"I was thinking homer at that point," Helton said. "I was thinking three three-run homers in a game would've been really cool."
It was a vintage Helton at-bat, working a full count and fouling off a pitch to keep a dream night alive. The crowd came together for a roaring cheer, everyone -- teammates included -- aware of what just might happen.
"I looked at [closer] Rex [Brothers], and I said, 'Wait a minute, the stage is set for another three-run tank for his 2,500th," said reliever Matt Belisle, a close friend and longtime teammate of Helton's. "So that was pretty special, and with a guy like that, special things happen. So it was just exciting, and I was glad to see the fans really get into it as he stepped up to the plate."
Alas, it ended with a strikeout -- one that still garnered a standing ovation as Helton walked back to the dugout -- and what might be the last major milestone of his career would have to wait at least one more day. But it was still an unforgettable night for Helton, who tied a career high set in 2003 with six RBIs and hit multiple homers for the first time since April 26, 2011.
On this night, the final score was a secondary thought, because one player overshadowed everything else.
"The old guy can still do it," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
"He's one of those guys that's going to be able to hit when he's 52. But it was great night for Todd, great night for everybody that was here to see that."
It was the Rockies' fourth victory in five games as they improved to 3-1 on their homestand. Colorado will have a chance to lock up its third consecutive series victory -- something it has not done since April 20 -- on Saturday.
Helton crushed a changeup into the Rockies' bullpen for his first home run in a fourth inning where the Rockies ripped six consecutive hits for five runs as every batter stepped to the plate.
Down by 2-1 heading into the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki and Wilin Rosario -- who had a quiet four-hit game of his own -- each singled to set up Helton's 10th homer. Helton seemed to take a minute to watch it sail, aware there may not be many of these moments left.
"The fact that he still wants to do it is amazing, because he doesn't have to do it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's doing it because he loves to play."
Even after Helton's homer, Colorado refused to cede an easy out, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon following with two more singles. Charlie Culberson then sent a live drive to left field, Ryan Ludwick appearing to get a late jump on the ball and letting it carry over his outstretched glove to score two more, the Rockies jumping out to a 6-2 lead.
Those offensive fireworks chased the soft-throwing Bronson Arroyo (13-10), who gave up nine hits and six runs over only 3 1/3 innings. His ERA ballooned to 7.62 in six career starts at Coors Field.
Helton's second homer -- the one that pushed him to 2,499 career hits -- came in the seventh, this one sneaking over the right-field wall and also good for three runs. He looked like the Helton of years past, a one-man offensive machine in his 28th career game with multiple homers.
Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa (15-6) was effective but not dominant, allowing three runs and eight hits while striking out three over six innings. Lauded as an example of how a starting pitcher can thrive at Coors Field, De La Rosa has a 2.74 ERA in 13 home starts this year and is one win away from tying his career high of 16 wins.
De La Rosa battled a persistent thumb injury throughout the evening, something he said would not fully heal until the offseason.
"It's a little sore," De La Rosa said. "It bothered me since the first inning; just have to keep pitching and help the team to win as much as I can."
Center fielder Corey Dickerson kicked off the first with a leadoff triple to right, and DJ LeMahieu lined an opposite-field double into the right-field corner to plate the Rockies' first run.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan evened the game at 1 in the second with a single to left to score Jay Bruce, who walked to lead off the inning. Hanigan was the culprit again in the fourth, his RBI single giving Cincinnati its only lead of the night.
Ludwick crushed a De La Rosa slider deep into the left-field bleachers in the fifth for the Reds' third run. Cincinnati added three runs in the ninth, one Helton home run too few.
For players, at this point the season becomes a blur. This, however, was the rare night that will be remembered. This was the night Todd Helton reminded everyone of what makes him different.
"One-hundred sixty-two [games] over the season, and it's pretty much the same thing for all those outs," Belisle said. "But when you have a standing 'O' or a pause during the game or a career mark that somebody hits, and when that's shown with appreciation by the fans, it's really, really neat."