Tulowitzki following Ripken's lead

Tulowitzki following Ripken's lead

Count Hall of Famer Cal Ripken among Troy Tulowitzki's growing list of admirers.

The 23-year-old rookie shortstop has gained a higher national profile with the Rockies winning 21 of their last 22 games to reach the World Series. Ripken, who worked for TBS in its postseason broadcasts, got to see Tulowitzki up close and came away impressed.

"He really studies the position. He talked about how he has tried to incorporate what other shortstops have done," Ripken told the Denver Post. "In talking with him I could see how seriously he takes his positioning."

Like Ripken, Tulowitzki is big compared to most shortstops. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds while Ripken was 6-foot-4 and played at around 225 pounds. Ripken's success at the position helped keep Tulowitzki at shortstop when others wondered if he should be switched to third because of his size.

"He was the example everyone could point to," Tulowitzki said earlier this season.

And Tulowitzki is already considered an outstanding defensive shortstop. He has soft hands, great range and an outstanding arm.

"He has all the intangibles. You see the double play he made the other night [with the pirouette], that's not easy," Ripken said. "I told him he throws on the run better than I ever did," Ripken said.

Peralta has a fan in the Dominican: Jhonny Peralta grew up in Santiago, Dominican Republic -- a place where, as it turns out, there are a lot of Yankees fans. So when Rosa Peralta, Jhonny's mother, was rooting for the Indians in the ALDS, she got the chance to gloat for her son and the Indians.

"The Yankees are big in the Dominican," Jhonny Peralta told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Everybody is a Yankees fan."

And to make it even better, Jhonny batted .467 against the Yankees. "My family, especially my mother, was so happy," he said. "She was telling everybody, 'You see what can happen?' "

Peralta has stayed consistent through the postseason, something that manager Eric Wedge says comes from his calm demeanor.

"I think Jhonny's makeup has helped him in the postseason," Wedge said. "He has that inner calm about him. While other guys get too amped for the postseason, he stays calm."

Added Peralta: "I try to do the same thing that I did in the regular season. I didn't try to change anything. We've got a great opportunity here. I want to help this team become a champion."

Emotional Helton 'living the dream': When Todd Helton of Colorado recorded the final out at first base Monday night to secure a trip to the World Series, the veteran first baseman was on top of the world.

"I can't believe it," Helton told the Rocky Mountain News. "I'm just living the dream right now."

Helton has been through all the tough times with the Rockies during his career, including eight losing seasons. He is now finally getting a chance to play in the World Series. Helton was so overcome with emotion after the 6-4 Game 4 victory against Arizona, he was unable to put into words the emotions he felt.

"It's brought out emotions in me that I didn't even know I had," Helton said.

Helton wasn't the hero in Game 4, but he has played a valuable role for the Rockies during their stretch of winning 21 of their last 22 games, including a 7-0 record this postseason. He has had several key hits during the streak, including a two-run, walk-off home run against Los Angeles in September. For Helton, the wait to play on the game's biggest stage is over.

"Worth every second," he said.

Lofton didn't 'just miss one' on Monday night: Veteran Cleveland outfielder Kenny Lofton seems to find a way to make things happen -- and the bigger the moment, the bigger he seems to be.

"He's a big-game player. He likes the stage," manager Eric Wedge told MLB.com. "It's important for people to understand just what it takes to be a big-game player. ... This is a guy who has a lot of experience in the postseason and understands how to slow himself down. He understands just what it takes to have the right heartbeat."

Lofton, 40, did it again on Monday night when he smacked a two-run home run to help Cleveland knock off Boston, 4-2, in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. He wasn't surprised, though. Teammate Ryan Garko wasn't either -- he says that Lofton has been going on about hitting a home run for some time now.

"He's been talking about just missing balls since he got here," said Garko.

Lofton verified the claim. "I told Garko yesterday, 'I keep missing them, I don't know what's going on,'" said Lofton. "I said, 'One day, I'm going to square one up and it's going to go out.'"

Then he paused and smiled.

"It happened today."

Holliday goes from 'awful' to NLCS MVP: With one swing of the bat, Matt Holliday gave the Colorado Rockies a 6-1 lead in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series Monday night. Holliday blasted a three-run home run to center field to lead the Rockies to a 6-4 victory and a trip to the World Series.

"He left a slider up and I got to it and put it over the fence," Holliday told the Denver Post. "It's unbelievable. We never dreamed we'd have this opportunity."

Holliday was named the MVP of the NLCS, but prior to Game 4, the right-handed slugger was struggling at the plate, going 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in the first two games.

"This series I've pretty much been awful," he said Sunday before Game 3. "I did OK in the (NLDS), but for whatever reason I haven't got any hits. I'm happy that we've won some games -- obviously that's all that matters at this point. I'd like to start getting some hits and making it a little easier on the pitchers if the middle of our order starts producing a little bit more."

Holliday rarely struggled at the plate this season, hitting a league-leading .340 and driving in a league-high 137 runs. Holliday turned things around at the plate in Game 3, going 2-for-4 with a home run. On Monday, he went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to pace the offense.

If it's crunch time, it's Seth Smith's time: Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning Monday night in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle decided it was the right time to turn to pinch hitter Seth Smith.

