I was under the impression that 'Rocky Mountain Oysters' were bull testicles, delicately breaded and fried to a crisp - a real delicacy. Apparently though, prior to slicing and breading they also resemble the oblong 'zero' shape of the numbers hung on the scoreboard at Coors Field each time Manager Rockwell sent his squad back on to the field. Eating these during the series would have been apropos, as Spence had my balls in his mouth all series. But enough with the crude taunting.
My squad persevered thru two tough, extra-inning road games in filthy, grimy Pittsburgh. Then rode the wave of emotion back to the picturesque alpine beauty of Colorado, where they proceeded to complete the sweep, finishing off Spencer's team in impressive fashion, allowing only 3 runs in 18 innings at home. Now, much like the 2006 Detroit Tigers, I have to wait (perhaps for weeks) to figure out who my opponent will be in the World Series. My red-hot rolling can only cool off from here. But for the meantime, here's the details from the 2-3 seed 1st round playoff matchup.
Game 1 - J.Vasquez @ A.Wainwright
With post-Mokeski stiffness starting set in, Spence and I sat down and rolled out the first two games at the VanLanduyt family estate. Both squads chipped away at each other, a run here - a run there. The Panda got things started with a solo shot in the top of the second (Torto 1, Spence 0), and a Miguel Tejada RBI-double in the top of the 3rd (Torto 2, Spence 0). Rockwell struck back in the bottom of the 3rd with an Adrian Gonzalez bases loaded walk (ugh) and a Matt Holliday RBI-groundout (Torto 2, Spence 2). Javy and Wainwright settled in after that, pitching a scoreless duel into the ninth, where Wainwright struck out Werth and Pagan before yielding back-to-back singles to 7-8 hitters Randy Winn and Pedro Feliz. These last two baserunners finally wore down Wainwright to 'tired' status, and Spence went with his gut and let the kid keep rolling against 9-hole pinch hitter Gary Sheffield. Sheff delivered a 2-out RBI single, scoring the speedy Winn (who was later ejected), and taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th (Torto 3, Spence 2). I went to the pen, handing the ball to the usually solid Huston Street. Maybe it was road jitters, maybe not - but Street got 2 quick outs, and then allowed a pinch-hit single to James Loney, followed by the Mexican (er, Peruvian?) Masher AKA Carlos Ruiz RBI-double to tie the game (Torto 3, Spence 3). The ball was then handed over to Ryan Franklin, who went ahead and closed the 9th with a K, and had a perfect scoreless 10th. Nothing doing for anybody until the top of the 12th, when Sean Burnett walked of Toddfather, allowed a single by the Panda, and then a RBI-single from Angel Pagan (Torto 4, Spence 3). With no closers left, it was up to the dynamic tandem of Guillermo Mota and Mitch Setter to seal the deal. Mota dealt the first out, followed by Mitch "A-Gone Killa" Stetter sitting down the big lefty. After a 2-out single yielded to Matt Holliday, Stetter closed out the game sitting down Scotty Rolen.
WP - G.Mota
BS - H.Street
S - M.Stetter
LP - S.Burnett
Ejection - R.Winn arguing strikezone in the 11th.
Player of the Game - Angel Pagan 3-6 with GW RBI-single
Torto wins Game 1 (4-3 in 12 innings)
Game 2 - C.Billingsley @ C.Lee
With both 'pens used heavily in Game 1, both teams were apprehensive of how the pitching would hold up in this match. C-Bill and Lee both did what they could to keep their respective team bullpens from being decimated early in the series. For part of the way my squad was handicapped in the field, due to an early Henry Blanco ejection (arguing strikes) in the 2nd - moving the Panda over to the backstop. Then in the 6th, the hot tempers continued as Pedro Feliz was also ejected (arguing strikes again). Shorthanded now at the 3B position, old man Gary Sheffield was forced to grab his glove for the first time all season, and play third rocking the F-5 range/error. Sheff picked up at 3rd like he was 20 again, going error free the remainder of the game. After an ought-ought tie thru 8, the Rocks finally got off the schnide in the top of the 9th, getting a run on a Miguel Tejada 2-out RBI single (Torto 1, Spence 0). Not to be denied and lose another in the late innings, Spence got a solo bomb from A-Gone off Billingsley to tie it up (Torto 1, Spence 1). Top of the 10th, Manager Rockwell let Cliff Lee forge ahead. And he got himself into a little trouble, after plunking Toddfather Helton with 2-outs. Spence yanked Lee for Kiki Calero, who proceeded to give up a 2-run blast to the Kung Fu Panda (Torto 3, Spence 1). Huston Street was again handed the ball to close it out, and it was a rough road. Street gave up a lead off single to Yunel Escobar, then walked Jeff Keppinger before whiffing 'Killa Mike' Cameron, and getting Jimmy Loney to ground out into a game ending double play.
