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BASEBALL EXTRA

Colorado Showing All the Character

Baseball: Despite being all but out of the division race, Rockies are the ones playing the game the way it should be played in September.

September 22, 1997|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Everything you could hope to see from a team fighting to reach the postseason unfolded at Dodger Stadium on Sunday night.

There was clutch hitting, an impressive rally and enough postgame camaraderie to make even outsiders believe this bunch has the right stuff--or at least enough to win the National League West. The hometown fans couldn't have asked for more . . . if this were Coors Field.

The Colorado Rockies showed the Dodgers how things are done at this time of year, sweeping a pivotal three-game series. The capper was a 10-5 victory Sunday after the Dodgers held a 5-1 lead after three innings, had Ramon Martinez on the mound and seemingly more incentive to win.

And the Rockies noticed, too.

"They're definitely pressing," said Frank Castillo, Colorado's starter. "They've been in the [division] lead before, and they were expected to win from the beginning, so they have all this pressure on them.

"They get a big lead like that against us and then look what happens. It's been going like that for them the last week or so. It's just easier when you don't have all of the pressure on you."

Not that the Dodgers need anyone to remind them.

They didn't know what to do with the Rockies, no matter how good things appeared for them Sunday. Come to think of it, they didn't know what to do with them the entire series.

The Rockies took care of that early deficit by continuing their timely hitting, which has characterized the series. They knocked out Martinez after five innings and knocked out the Dodgers with their inspired play.

All this came after the San Francisco Giants had already won Sunday, so the Dodgers knew the Giant lead would increase to two games if they didn't keep pace. But the Rockies pushed harder.

"This showed great character," Colorado Manager Don Baylor said of his team. "We stayed in there and kept battling and battling. Even when it was 5-1, we still stayed in there and our bats got us back into it."

The Rockies didn't arrive at Dodger Stadium in the best of shape, having lost three in a row. But the Dodgers were exactly what they needed.

"We left San Diego on Thursday [after losing consecutive games to the Padres] saying that we couldn't afford to lose again this season if we wanted to win this thing," said Larry Walker, the Rockies' all-star right fielder. "We haven't, so this was huge for us."

After struggling in July, the Rockies have played well in August and September. They're only three games behind the Dodgers and five behind the front-running Giants, whom they face in a two-game series beginning Tuesday night at Coors Field.

The Rockies close the season with a four-game homestand against the Dodgers. This is what Walker has been waiting for.

"This is just fun," Walker said. "This is why you play the game since April, for right now. This is not the time for nervousness or tightness or anything like that. To hell with that."

To hear the Rockies tell it, someone should tell the Dodgers.

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