- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

DENVER (AP) - Like thousands of others who streamed to the exits when Colorado trailed 9-2 and a cold front swept in, Rockies fan Karen Stoughton is vowing never to leave Coors Field early again.

She missed out on the resilient Rockies’ incredible comeback, capped by Seth Smith’s two-out, three-run homer off closer Ryan Franklin that sent Colorado to a 12-9 win over the stunned St. Louis Cardinals.

According to STATS LLC, whose data goes back to 1918, no other team in the modern era had ever scored nine runs in bottom of the ninth inning to win a game.

“Never, ever will we leave a game early,” vowed Stoughton, of Castle Pines, who left during the seventh inning stretch Tuesday night along with her husband and two young boys.

Listening to the dazzling rally on their drive home, the Stoughtons arrived just in time to catch Smith’s shot on TV.

The bundled-up crowd just shy of 33,000 when the game began was about half that by the time Smith crossed home plate, and those die-hards were being drowned out at times by the red-clad contingent of Cardinals fans relishing what had shaped up as a St. Louis smackdown.

Like Stoughton, many fans who bailed out are vowing never again to give up on this never-say-die band of ballplayers.

But, really, who can blame anyone for leaving early?

Heading into the ninth down 9-3, the Rockies were just 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position after going 1 for 12 in their previous game.

They had stranded 13 runners Tuesday night after leaving a franchise record 20 men on base in their 4-3 win in 15 innings over San Francisco in their last game, a nearly six-hour marathon on Sunday.

The temperatures had dipped into the lower 60s and rain was on the way.

So was another Rockies’ rally.

After Miguel Olivo scored on a passed ball, Chris Iannetta, a catcher playing third base with the game seemingly out of hand, hit a three-run homer off Franklin to make it 9-7.

No worries, thought Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday, whose three-run homer had given the Cardinals a seemingly safe 9-2 lead in the sixth, spurring thousands of fans to finish their ice cream and beat the traffic.

Still ahead by two runs with one out and nobody on base, Holliday had no doubt the Cardinals would win.

“You feel like your guys are going to get it done and you’ll walk away with a scare,” Holliday said.

Dexter Fowler doubled, went to third on pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe’s groundout, and scored when Carlos Gonzalez singled to right for his fourth hit of the night.

Jason Giambi followed with his third single and when replacement right fielder Randy Winn bobbled the ball for his first error in 254 games, Gonzalez came around all the way from first to tie it at 9.

With rain falling, Olivo singled again, putting runners at the corners and bringing up Smith, who lined out to first baseman Albert Pujols for the first out of the ninth and was intent on not making another out after watching his teammates pound out seven hits in the inning.

He worked the count to 2-2, then Franklin left a splitter high and Smith smacked it into the right-field seats for his 12th homer.

“This is a team that never gives up,” Gonzalez said.

Smith said the mindset in the dugout down six runs with three outs left was just not to give away any at-bats.

Before he knew it, he was rounding the bases, the deficit history and the comeback historic.

“We’re going to do the same thing next time” they trail in the ninth, Smith vowed. “We may come up short, but we’re going to always battle.”

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