WP - C.Billingsley
S - H.Street
LP - K.Calero
Ejections - H.Blanco (2nd inn), P.Feliz (6th inn)
Player of the Game - Pablo Sandoval 1-5 with GW 2-R HR
Torto wins Game 2 (3-1 in 10 innings)
Game 3 - R.Ohlendorf @ R.Dempster
The series now headed out to Coors Field, with dice rollin' going down at Morry's Bar in Beaver Dam. With the joint now smoke-free, the now-absent toxicological affects of 2nd-hand smoke allowed for my brain to function at a modestly higher level, allowing me to process perfectly when and how to use my bullpen and when to make defensive substitutions. I got on the board first on an RBI-single from Pedro Feliz in the 2nd (Torto 1, Spence 0). Spence struck back in the 3rd on an A-Gone base clearing 2B (Torto 1, Spence 1). In the bottom of the 5th, the meat of the order got to Ohlendorf. With 2-outs, Toddfather Helton jacked a deep drive and the +40 carry pushed the ball into the cool, crisp Colorado night. Sandoval then singled, and Woolly Jason Werth cranked another ball into the seats (Torto 4, Spence 1). Spence got 1 back in the 6th on a Mike Cameron RBI-single (Torto 4, Spence 2). Kid Kenshin Kawakami came in for Spencer in the 6th and immediately got rocked around, giving up 3 hits and a walk, culminated in a Tejada RBI-single (Torto 5, Spence 2). Spencer's bats went to sleep the rest of the way, as Stetter and Franklin held things down, and I picked up one more insurance run in the 8th on a Sandoval RBI-single (Torto 6 Spence 2).
WP - R.Dempster
LP - R.Ohlendorf
Player of the Game - R.Dempster 7IP, 8H, 0BB, 8K, 2ER
Torto wins Game 3 (6-2)
Game 4 - C.Zambrano @ R.Wolf
Usually when you see a pic like this accompanying one of my posts, it means something good happened for Big Z. This occasion is no different. From the moment Zambrano toed the rubber, he was dialed in and ready to sweep this thing out. No fucking around here kids, none whatsoever.
My guys jumped out to an early lead, getting Spence nervous about his lefty #4. Wolf lasted 1 inning, but only gave up 2 runs, on a Panda RBI single and a El Caballo RBI-ground out (Torto 2, Spence 0). Wolf then proceeded to give up a HR in his first batter faced in the 2nd, Phatty Freddy Sanchez (Torto 3, Spence 0). Fresh of the DL, Spencer inserted vet Pedro Martinez into the game. Pedro got knocked for a run in the 3rd, this time after allowing a Werth 2B, then steal of 3rd, before Henry Blanco sac-flied him home (Torto 4, Spence 0). Zambrano got a little wobbly in the 4th, walking A-Gone and Yunel back-to-back, before Blanco's calming presence centered the big guy. Leading off the bottom of the 4th, a focused Big Z belted a deep drive off Martinez into the seats for the 3rd HR by a pitcher in league history (Torto 5, Spence 0). Zambrano cruised up thru the 7th (striking out the side in both the 3rd and the 6th - fist pumping anyone?), before handing the ball to Mitch Stetter to sit down A-Gone, who then in turn let Huston Street close it out. Street was again shaky, allowing Mike Cameron a solo shot in the top of the ninth, before slamming the door on the series (Torto 5, Spence 1)
WP - C.Zambrano
LP - R.Wolf
Player of the Game - C.Zambrano 7IP, 2H, 4 BB, 10K, 0 ER, 1-3 with solo HR.
Torto wins Game 4 (5-1) and wins Round 1 Series (4-0)
Hats off to Spence, who was class all the way thru this series - in spite of some brutal rolling that would frustrate the best of us. The poor guy's bats went to sleep about 95% of the series, and I was 'on' for pretty much the entire series, and there was no way around it. Will I be this ignited for the World Series? Who knows, but I certainly won't count on it. But for now, I'll briefly celebrate with the adding of chocolate to milk, and hitting the hay. Good luck to Carlo/Matt/Fish. Go Rocks.