Smith made Hurdle look like a genius as he blooped a double to left field to drive in two runs and spark a six-run rally en route to a 6-4 win over Arizona.

Smith has had a knack for being involved in some key plays for the Rockies. In Game 2 of the Division Series against Philadelphia, Smith reached first base with a two-out infield single. The hit set up Kaz Matsui's game-winning grand slam.

Smith joined the Rockies from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sept. 16, the day the Rockies started their 21-1 streak. He earned Hurdle's trust by going 5-for-7 as a pinch hitter after his promotion.

He earned a spot on the Division Series roster because Willy Taveras was out with a thigh injury. He was named to the NLCS roster when Hurdle decided his bullpen didn't need an extra pitcher. So there was Smith facing Micah Owings on Monday night. He quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count before flaring an up-and-in pitch down the left field line.

"That's the way the game goes sometimes," Arizona catcher Chris Snyder told the Rocky Mountain News. "Micah made a good pitch, but [Smith] got just enough and hit it in the right spot. There's nothing you can do about it."

Westbrook effective with first-strike pitch: Cleveland pitcher Jake Westbrook came up big for the Indians on Monday night, working 6 2/3 innings and allowing just two runs in the Indians' 4-2 victory over Boston.

"I just came in tonight wanting to get ahead and get strike one with a quality pitch," Westbrook told MLB.com. "I was able to do that, and it showed by the way I pitched."

Teammate Casey Blake was impressed by Westbrook's ability to do what pitchers before him could not: shut down the potent Red Sox offense.

"He was the key to our victory," said Blake. "To do what he did against that lineup was incredible. He was throwing the ball with a lot more confidence than he had in his last start. He's a veteran, but he's still learning, and he learned from that last start."

Ortiz not about to let knee sideline him: The Cleveland Indians are glad they aren't seeing David Ortiz 100 percent healthy. The Boston slugger has an ailing right knee that Ortiz joked felt like "zero" when asked how his knee felt on a scale of 1-10.

Despite hitting a home run Tuesday night and terrorizing opposing pitchers this postseason, Ortiz has been dealing with a knee that has bothered him throughout the season.

"I'm not thinking about it right now," Ortiz told the Boston Herald of his ailing right knee, which was so swollen after Saturday Game 2 that he spent Sunday resting in his hotel room instead of attending the team's optional workout. "This is a do-or-die situation. I've got to put whatever behind me.

"If I keep thinking about my knee, my knee, my knee, it's only going to make it worse. We don't have that much room that we can be thinking about it. I'm hurting, but what else can I do but go out there and try my best like I've been doing? I'm trying my best. ... Unless I can't get out of my bed, I've got to keep on playing."

Pineiro signs two-year deal with Cardinals: Joel Pineiro, who started the 2006 season in the Boston bullpen, went to the Minor Leagues and wound up winning six games as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation, is excited to be heading back to St. Louis after signing a two-year deal earlier this week.

Instead of testing free agency, Pineiro decided it would be in his best interest to go back to the Cardinals. "I was going to test the market and see how it is," Pineiro told theSt. Louis Post Dispatch. "But there's no reason for it."

In 11 starts with the Cardinals, Pineiro was 6-4 with an ERA of 3.96, striking out 40 against only 12 walks. Going back to the Cardinals, he decided, was the best thing for him. "St. Louis gave me that chance in July. They took a chance on me," he said. "That meant a lot to me personally. Everything else just clicked from there."

A year after struggling to find work -- and eventually working out a deal to close games in Boston -- Pineiro is glad to know what lies ahead.

"It's exciting to know they were interested," he said. "My mind is clear and free. It's not like last year when I was going nuts in December wondering where I was going to go, what I was going to do."

Thompson claimed by Pirates: Outfielder Kevin Thompson, who finished the 2007 season with Oakland, has been claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates as they look to give him a chance at the Major League level.

"I think Kevin is a young kid with a lot of pop in his bat who will bring great depth to our Minor League system," general manager Neal Huntington told MLB.com. "We talked about acquiring talent, and this is our first step in doing that."

Thompson fit what the Pirates were looking for when it came to adding depth to the organization. "During our blanket coverage of other teams, Kevin caught our eye," said Huntington. "When we saw him available on waivers, it was not a hard decision to claim him."

And, added Huntington, to make the Pirates team. "Kevin will be given every opportunity to make our club out of Spring Training," Huntington said. "But if he doesn't, he'll be a great addition to our Triple-A team."

Harang excited about Baker hiring: Count Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aaron Harang among those who are excited about new manager Dusty Baker coming to town. After a season in which the Reds struggled quite a bit despite solid pitching from the likes of Harang. The new blood in the locker room gives Harang reason for optimism.

"I heard about it last night. I think he's going to be a good move for us," Harang told MLB.com. "He's got an established track record of being successful. I think he's going to come in with his ways of doing things and get guys to play for him. He'll definitely get plenty of respect because of his past record."

Harang finished the 2007 season with a 16-6 record and a 3.73 ERA. He tossed 231.2 innings with two complete games and a shutout while striking out 218 batters. He walked just 52 hitters all year.

-- Red Line Editorial