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Updated: September 14, 2010, 1:22 AM ET

Rockies making magic out of thin air

Kruk By John Kruk
Over the past four years, the Rockies have shown us what the Hunt for October is all about. Once the calendar turns to September, Colorado seems to turn up the heat and make an aggressive push for the playoffs. Before losing to the Padres on Monday night, they had rattled off 10 consecutive wins. How do the Rockies manage to do it?

It's so difficult to explain how they are able to pull off such a run, because I've never been on a team or seen a team like this that plays average throughout the first half of the season and then suddenly flips the switch in September. I'm sure manager Jim Tracy would absolutely love for the Rockies to get off to a great start and play like this all year, but they just don't seem to be that type of team.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Gonzalez
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireCarlos Gonzalez feels right at home at … well, home.

Could it be getting used to the altitude in Colorado? Does it take that long? We asked Jason Giambi about it on "Baseball Tonight" on Sunday after his pinch-hit, walk-off homer, and he swears it's his mustache. That's the conclusion he came up with.

If you look at MVP hopeful Carlos Gonzalez's numbers at home (.385 AVG/.433 OBP/.773 SLG) they are so much better than on the road (.288/.310/.450). Does the ballpark have something to do with that? Absolutely. I remember going to Colorado to play and when you enter that altitude it is difficult and draining and it wears on you. My point is, perhaps the Rockies get used to the altitude in the first month of the season, and when other teams come up there in the first day or two it wipes them out. It's hard to breathe and catch your breath. It impacts your endurance, too.

Gonzalez is a huge success, but Troy Tulowitzki has been fantastic, too. He hit .351 in August, and is hitting .354 so far in September. He hit a big three-run shot Monday to get the Rockies back in reach against the Padres in a game San Diego eventually won 6-4 to take a half-game lead over the Giants in the NL West and build a 2½ game cushion on Colorado. You can win with one guy hot, but when two guys are hot it certainly increases your chances. When you look at the Rockies' offense it has pretty much been Gonzalez and Tulowitzki doing the damage during this latest run.

The bullpen has extended a helping hand lately, too. The top six guys out of the bullpen -- Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales, Huston Street and Matt Belisle -- have given up only five earned runs in September.

And on top of all this, the Padres gift-wrapped a 10-game losing streak of their own and presented it to the Rockies just as Colorado got hot. If the Padres would have won just five during that stretch, we probably wouldn't even be talking about Colorado. Give the Rockies credit, because they were handed a gift, but they have turned it into so much more.

Keep in mind, though, that the Rockies are a very young team. Dexter Fowler, Eric Young, Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are young guys. That's what scares me about a team like this -- what happens if it goes on the road and starts losing? Would the players start doubting themselves? This is not a veteran team that can keep a level head whenever it loses a game -- some of these guys are still trying to figure out if they belong in the big leagues. Besides Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, no one in the Rockies' lineup has really solidified himself as an everyday major leaguer. How will Jim Tracy, Jason Giambi and Todd Helton hold this team together? That's the big question. The Rockies' true test lies in the final 16 games of the season, when 10 of those contests will be on the road.

I'd love to provide some scientific reason for why the Rockies end up in this place every season, but I don't have one. To win 10 straight games this late in the season is amazing. How have they done it? I'm going to say it's the mustache and the altitude.

John Kruk is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight"

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Tuesday's Best Matchups

Yankees at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET

It'll be nearly impossible to top the pitching duel from Monday, when CC Sabathia and David Price went toe-to-toe. But Ivan Nova and Matt Garza will try. In his limited time -- Nova's pitched only 24 2/3 innings in the majors this year -- he has struggled against left-handers, who are hitting .313 against him. Righties, meanwhile, are hitting only .240. Garza has faced the Yankees just once this season, and walked away with a no-decision on July 31.

Twins at White Sox, 8:10 p.m. ET

The Twins could put away the White Sox once and for all in this series … or the White Sox could scrape back into the AL Central race. Minnesota holds a six-game lead in the division. Francisco Liriano will try to make it seven. He's 2-0 against Chicago already this season; John Danks is 2-1 against Minnesota.

Dodgers at Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

After a day off, the Giants resume their pursuit of the Padres in the NL West. Will this be the moment Barry Zito rises up and ends his slide? He is 0-8 in 12 starts since July 21, and he has lost each of the past six times he's gone to the mound. Clayton Kershaw's struggles don't look as bad in comparison, but the picture still isn't good -- he is 0-3 over his past four starts and 1-5 over his past eight.


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