|Colorado (91-68) «||1||0||4||0||0||2||0||2||x||9||14||1|
DENVER -- It's a Rocktober redux for the Colorado Rockies, who are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.
Aaron Cook pitched four-hit ball over eight spectacular innings in his second start since missing a month with a sore shoulder, and Garrett Atkins drove in three runs for the Rockies in a 9-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
The Rockies' fourth consecutive victory eliminated Atlanta, their final pursuer, from contention for the NL wild card. Colorado can still catch the Dodgers for the NL West title if the Rockies sweep a weekend series in Los Angeles.
"We're in," Troy Tulowitzki said. "Anything can happen once you're in."
The Dodgers, who have lost four in a row, were off Thursday and watched their division lead on the Rockies get sliced to two games with three left.
As the Rockies rejoiced behind the mound after the final out, fans broke into a chant of "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A!" while fireworks crackled through a cloudless sky.
"We're celebrating right now. We'll worry about that tomorrow," Todd Helton said as his teammates sprayed him with beer and champagne.
On the other side of the clubhouse, manager Jim Tracy was getting soaked by players serenading him with Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas.
A bundled-up crowd of more than 38,000 sat through blustery winds on a 50-degree day to watch the record-setting win. At 91-68, the Rockies set a franchise mark for victories in a season and moved 23 games over .500 for the first time in their 17-year history.
Unlike two years ago, when they got hot at the right time, winning 21 of 22 on their way to their only World Series appearance, these Rockies simply got good.
After trading slugger Matt Holliday last fall for closer Huston Street and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies got off to a stumbling start. They were 18-28 on May 29 when Tracy took over after general manager Dan O'Dowd fired longtime manager Clint Hurdle.
When O'Dowd offered Tracy the job, he told him, "I just want to see them play better."
Tracy asked for 60 minutes to mull the offer.
O'Dowd said he would gladly give him an hour's time to think about it but not a minute more because he needed a manager in the dugout that night after firing Hurdle following a stint of seven-plus seasons.
Tracy talked it over with his wife and told O'Dowd he thought the Rockies could indeed play better under his tutelage.
Have they ever.
Under Tracy, the Rockies are 73-40, and they took over sole possession of the lead in the wild-card race, which they trailed by 9½ games at midsummer, on Sept. 1.
The Rockies, who were 12 games under .500 on June 3, turned their season around and rejoined the pennant race with sensational starting pitching (they're the only team with five starters with double-digit wins), a brilliant bullpen, a mixture of clutch situational and power hitting and deft managerial and front-office moves.
The Rockies reached the playoffs as the NL wild card in 1995 and 2007, when they went an unfathomable 21-1 during a stunning run-up to the World Series, where they were swept by Boston after a weeklong layoff.
"It's not been as crazy a ride coming down the stretch but it's been just as fun," Cook said. "So, we're going to enjoy it just as much."
After whittling their magic number to one on Wednesday night, the Rockies took a quick 1-0 lead Thursday when Atkins' first-inning blooper fell in front of left fielder Ryan Braun for a single, allowing Helton to score from second.
They chased left-hander Manny Parra (11-11) with a four-run third.
Atkins, who lost his starting third-base job at midseason, followed Tulowitzki's run-scoring single with an RBI double into the right-field corner, and Parra walked Cook and Dexter Fowler with two outs and the bases loaded to make it 5-0.
Atkins added a run-scoring single off John Axford in the sixth after Braun hit his 31st home run in the top half. Cook then drew his second bases-loaded walk, making it 7-1.
"We had a lot of heroes this year. It was me today," Atkins said.
Smith was struck in the face by pinch-hitter Eric Young's one-hop comebacker later in the inning and had to leave the game.
Cook (11-6), who walked three times, yielded one run and four hits in his longest outing since June 28 at Oakland.
