They won 14 of their last 15 regular-season games, including a thrilling tiebreaker, to make the playoffs. They won seven straight postseason games to make it 21 of 22. But by Sunday night, the dream was reduced to trying to avoid being swept in the World Series.
The Rockies waged a late-inning comeback, but home runs by Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins weren't enough and the Red Sox claimed their second title in four seasons -- both by sweep -- with a 4-3 victory at Coors Field before 50,041.
The Rockies were the 23rd team to face a 3-0 deficit in the World Series and became the 23rd to wind up on the losing end, the 20th to suffer a sweep. For a team that always believed it had a chance and made the most of it, the end seemed cruel.
"I want to come in and take [batting practice] tomorrow and get ready for Game 5," Hawpe said. "That's just not the case right now."
After a month of playing near-flawless baseball -- getting all the breaks to overcome the Padres for the National League Wild Card before sweeping the Phillies and the D-backs in the NL playoffs -- the Rockies wound up on the other end of the good baseball and good fortune.
In their last shot in the ninth, light-hitting Jamey Carroll slashed a pitch from Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon to deep left field.
It was the type of shot that, had it occurred during the Rockies' late-season run, would have bounced off the wall to start a rally, or even carried over it -- never mind that Carroll has nine home runs in a little more than five Major League seasons. But this one landed in the glove of a leaping Jacoby Ellsbury.
Papelbon then struck out pinch-hitter Seth Smith, and the Rockies' dream season was finished.
"When you talk about us playing well, winning 21 out of 22, we had a lot of confidence," Carroll said. "You can see that in that team. They had tons of confidence. The way they were playing, just the way they would run the bases, you could see it.
"They're a team that's a champion. That's what it takes. We had that, for a time."
The Rockies didn't have much of that during the Series. They hit just .218 to the Red Sox's .333, struck out 35 times, including eight by Hawpe, a record for a four-game World Series. The Rockies were outscored, 29-10.
Hawpe had 29 home runs and 116 RBIs and Garrett Atkins knocked 25 homers and drove in 111 runs during the regular year. But Hawpe's towering homer off Manny Delcarmen to lead off the seventh and cut the deficit to 3-1 gave him four postseason RBIs. Atkins' two-run shot in the eighth off Hideki Okajima to make it 4-3 lifted his postseason RBI total to three.
Todd Helton's 2-for-4 performance on Sunday lifted his postseason average to .220. Troy Tulowitzki struck out three times Sunday to bring his postseason total to 15, one fewer than Hawpe.
"It's obviously frustrating that you don't play as well as you want to, but they played great," Atkins said.
Also, the Rockies didn't have a starting pitcher last as many as five innings until Sunday, when a game Aaron Cook went six-plus innings and held the Sox to three runs -- the last coming on a home run by World Series Most Valuable Player Mike Lowell to lead off the seventh. It was Cook's first appearance since suffering a left oblique strain on Aug. 10.
However, the Rockies couldn't manage a run in 5 1/3 innings against winning pitcher Jon Lester.
The unanswered question is whether the Rockies' success came back to bite them. After sweeping the Diamondbacks in the NL Championship Series, they had to sit for eight days before the start of the World Series. The Red Sox had to come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians in seven games.
"We had momentum on our side," said Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin. "We came from a tough series with the Indians and we just carried it into this one.
"They had the time off and it didn't play in their favor, and we rolled."
It turned out the Rockies' chance to start a roll of their own ended in the top of the eighth.
Brian Fuentes, who gave up three key runs in the 10-5 loss in Game 3 Saturday night, served up an 88-mph fastball that Bobby Kielty launched into the left-field seats to open the eighth. It made it 4-1, and put the Red Sox just far enough ahead.
"It was just a bad pitch," Fuentes said. "I wanted to get it down and in, and I threw it up and over the middle."
Helton marveled at the Red Sox, saying they had "mashers" in the lineup and speedy players to make them more effective. But he didn't feel the difference between them and the Rockies was as grand as the World Series indicated.
"There's not that much difference," Helton said. "Bad teams don't make it to the World Series. We're a good baseball team."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less