DENVER — Seth Smith struggled to remember what had just happened, it was all such a blur.
The ninth inning began with the Colorado Rockies down six runs and ended with him rounding the bases and getting mobbed by his delirious teammates following a colossal comeback for the history books.
"Baseball's crazy, even stupid sometimes," Smith said after his three-run homer off Ryan Franklin with two outs in the ninth capped a nine-run rally Tuesday night that gave the Rockies a 12-9 win over the stunned St. Louis Cardinals.
"It's just one of those things, tomorrow he could come out and be nails and we go three up and three down."
No team in the modern era had ever scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to win a game, according to STATS LLC, whose data goes back to 1918. Just six weeks ago, the Atlanta Braves trailed Cincinnati 9-3 before scoring seven times in the bottom of the ninth.
The Rockies did them two runs better.
"I don't even know what just happened," Smith said. "I'll have a chance to watch it later tonight, catch some highlights and enjoy it. You go from, 'Let's not give any at-bats away,' to 'Good try,' to 'Oh, wait, we can do this.'"
And finally to, "What just happened?"
"Since I've been here that's the way we've been," Smith said. "No one's going to quit trying even though the game may be out of hand."
Franklin kept thinking he'd get out of the jam. Instead, it ended when he left a split-finger fastball up over the plate and Smith got all of it.
"I thought I could get out of it with one pitch," Franklin said. "I was confident the whole time. That's my game, make them hit the ball. They just hit it kind of hard."
"Never, ever in my career have I been associated with a better comeback than that," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said after watching his team, which had stranded a franchise record 20 runners in their last game and 13 runners through seven innings on this night suddenly come through time after time.
"If there's a huge lesson learned from this game, it's the fact that … the game's 27 outs and you play every single one of them," Tracy said. "You don't give an at-bat away just because the score starts to get away from you."
The Rockies trailed 9-2 after Matt Holliday's three-run shot in the sixth and got one run back in the seventh on Chris Iannetta's fielder's choice groundball.
In the ninth, Iannetta hit a three-run homer off Franklin (3-1), who allowed six runs and six hits while retiring just one batter.
"We played our butts off for nine innings and I didn't get the last out. I feel bad for everyone in here who battled hard for three hours," Franklin said.
"Momentum built on their side and we couldn't stop it," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "We just lost a very difficult game. It isn't on Ryan Franklin."
"Everyone who wore gray," LaRussa replied. "Including the manager."
"There's no way you can not get three outs with a six-run lead," LaRussa said. "It's just one of those games. There's no way to explain it, no excuses you make, it's just a really difficult loss. It's just brutal."
Manny Corpas (3-5) got the win with two perfect innings of relief.
After Iannetta's fifth homer, Dexter Fowler doubled off the right-field wall and scored on Carlos Gonzalez's two-out single, making it 9-8. Gonzalez scored all the way from first when Jason Giambi's single was mishandled by right fielder Randy Winn for an error.
Aaron Cook pinch-ran for Giambi and reached third on Miguel Olivo's single before Smith connected for his 12th homer on a 2-2 offering from Franklin.
"Nine-to-two, you feel good about it, especially with the way our bullpen's been throwing," Holliday said.
Yet, Holliday's seen many a rally at his old stomping grounds.
"Yeah, I've seen a lot here," he said. "Ninth inning, it was pretty amazing."
All the while, however, Holliday kept thinking the Rockies' rally would fizzle.
"I trust my guys. I felt the next pitch it was going to be over," he said. "You feel like your guys are going to get it done and you'll walk away with a scare."
Instead, they trudged off in defeat after watching the Rockies reach base 27 times.
"We kept dodging bullets," LaRussa said. "And you get to the end of the game, you don't need many outs and you have a nice sized lead."
And then, a loss.
Holliday, who hit 128 home runs in a Rockies uniform from 2004-08, made the most of his second trip to Coors Field as a visitor when he sent a 1-1 pitch from Jhoulys Chacin into the left field seats in the sixth for his 12th homer and a seemingly safe 9-2 lead.
So, how could a team that stranded 13 men on base before the ninth suddenly do everything right?
"Pride," Fowler said. "Playing all 27 outs. Just relax and do your part. Obviously not one person's going to win the game if you're down by that much. Everybody's got to do one little thing, one little thing and then one big thing."
Notes: Winn's ninth-inning error was his first in 254 games. … Felipe Lopez also homered and drove in three runs for St. Louis and Gonzalez hit his 15th homer, a two-run shot in the second, for Colorado. … The Rockies' previous best ninth-inning comeback was four runs, accomplished numerous times. … Iannetta's homer was his fifth.
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