"They do the things they need to do to win," Cameron said. "They play good defense, they pitch well and they get timely hitting."
|Earning a playoff spot and recording a franchise-record 91st win is worth a champagne shower. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Felipe Lopez, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.306|
|Jody Gerut, RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.227|
|Ryan Braun, LF||4||1||1||1||0||1||0||.318|
|Prince Fielder, 1B||4||1||2||0||0||1||0||.298|
|Casey McGehee, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.301|
|Mike Cameron, CF||4||0||2||1||0||0||1||.250|
|Alcides Escobar, SS||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.304|
|Jason Kendall, C||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.243|
|Manny Parra, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||3||.133|
|Seth McClung, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Corey Patterson, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.115|
|John Axford, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Mitch Stetter, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Mat Gamel, PH||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||.236|
|Chris Smith, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Todd Coffey, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-flied out for McClung in the 5th|
|b-walked for Stetter in the 8th|
|2B - Mike Cameron 2 (32, Cook, Morales)|
|HR - Ryan Braun (31, Cook)|
|RBI - Ryan Braun (108), Mike Cameron (70)|
|2-OUT RBI - Ryan Braun (34), Mike Cameron (28)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|Manny Parra (L,11-11)||2.2||6||5||5||5||5||0||6.36|
|IBB - Iannetta by Manny Parra, Barmes by John Axford|
|HBP - Tulowitzki (by Mitch Stetter)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Manny Parra 91-44, Seth McClung 31-15, John Axford 46-24, Mitch Stetter 14-7, Chris Smith 16-13, Todd Coffey 9-6|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - John Axford 3-1, Mitch Stetter 2-1, Todd Coffey 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Manny Parra 19, Seth McClung 6, John Axford 12, Mitch Stetter 4, Chris Smith 4, Todd Coffey 3|
|Dexter Fowler, CF||5||0||0||1||1||1||6||.264|
|Ryan Spilborghs, LF||6||1||1||0||0||3||6||.246|
|Todd Helton, 1B||5||3||2||0||1||1||2||.323|
|Troy Tulowitzki, SS||3||2||3||1||1||0||0||.299|
|Garrett Atkins, 3B||4||1||3||3||0||1||1||.226|
|Mike McCoy, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Ian Stewart, 3B||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.229|
|Chris Iannetta, C||3||1||1||0||2||1||3||.229|
|Brad Hawpe, RF||5||1||1||2||0||4||7||.284|
|Clint Barmes, 2B||4||0||2||0||1||1||3||.248|
|Aaron Cook, P||1||0||0||2||3||0||1||.114|
|a- Eric Young Jr., PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.275|
|Franklin Morales, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.400|
|a-singled for Cook in the 8th|
|2B - Garrett Atkins (11, Parra), Chris Iannetta (15, Smith), Clint Barmes (32, Axford)|
|HR - Brad Hawpe (22, Smith)|
|RBI - Dexter Fowler (34), Troy Tulowitzki (90), Garrett Atkins 3 (48), Brad Hawpe 2 (85), Aaron Cook 2 (6)|
|2-OUT RBI - Dexter Fowler (19), Garrett Atkins (26), Aaron Cook 2 (3)|
|SB - Troy Tulowitzki (20, 3rd base off Parra/Kendall), Mike McCoy (2, 2nd base off Axford/Kendall)|
|Team LOB - 15|
|DP - Tulowitzki-Barmes-Helton|
|E - Brad Hawpe (5, Throwing)|
|Aaron Cook (W,11-6)||8||4||1||1||1||2||1||4.16|
|HBP - Kendall (by Aaron Cook)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Aaron Cook 85-51, Franklin Morales 24-16|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Aaron Cook 13-8, Franklin Morales 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Aaron Cook 29, Franklin Morales 5|
|Attendance - 38098|
|Game Time - 2:59|
|Temperature - 54|
|Umpires - Home - Jim Joyce, First Base - Gerry Davis, Second Base - Bill Miller, Third Base - Derryl Cousins|