Troy Tulowitzki put an exclamation point on his candidacy for National League top rookie honors by going 4-for-7 with an RBI and three runs scored in the Rockies' Wild Card-deciding win over the Padres.
The Rockies' precocious shortstop had a single, two doubles and a triple, with his second double coming in the bottom of the 13th inning to pull the Rockies to within a run. Then he scored the tying run on Matt Holliday's triple. Holliday scored the game-winning run on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly.
"We fought hard all year," Tulowitzki, the Rockies' first- round Draft pick in 2005, told the Rocky Mountain News. "Finally, to have this happen, all the hard work pays off. I can't explain it. This is a dream come true for my rookie year.
"Some of these guys have been going at it a long time, and I made the playoffs in my first year. What an experience."
Tulowitzki, a tall shortstop in the mold of Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, had an outstanding rookie season, driving in 99 runs, hitting 24 home runs and scoring 104 runs. He fell one RBI short of becoming the first NL rookie shortstop to collect 100 RBIs and 100 runs in more than 30 years.
He also broke many of the club rookie records previously held by Todd Helton. Some of those records were games played (155), hits (177), runs, most at-bats (609) and RBIs. His 24 homers were one short of tying the club record of 25 held by Helton.
Defensively, Tulowitzki led NL shortstops in assists (561), putouts (262) and double plays (114), and led Major League shortstops with a .987 fielding average.
Tulowitzki, of course, had more important things with which to concern himself as the Rockies prepared for their first postseason since they lost a 1995 Division Series against the Braves.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," said Tulowitzki, who turns 23 next week. "I'm playing on a great team with a bunch of young guys. We all get along great, we're great friends, and we go out there and play hard."
Cirillo, Helton end postseason droughts: The streak is over for Jeff Cirillo. The veteran infielder played 1,617 games without ever playing in the postseason, the longest active streak in the Majors. That streak will end Wednesday when the Diamondbacks face the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS.
"Even though I had to piggy-back to get there, it's still nice to do it," Cirillo told the East Valley Tribune. "I couldn't be happier here. These kids ... they don't know."
Arizona claimed Cirillo off waivers from Minnesota on Aug. 3. His overall average for Arizona was .200 but he hit .271 against left-handed pitchers this season. Cirillo signed with the Twins this past offseason, but he must have had second thoughts about the move after Milwaukee raced out to a big division lead earlier this year.
"I just figured I made the wrong choice. I kind of regretted the decision," said Cirillo, who left Milwaukee for Minnesota when Brewers officials told him he would be strictly a pinch-hitter if he returned. "That's my role here, but it's easier to do for six weeks in a season than six months."
Todd Helton also had his postseason drought end Monday when the Rockies earned a spot in the postseason. Helton had played in 1,577 games without appearing in a playoff game. Damion Easley of the New York Mets (1,593) now has the longest active streak without a playoff game.
Dempster could do without Bartman chatter: Ryan Dempster is looking forward to joining his teammates in their quest for the 2008 World Championship. What he's not looking forward to, though, is listening to all of the same old things about the curse of his team.
"They'll be looking for something, or waiting to try and find something, like if a feather flies across the field, they'll drop down and be like 'Bartman,' " Dempster told the Chicago Tribune. "I swear, it's more fun to write about it and talk about that kind of stuff on TV or the radio than it is if we actually won. If we win, it's like, 'Wow, now what are we going to talk about?' "
Last month in a game at Dolphin Stadium against the Marlins, a rainbow appeared and some in the press box chattered about the possibility that the rainbow could be a good omen for the Cubs. Then the team was swept by the Marlins.
"Oh, we went ahead and clinched and ruined everybody's rainbow thoughts," Dempster said.
Now, though, Dempster and the rest of the Cubs are used to that kind of talk and they don't let it bother them.
"For me, none of that stuff matters," he said. "I mean, we know about it all. If we just go out there and do our thing and take care of business, then you can write about 'the lucky rainbow.' If it wasn't for that rainbow, who knows what would've happened? We finally found that pot of gold."
No sweets good to the core for Rollins: Jimmy Rollins likes ice cream -- plain and simple. But heading into the 2007 season, Rollins made a commitment to cut back on the sweets and to work out more -- and subsequently built himself a gym in his own home. With a girlfriend who's a personal trainer, Rollins no longer has any reason not to work out.
"I can't even make up a legitimate excuse not to work out, with a gym less than 100 feet away from my bedroom," Rollins told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I don't even have to get dressed if I don't want to."
And the ice cream had to go, too -- along with other things.
"It was hard. Between ice cream and chocolate chip cookies, man," Rollins said.
This year, Rollins kept his weight around 170 -- down from 175 or 180 in other seasons.
"In the past, I was stronger overall, but when it came to baseball, I was slow running, my body was slow and my quick muscles couldn't turn on balls like they could earlier in the season," Rollins recalled. "Now it's late in the season and I'm down to 170, 169, and all of a sudden, that whip comes back, and that's where I need to be strong at. Right there in the core, which sometimes is an area that gets overlooked, but is probably one of the most important parts on your body, as far as a good hitter goes."
Martinez brings the whole package: Cleveland Indians catcher Victory Martinez is known in many circles as an offensive-minded catcher. He did, after all, have his best offensive season in 2007 with a .301 batting average, 25 home runs and 114 RBIs. But, he says, there is more to his game that just his bat.
