A flash of ‘flair for the dramatic’

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Todd Helton got a lot of love from the Coors Field faithful in his final home game Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox in Denver. He rewarded them with a show of his own, too. Helton homered, doubled and drove in three runs. “Certain players have a flair for the dramatic, and seemingly that was one (Wednesday night),” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

By Pat Graham
AP Sports Writer

DENVER

Todd Helton received a horse, hit a homer and got a hug from his two daughters as they ran out onto the field in the ninth inning.

Yep, this definitely was more than the Colorado Rockies first baseman could’ve asked for in his final game at Coors Field.

About the only thing that didn’t go Helton’s way was the score as the Boston Red Sox routed the Rockies 15-5 on Wednesday night.

This certainly was his evening as he homered in his first at-bat after a stirring pregame tribute to him, doubled later in the game and drove in three runs.

“I hoped I would go out and play well,” said Helton, who’s retiring after 17 years with the Rockies. “But there was so much going on before the game. My expectations weren’t that high. ... To be able to go out and play and be productive, that means a lot to me.”

For a night, he was vintage Helton again, the one with power (solo shot to right), the ability to go the opposite way (a double off the wall in left) and a knack for taking what the pitcher gives him (lifting a fly to left to bring home a run).

“Sometimes games pretty much sum up careers,” Helton said with a chuckle.

“Early in my career, that would’ve been a homer to left, instead of a double,” the 40-year-old Helton said. “I hit that ball pretty good. But it was a lot of fun. It really was.”

The highlight was when his daughters, Tierney and Gentry Grace, ran out to kiss and hug him at first base. That was a complete surprise.

So was the horse, a going-away present from the Rockies.

“I might have to learn to ride a little bit better,” said Helton, who has a ranch up the road from the ballpark.

Will Middlebrooks had quite a game, hitting two homers and driving in a career-high seven runs batted in. He hit his third career grand slam and a three-run homer as the Red Sox moved two games ahead of Oakland for the best record in the league and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

David Ortiz hit a two-run double to reach 100 RBIs this season. Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t take long to energize the Red Sox lineup as he returned after missing 16 games with a fractured right foot – he singled, walked and scored twice before being replaced in the fourth.

Jake Peavy (12-5) settled down after a shaky start to earn his first win since Aug. 31. He allowed five runs and gave up eight hits in six innings.

The Rockies staged quite a pregame show to honor Helton, complete with highlights of his playing days on the video screen. The team also mowed his number (17) into the outfield grass, along with painting a purple and white “17” along both baselines. The 17 appeared on the back of the pitcher’s mound, too.

Tierney Helton threw out the first pitch as his wife, youngest daughter and good friend Peyton Manning watched from the side.

Once the game started, Helton began his own show, hitting a fastball from Peavy into the right-field seats in the second.

“I think Peavy just did me a favor,” Helton said. “He’s a good dude.”

Not that generous, though.

After the game, Helton and his teammates made their way around the field to say farewell to the fans. Several of the Red Sox players lingered on the field, just so they could say so long to Helton.

“I just wanted him to know how much I appreciated the way he went about things,” Peavy said. “Me and Todd have had many, many matchups like we had (Wednesday night), and I’m not going to miss him in retirement on the baseball field.

“To be the leader he has been and was to these guys, just the class he always competed with, the respect he always showed and always voiced – I wanted to show that I appreciated that.”

Throughout the game, former teammates and coaches appeared on the video board to talk about Helton, who holds virtually every offensive record in team history.

Cleveland slugger Jason Giambi boasted about him, so did Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, who was in charge of the Rockies when they went to the 2007 World Series and were swept by Boston.

Even Manning weighed in on Helton’s career.

“Thanks for retiring and making me the oldest Denver athlete,” said the Broncos star quarterback, who was teammates with Helton on the football team at the University of Tennessee.

Helton received plenty of ovations over the course of the night – none as boisterous as when he hit the homer. After crossing home plate, Helton tipped his cap to the crowd before going into the dugout.

The roar of the fans brought him back out for another bow.

“Certain players have a flair for the dramatic, and seemingly that was one (Wednesday night),” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

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