four starting pitchers, our secret-weapon long relief guy, and (long ago) our entire fanbase. This is not fair. You guys know I won't miss Willy one little bit (although the game situation last night was one of the rare times the Rockies found themselves in need of his particular skill set -- I don't have anything against Willy in a Dave Roberts role, I just don't like him as an everyday centerfielder), but it's no coincidence that Colorado started struggling back into playoff relevance right when Kaz Matsui's back spasms finally backed off (heh) and he was able to start playing every day in the two-spot once again. What's the difference between Kaz and Willy? Start with Matsui's huge homer on Friday night.