"I'm really happy with the job I have done behind the plate," Martinez told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's a challenge to me. After last year, with all the trouble throwing to the bases, I really worked hard in offseason and the work is really paying off."
Closer Joe Borowski thinks that those that categorize Martinez as strictly an offense-only player are off the mark.
"Everything you've heard about his defense being below par, I haven't seen it," Borowski said. "You have no doubts going in there that he has a plan of attack for each hitter. He makes it comfortable for you."
Casey bids farewell to Tigers: Sean Casey, formerly known as "the Mayor" in Cincinnati before moving on to the Detroit Tigers, is once again looking for work. The Tigers plan to move Carlos Guillen to first base next year, bringing an end to the season-plus that Casey spent in Detroit.
"I talked to both Jim (Leyland) and Dave (Dombrowski)," Casey told the Detroit News. "They let me know. I've had a great time with this team, the greatest year and a half of my career. It was great. But I understand the situation."
In his final at-bat as a member of the Tigers, Casey got a hit and later said it was the "perfect day."
"I loved it, being able to walk off like that to all the hugs," he said. "I definitely didn't want an 0-fer on the last day."
Casey accepts that he now must seek work elsewhere, but will definitely miss his time with Detroit.
"I'll miss this a lot," said Casey, who hit .296 this season and .281 in his career with the Tigers. "I've played with a great bunch of guys, Detroit is a great city, and I had a great relationship with the fans. I'll really miss the fans. It's been an awesome experience."
Keeping Myers interests Chicago's Cooper: Mike Myers, who had a rough final few weeks that resulted in a climbing ERA, appears to still be in the plans of the 2008 White Sox.
"I'm not looking at ERA," pitching coach Don Cooper told the Chicago Tribune. "Every club would like to have three lefties in the bullpen. We have that ability to have three lefties every day, at least two, especially in our division where we have a lot of good-hitting lefties and guys who switch-hit."
His efforts against left-handed hitters make him a valuable commodity, added Cooper.
"He has done very well in the past against lefties, except for earlier this season," he said. "There are a couple of little things helping him. His savvy is experience. He's a very interesting guy to me."
With a team option for 2008, Myers cannot yet be sure if or where he will suit up for a 13th Major League season. If it were up to Cooper, though, it certainly sounds like he'd be back on the south side of Chicago.
"I also like the veteran presence he can bring," Cooper said. "We had a bunch of younger guys out there. [But] we're not looking [just] for presence, or a guy who is good in the clubhouse. We're looking for guys who can help us get guys out, and then if they bring those things in the clubhouse, it helps."
Wickman faces pair of good decisions: Arizona reliever Bob Wickman may have played his final game of his career Sunday, a career that has seen him rack up 267 saves. Wickman faced one batter Sunday and retired him on a comebacker to the mound.
"This gives me a chance to walk off on my own terms if I do walk off," he told the East Valley Tribune. "I got the last out that I faced and ended up being pretty successful. Hopefully, I helped this ball club and took some pressure off some of the guys. All I wanted was a chance to pitch, and to show to myself that I still could pitch."
Wickman wasn't sure how his career would end after being waived by Atlanta. But Arizona signed the veteran reliever and in eight appearances for the Diamondbacks he had a 1.35 ERA. Wickman, however, is not eligible to compete in the playoffs because he was not with Arizona by the Aug. 31 deadline.
"I thank (manager) Bob Melvin and the whole Diamondbacks organization for giving me an opportunity," Wickman said.
Wickman may now take the opportunity to spend more time with his wife and three children, who are ages 10, 8 and 4.
"I'm 38. I've got a wonderful wife and three wonderful kids that I want to be able to throw 'bp' (batting practice) to," he said. "It's getting to the point right now where maybe it's about time to get settled and let them meet some friends that they are going to have every day. Whatever decision it is going to be, it is going to be a good one. If I don't play, I'm going to be happier than heck being with my family every single day. If I do play, I'm going to be happy doing the thing I love to do."
Mets' Maine bothered by hip: There may be a reason New York Mets pitcher John Maine struggled in the second half of the season, when he was 5-6 with a 5.53 ERA in 15 starts. Maine said his hip has been sore since the All-Star break and was at Shea Stadium Monday picking up MRI film of his left hip.
"It bothered me all year," Maine told Newsday.
Maine will have the hip further examined in Philadelphia, but he seemed in top form on Saturday against Florida, striking out 14 and carrying a no-hit bid into the eighth inning.
Maine's effort kept the Mets' playoff hopes alive, only to see them dashed on Sunday after losing to the Marlins and watching the Phillies defeat Washington.
"It still doesn't feel like the season is over," Maine said. "I don't think (the fans are) as disappointed as we are."
Burke starts collection: Mariners backup catcher Jamie Burke is adding a room to the house he built last year that will house his memorabilia. On the final day of the season, Burke hit his first Major League home run and that ball will certainly find its way in the new room.
"I've got a lot of new memorabilia from this season, that's for sure," Burke told the Seattle Times. "I'll probably go home, buy some shelves and put them up on those."
Burke hit .301 for the Mariners this season but has no guarantee of a job next year. He speculated the Mariners would remove him from the 40-man roster and invite him to camp to compete for his job.
"I expect the worst all the time," Burke said. "That's just the way I am. I just prepare myself."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.