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Tulo riding a monster month for the ages

Tulo riding a monster month for the ages

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LOS ANGELES -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy can see it: For the last two weeks, Troy Tulowitzki has looked a lot like Barry Bonds.

"That's a pretty good correlation," said Tracy, who managed the Dodgers when Bonds was breaking records with the Giants. "I wore some of that during my time. We went to Spring Training in 2002 and I remember starting the first three games of the season against the Giants here in Dodger Stadium. I think [Bonds] hit five in the first two days. And I just decided we'll hang some more rubber chickens up on the wall. That's enough, I'm convinced. That's a great correlation."

The comparison holds water beyond the anecdotes. Tulowitzki has been hitting like Bonds over the last 15 games, and that means that the Rockies shortstop is on more than just a tear. He's matching league records and setting club records.

Before Saturday, only two players in the modern era had hit 14 home runs in a 15-game stretch: Albert Belle, in 1995, and Bonds, in 2001. When Tulowitzki hit his second home run of the game in a 12-2 win over the Dodgers on Saturday, he became the third.

"I don't have words to describe what we're seeing from Troy Tulowitzki," Tracy said. "It's one thing to be hot. It's another thing to be in the zone like this guy is. But he has that type of mentality, and he loves this time of the year, going back to 2007 when he was just a kid. He's still at a very ripe age where he's at right now."

Splendid Septembers
With two homers Saturday, Troy Tulowitzki is tied for the fourth-most home runs in the month of September since 1990.
Player Team HR Year
Albert Belle CLE 17 1995
Mark McGwire STL 15 1998
Mark McGwire STL 15 1997
Troy Tulowitzki COL 14 2010
Alfonso Soriano CHC 14 2007
Carlos Pena TB 13 2007
Jason Giambi OAK 13 2000
Vladmir Guerrero MON 13 2000
Jay Buhner SEA 13 1995

Tulowitzki, 25, has four multi-home run games this season -- all in the last 10 games, and two of them in the last three days. His 14 home runs in September are a Rockies record for a calendar month -- and with 33 RBIs, he's one RBI away from matching Matt Holliday's club record for RBIs in September.

In his last 16 games, Tulowitzki is hitting .393 (26-for-66).

"This stretch, this is something I'll always remember," Tulowitzki said. "It could get a little better, but at the same time, I might not play better my entire career. So it's something I'll always remember. But for right now, I'm not done with this, so might as well try to keep on riding it out as long as I can."

The Rockies still have 11 games scheduled in September. If Tulowitzki can hit just a few more home runs and drive in a few more runs, his month will have even more permanence in the record books. Since 1990, only three players have hit more home runs in September: Mark McGwire hit 15 in both 1997 and '98, and Belle hit 17 in 1995. Last season, the most home runs hit in September was nine, by Derrek Lee. The last time anyone finished September with 14 was in 2007, when Alfonso Soriano did it. Since 1990, the highest RBI total in September was tallied by Mark Teixeira, when he had 35 in 2005. Tulowitzki stands two away from tying that mark.

No one's come close to Tulowitzki's final month this season. The next highest RBI total in September is 17, and the next highest homer total is six.

"I keep saying it: 'It's not easy, this game's not easy,'" Tulowitzki said. "You continue to enjoy it. As of right now, it might be looking easy, but it's not. There's a lot of studying, video; there's a lot of work that goes into all of this. It's not just go out there with your ability, do it."

What Tulowitzki is most pleased about is that he's hotter than he's ever been in a time when the Rockies need him most. Colorado was 11 games back in the National League West on Aug. 22. It is now one game behind division-leading San Diego.

"It's awesome, I think the timing of it is what definitely makes me a lot happier with it," Tulowitzki said. "The timing of it coming down the stretch here is huge for our team. If you had to pick one time, it'd definitely be now."

Tulowitzki is hitting .328 on the season, second in the NL only to the man batting in front of him, No. 3 hitter Carlos Gonzalez (.341). Gonzalez, who walked in front of Tulowitzki's homers on Saturday, is hitting .460 in September, the best in the Majors. That means Gonzalez has had perhaps the best seat in the house for Tulowitzki's damage: The basepaths.

"When I'm on base, I'm like, 'OK, get ready, 'cause this guy's going to hit it far,'" Gonzalez said. "Maybe off the wall so I can score. He's keeping it easy for me. I don't need to run so hard."

Also impressed is Ryan Spilborghs, whose career-high 12-game hit streak might be getting more attention if it weren't for Tulowitzki's unworldly stretch.

Octavio Dotel switched clubhouses an hour before Saturday's game when the Rockies acquired him and cash considerations from the Dodgers for a player to be named later. Dotel just wants to be buddies.

"Believe me," Dotel said. "Right now I want to be a good friend of that guy, the way he hits and the way he looks."

What Tulowitzki has done has become a point of awe in the dugout. The home run he hit on Friday, also a first-inning shot, was on a high fastball well out of the strike zone. That didn't deter him from lasering it into the left-field corner.

"Come on, it came off there like a two-iron," Tracy said. "It's special, too, because he plays shortstop."

Not to be lost in Tulowitzki's offensive surge is his defense. He leads NL shortstops with a .596 slugging percentage and a .985 fielding percentage. If he maintains those leads, he'd be the first shortstop to lead the NL in both categories since the Pirates' Jay Bell in 1993.

There have been some incredible shortstops to play in the NL during that time.

"He makes such a difference on that club," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "Not only his ability, but his leadership. He has a great deal of energy."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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