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Saturday, October 6, 2007
Lights go out temporarily at Coors Field

Associated Press

DENVER -- It could be lights out for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kaz Matsui lined a run-scoring triple to break a scoreless tie and rookie Ubaldo Jimenez kept his composure after the lights went out at Coors Field, helping the Colorado Rockies to a 1-0 lead through six innings in Game 3 of their NL division series on a gusty Saturday night.

Colorado won the series' first two games in Philadelphia by holding the high-scoring Phillies to seven combined runs, setting up a chance for the Rockies to reach the NL championship series for the first time in their 15-year history. Colorado would face the Arizona Diamondbacks, who swept the Chicago Cubs earlier in the day.

It was the first playoff game in the Mile High City since 1995 and, boy, was it a strange one.

A cold front hit the stadium just moments before the Rockies took the field, dropping the temperature 15 degrees into the lower 60s, with gusty winds stirring dust and trash around the stadium. The eerie level went up another notch one pitch into the second inning, when the lights went out and cameras started flashing around the stadium.

It took 14 minutes to get the lights up to full strength again and the cold winds continued to blow, gusting up to 39 mph inside the stadium and knocking down any ball to the outfield.

The winds hurt Colorado's Garrett Atkins, who had a shot to left in the second inning land at the warning track, but Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs seemed to benefit from the gusts with singles that dropped in front of outfielders. Moyer followed by walking Yorvit Torrealba to load the bases, but got Jimenez on a weak grounder to end the second.

Moyer wasn't as fortunate in the fifth inning, when Torrealba reached on single with one out and scored after left fielder Pat Burrell couldn't come up with Matsui's sinking liner.

Jimenez was the second straight rookie to start for Colorado in the series -- Franklin Morales gave up three runs in three innings in Game 2 on Thursday -- and didn't seemed bothered by the added spotlight or strange circumstances.

The hard-throwing right-hander gave up a single to Ryan Howard in the first inning, then retired 11 straight batters before walking Carlos Ruiz with one out in the fourth.

Not even a light malfunction could derail Jimenez.

The 23-year-old threw a ball to Shane Victorino to start the second, waited until the lights came back on, then retired the side in order. Jimenez got into trouble in the fifth inning after one-out walks to Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, but got Burrell on a popup to left and Howard on a groundout to end the threat.

The Phillies turned to the veteran Moyer, hoping he could end his struggles at Coors Field and slow a Colorado lineup that hit four homers and scored 14 runs in two road wins to start the series.

Moyer has never had much success at Coors, going 0-4 with 12 runs and 17 hits in 11 innings, but the crafty left-hander retired the side in the first inning on three weakly hit balls in his first postseason start since 2001. Kaz Matsui led off the third with a single, but Troy Tulowitzki hit into a fielder's choice and was caught stealing after MVP candidate Matt Holliday struck out.

The wind certainly didn't diminish the enthusiasm of the fans, who have been waiting over a decade for playoff baseball in Denver.

The Lower Downtown district hasn't had a vibe like this since Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla and the rest of the Blake Street Bombers powered their way into the postseason 12 years ago.

Fans who had stayed away during the lean years -- and there were plenty -- descended on the ballpark in waves of purple and black, many with their faces painted and brooms in their hands in anticipation of a sweep. The streets and sidewalks surrounding the stadium were jammed more than three hours before the first pitch, then fans filled every seat and walkway inside, whipping into a frenzy by waving white towels that whirled like pinwheels.