DENVER -- When the Rockies started their 17-of-18 run, they really had no choice.

They had lost three straight. They were 4 1/2 games behind the Padres and in fourth place in the Wild Card standings with 14 games to play. They were still thinking playoffs, but they knew with a couple more losses, talk of contending would only be pretending.

Todd Helton said at the time, "I don't think we're going to go out and play like we're desperate, but I think we realize where we sit, and how many games are left and what we have to do. [We need to] get a little bit lucky, but we're going to have to start winning some ballgames."

Oh Mr. Helton, ever the wise one.

The Rockies started winning, and as luck or fortune or fate would have it, they now find themselves in the National League Championship Series. It took all of the above to get there.

Maybe it's fate

The Rockies' run started to take on a feeling of fate in game three of their streak. That night, the Rockies trailed the Dodgers, 8-7, going into the ninth with Dodgers closer Takashi Saito and his 1.21 ERA -- and his season-long no-hitter against the Rockies -- headed to the mound.

The Rockies kept their hitless streak going against Saito until Matt Holliday slapped a two-out single to right field.

Then Helton came to the plate. Saito got two strikes on Helton and it didn't look good. But Helton's still one of the toughest outs in baseball. So with two outs, two strikes and the season possibly on the line, Helton sent the next pitch 418 feet into the right-field seats.

Helton sprinted around the bases like a little kid as the Rockies began their sprint to the finish, a run that has been full of late-game heroics.

The next night at Coors Field, Brad Hawpe hit a two-run homer in the eighth to give the Rockies a 6-5 win and their fourth straight victory.

"We get down in a game early, there's no panic," Jeff Francis said. "There's no fear of losing in this clubhouse. That's a good trait to have. You get down and there's no urgency, no panic."

Two nights later in San Diego, 1-1 in the 14th inning, Hawpe hit another game-winning homer, this one off Padres lefty Joe Thatcher. The Rockies went on to win the final two games in San Diego to sweep the Padres and extend the winning streak to eight.

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In win No. 9, which took place in Los Angeles, Troy Tulowitzki had a two-run homer that ended up being the difference because the Dodgers scored a run in the ninth that would have tied the game.

And then, who could forget the night the Rockies made the playoffs? Last Monday at Coors Field, the Padres' Scott Hairston hushed a sellout crowd with a two-run homer to give the Padres an 8-6 lead in the 13th inning. Their future Hall of Fame closer, Trevor Hoffman, was warming up in the bullpen.

"I think we're going to win -- no matter if we're down three runs going into the ninth, two runs, whatever it is," Tulowitzki said. "If the closer comes in, we still think we have a chance, and we've proven that time and time again. Hopefully we can keep doing the same."

The Rockies concluded another improbable comeback with Holliday's slide and tag -- or maybe possibly no tag -- of home plate argued 'round the world.

"When you have confidence in your teammates, we've found a way to win a lot of games," Holliday said. "It's not necessarily just right now. I think throughout the season we've had that feeling in close games. We feel like we can find a way to win and we've been able to do it."

A little luck

Like Helton said when the Rockies' run all started, they knew they were going to need a little luck.

When Brandon Webb and the Diamondbacks ended the Rockies' 11-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory, the Rockies needed some luck -- and some help. With two games to play, the Padres led by two games in the Wild Card and the Rockies needed two wins of their own and two Padres losses to force a tie.

The Rockies sat in the clubhouse the next day before their game against the D-backs and watched the Brewers battle the Padres for the Rockies' playoff lives.

As the Rockies sat on the edge of their seats when the Padres led by one run and Hoffman needed just one out to knock the Rockies out of the playoffs, Brewers center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. -- son of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn -- gave the Rockies something to play for that night when he tied the game, which the Brewers would go on to win.

"Obviously, in that situation we couldn't control anything," Tulowitzki said. "We weren't out on the field playing. We couldn't control our destiny and Milwaukee helped us out a lot. Thanks to Tony Gwynn Jr. Maybe all those years of him watching Hoffman on the mound, maybe he learned something and it helped us out in that situation."

The final day of the 162-game regular season the Rockies and their fans paid almost as much attention to the scoreboard as they did the game. The Brewers again kept their season alive with an 11-6 victory over the Padres and the Rockies held on to win, 4-3.

Once the Rockies got into the playoffs, the "hard part" was over and they've continued their run with a sweep of the Phillies.

Win No. 17 came on another game-winning hit in the last at-bat, this time from unlikely hero Jeff Baker, whose single in the ninth gave the Rockies a 2-1 victory and a ticket to Arizona.

As the Rockies head to Arizona, winners of 17 of 18 and the hottest team in baseball, now it's everyone else that has no choice but to pay attention.

"At this level, there's a lot of good players and it's tough to do something that we're doing," Tulowitzki said. "It's pretty special."