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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rockies hope 8-day layoff doesn't hurt       Send a link to a friend

[October 17, 2007]  DENVER (AP) -- So, now what for the Colorado Rockies? The Rockies swept through their playoff bracket with such speed that their reward was a record eight-day wait for the World Series, by far the longest layoff in history.

Having won 21 of 22 games, Todd Helton and his teammates hope they don't lose their momentum or this mojo.

Still, that's sure to be the question over the next week -- rest or rust?

The World Series starts Oct. 24, when Cleveland or Boston hosts the Rockies, the charmed champions of the National League. Colorado has won 10 in a row overall, with sweeps of Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs and Arizona in the NL championship series.

"We'll probably scrimmage ourselves," outfielder Ryan Spilborghs said. "And it'll be the first time in a while we'll lose."

A day after finishing off the Diamondbacks 6-4 in Game 4 at Coors Field, the Rockies took Tuesday off to relax -- and, quite possibly, to recuperate from the celebration that followed their first NL pennant in the franchise's 15-year history.

"There's nothing wrong with a break," reliever Matt Herges said. "We played to end the series quickly."

The Rockies will reconvene at Coors Field for a workout Wednesday afternoon and will take Thursday off.

But will this long layoff leave the Rockies, losers of just one game since Sept. 16, out of sync?

"They asked us the same question after the last layoff," Helton said of the four-day break that separated Colorado's playoff sweeps. "We're going to relax and enjoy this for a while and then we're going to refocus and play who we have to play."

A six-day pause sapped the magic from the Detroit Tigers' rush to the title last October, when they lost to the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in five games, leaving players and fans lamenting the interruption.

"I don't know if it was a factor," Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman said. "We just didn't execute."

In Colorado's champagne-soaked clubhouse early Tuesday morning, the possibility of rust corroding the Rockies' run was the least of their concerns.

"No," pitcher Josh Fogg said, "we're not worried about anything right now."

Reliever LaTroy Hawkins said the team's heavily-worked bullpen was thrilled this series didn't go any longer than it had to.

"Right now, the most important thing is we are in," Hawkins said. "At this time of the year, a pitcher can use a break. Guys like Jeremy Affeldt, who had 70 or so appearances, need one. The bullpen got a use down the stretch. A lot of guys contributed."

Tigers closer Todd Jones, who used to pitch in Colorado, suggested the Rockies would be wise to catch some sun in the Arizona desert while waiting for the first World Series in the Rocky Mountains.

"The Rockies should travel to their instructional site where they can get out of the weather and get some at-bats off live pitchers," Jones wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "The only problem you run into is some minor league kid, who gets all jazzed up facing Matt Holliday and Holliday could get hit. But, he could get hurt working out in the cold weather and pull a hammy in Denver just as easy."

The Rockies haven't determined their schedule beyond Wednesday's workout. Team spokesman Jay Alves said a trip to the club's spring training complex in Tucson "would be considered if it's something we determine is appropriate" should the warm weather in Denver take a turn for the worse.

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Major League Baseball added an extra day off in the middle of the league championship series this year to avoid starting the World Series on Saturday, which isn't good for television ratings. The NLCS would have ended Saturday if it needed seven games, while the ALCS could finish as late as Sunday.

The Indians beat Boston 7-3 Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

No team has had to wait more than six days for a World Series to start and only 10 have had as much as a five-day break, although seven of those 10 teams won it all.

Three times a team has waited six days for the Fall Classic to commence. In 1995, Atlanta beat Cleveland after a six-day wait, and the following year, the Yankees beat the Braves after a similar delay.

The Tigers weren't so lucky last year, when their pitchers set a series record for errors -- which might have been the result of them losing their rhythm during the long delay.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Bonderman said. "We threw some, fielded some and had some batting practice. That was about it, and I don't think we could've done anything differently. It's not like you can play a game."

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe, who grew up in Dearborn, Mich., and attended both of Detroit's home games in the 2006 World Series, said the layoff tilted the series away from the Tigers.

"They didn't win, but I clearly think they were the best team," said Lowe, who helped Boston win the World Series in 2004, when they swept St. Louis after overcoming a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in seven.

"In '04, if we would've beat New York four in a row and had seven days off like they did, I don't think you would've seen the same results," Lowe suggested.

The Rockies insist they're not fretting over this repose. After all, they've been playing pressure-packed games for a month, coming within a strike of elimination on the final weekend of the season, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the 13th off baseball's career saves leader Trevor Hoffman to win the wild-card tiebreaker in their 163rd game and then joining the 1976 Cincinnati Reds as the only teams to win seven straight in the playoffs.

Back then, there were only two rounds, and the Big Red Machine won the World Series by sweeping the Phillies and Yankees.

The Rockies need four more wins to claim their first World Series title, and before they embark on that final challenge, they're welcoming this mental, physical and emotional break from it all.

"I'm experiencing emotions I didn't even know I had," Helton said. "We are living the dream."

On Tuesday, they all finally got to sleep in, and dream some more.

[Associated Press; by Arnie Stapleton]

AP sports writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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