Rare first-pitch swing nets rare triple
Helton's three-bagger comes in initial postseason at-bat
PHILADELPHIA -- The Rockies' Todd Helton saw more pitches per plate appearance than any hitter in the National League. But Wednesday afternoon, Helton decided he needed to swing quickly.
A rare first-pitch swing against Phillies starter Cole Hamels netted another rarity -- a triple. It touched off a three-run second inning during the 4-2 victory over the Phillies in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
"I couldn't believe it," said Helton, who had two triples among his 178 hits during the regular season and 31 among his 1,878 total hits. "The shadows were really bad today, and they were coming quick.
"So I was looking for the first thing over the plate, and was able to put a good swing on it. I usually never swing at the first pitch, but I'd never faced the guy and I knew that he had good offspeed stuff so I was looking to get on something."
Helton's shot hit the angled wall near the 409-foot mark in center and bounced away from the Phillies' Aaron Rowand. Right fielder Shane Victorino rushed over to pick up the rolling ball. Despite Helton's less-than-blazing speed and Victorino's powerful arm, the throw had no chance.
It was a dream of a first at-bat for Helton, who played his entire 1,578-game Major League career with the Rockies before tasting the postseason on Wednesday. Helton left Citizens Bank Park with his team leading the best-of-five series, and he served up plenty of material for quips from teammates.
"It happens all the time," said Matt Holliday, who knocked a home run in the eighth inning. "Speed kills.
"Nah, you get funny bounces."
Not all the Rockies were sure what they witnessed.
"Did he hit a triple there?" relief pitcher Brian Fuentes said. "Is that the one that hit the wall and caromed off? We can't see a whole bunch down there from the bullpen."
Helton would finish 1-for-4 with a strikeout on a day when Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba was the only player on either team with multiple hits -- with two.
"It was horrendous," Helton said of the shadows, a product of the late-afternoon start time to accommodate television. "After the first inning, it was tough. Everybody who got a hit, they earned it."
Helton noted another obstacle to his vision, courtesy of the rowdy Philadelphia fans.
"I had trouble with all the lint from the towels they were waving," he said. "It took me about three innings to figure out what the white stuff was. I didn't know if it was bugs or what."
All that mattered was Helton saw the one pitch he needed to see.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.