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Start of something special for Rockies?

ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer

DENVER – Aaron Cook wanted to rack up another win, not more frequent flier miles.

The Colorado Rockies ace flew out to Philadelphia on Monday hoping to get a good night’s rest for a decisive Game 5 against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Instead, Cook flew home to clean out his locker.



The Rockies’ resurgent season ended Monday, with Huston Street, who had saved 35 of 37, having back-to-back ninth-inning meltdowns and cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki making the last out with two men on in back-to-back losses at Coors Field, where they had gone 44-17 under Jim Tracy.

“We went toe-to-toe with the defending world champions,” Street sighed.



And they ended up on their backs, down for the count.

“He is the guy we want to get into the game,” Tulowitzki said of Street, who came over in the Matt Holliday trade last winter. “We want the ball in his hands.”

With the game on the line, they want the bat in Tulowitzki’s hands, too.



It just didn’t work out this time.

The end was all the more agonizing because the Rockies had rallied for three runs in the eighth inning Monday night to take a 4-2 lead. They were one strike away from hopping on that plane to meet up with Cook when Ryan Howard stroked a two-run double and scored on Jayson Werth’s soft single.

“It’s tough to take,” Tulowitzki said. “One minute, you’re high and you’re thinking about going to Philly for Game 5. Wow, we can do this. And all the momentum in the world. Now we’re sitting here talking about going home.”

The Rockies went 74-42 under Tracy, who replaced longtime manager Clint Hurdle on May 29 and who figures to get a contract extension after ownership re-ups general manager Dan O’Dowd, the architect of one of the most talented young teams in baseball.

The Rockies won a franchise-record 92 games and took the Los Angeles Dodgers down to the second-to-last day of the regular season before ceding them the division crown and settling for the wild card.

“We felt like we can play with anybody,” Tulowitzki said. “Once we sit back in the offseason and get a chance to reflect on what we did, I think it’s pretty special and we’ll grow from there.”

The Rockies sure look like they have a fantastic future ahead of them.

Their young core includes: budding superstar Carlos Gonzalez – whose 10 hits in the postseason was most by any player in the first round; speedsters Dexter Fowler and Eric Young Jr.; Seth Smith and Tulowitzki in the field; Yorvit Torrealba and Chris Iannetta behind the plate; Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Cook in the starting rotation; and Street, Franklin Morales and Rafael Betancourt in the bullpen.

Their farm system is stocked with more promising pitchers, and Jeff Francis, Manny Corpas, Taylor Buchholz and Alan Embree plan to return from injuries to make their mark on the mound again in 2010.

But the two Rockies who made the All-Star team – right fielder Brad Hawpe and right-handed starter Jason Marquis – might not be in their plans next year.

Marquis’ fade down the stretch cost him a spot in the postseason starting rotation and he’s not expected to re-sign. Hawpe’s second-half fade culminated with his benching for the last two games of the NL playoff series, and he and Garrett Atkins, who lost his third base job to Ian Stewart, could be trade candidates.

Notable free agents include reliever Joe Beimel, Jason Giambi and Jose Contreras.

Although Giambi would like to be a DH in the American League, he loved it in Colorado and could return if they can find him enough at-bats behind first baseman Todd Helton.

“I’ve had a great time,” Giambi said. “I love my teammates.”

At 45-29, the Rockies posted the best second-half record in the National League, but they missed out on a chance to win the NL West and secure home-field advantage when they lost at Los Angeles on the next-to-last day of the season. De La Rosa, whose 16 wins after June 1 were tops in baseball, strained his groin in that game and was shelved for the series against Philadelphia.

The Rockies expect this to be more of a building block than their 2007 trip to the World Series was. That year, they won 20 of 21 to clinch their first pennant before getting swept by Boston.

“It will be good going into next year knowing that we put a full year together to get to the playoffs as opposed to just a nice run like in ’07,” Smith suggested.

Still, it was difficult for many players to find any fun in the prospects of a promising future or in the memory of their remarkable recovery from a 20-32 record on June 3.

“To battle back from where we were at and be able to get into the playoffs, there’s a lot to be said for what we did this year,” Helton said. “We just wish we could have taken it a little bit farther.”


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