Lee's grand slam in 10th gives Astros win

Lee's grand slam in 10th gives Astros win

DENVER -- It was the softest of hits, it was the hardest of hits. In the middle two games of a four-game set in Colorado, Carlos Lee's bat has told a tale of two distinctly different game-winning hits. Tuesday night, he delivered a broken-bat bloop into shallow left to slip a decisive run home from second in the eighth inning. Wednesday night, Lee countered with a 10th-inning grand slam deep into the left-field seats for an exhilarating 6-2 win for the Astros over the Rockies.

"That's baseball," Lee said. "You hit it hard right at somebody, or you can hit it soft and it'll be a hit. It's just the game."

For Lee, it had been mostly hard luck on hard-hit balls throughout the night, as he drove his first three balls to center field and led off the ninth with a line drive right to the glove of Rockies second baseman Jonathan Herrera. Finally, Lee found a way to hit it where they ain't after a 10th-inning rally brought him to the plate with the bases loaded.

"It was nice to see Carlos again come through with a big swing there," manager Brad Mills said. "He'd hit the ball hard a couple times tonight and hadn't gotten much for it, and he was getting a little frustrated. I think he let all his frustration out in one swing."

For the Rockies, it was a matter of choosing their poison. After Tommy Manzella sparked the decisive rally with a single to center and Cory Sullivan laid down a pinch-hit bunt to move him to second, Michael Bourn singled and stole his National League-leading 20th base. Reliever Matt Belisle got Jeff Keppinger looking, and Colorado chose to intentionally walk Lance Berkman to face Lee.

Say what?

Lee doesn't often find teams pitching around Berkman to get to his bat, but the open base and the historical numbers favored Belisle, with Lee tallying a career 1-for-15 against the right-hander with a single RBI coming into the at-bat.

"We were in a situation that all I needed was a good ball back to the middle and we'd score two runs," Lee said. "I know he'd probably try to go sinker and try to keep the ball down. I just happened to run into it. I was right on time and I put a good swing to it."

The Rockies showed no remorse as Belisle lost his second game in as many days, having yielded six runs to the Astros in 1 1/3 innings Tuesday and Wednesday.

"If I could do it all over again, I'd do the exact same thing," Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said. "It was a great pitch in that situation, wrong location. We were trying to go in on his hands for a ball. He had been diving pretty much the last three or four at-bats."

Lee's 0-for-4 through the first nine innings was the most uncharacteristic element in a solid team effort Wednesday, as the man in the middle of the Astros' lineup has been pacing the team with an 11-game hitting streak going back to the last day of May. He is hitting .325 (13-for-40) with four homers and 13 RBIs in that stretch.

"I believe it's being in the right spot at the right time," Lee said. "Having opportunities to drive in runs, I'm finally driving the ball and putting [together] a lot of good swings. April wasn't good at all to me. I felt like I could have done a lot better, but it's one of those things you can't control. I'm having pretty good success, and hopefully, I keep it going that way."

Lee's late heroics would not have been possible if not for Felipe Paulino's absolute gem of a pitching effort, holding the Rockies to two runs over eight innings and maintaining the momentum that has produced five straight quality starts from the right-hander.

Before Wednesday's game, Mills thought it would be too much to ask for Paulino to throw another game like his previous two, when the right-hander allowed a total of one run in 16 innings. Paulino came close enough, extending a remarkable run over his past five starts that has seen him pitch to a 1.75 ERA.

"You're beginning to expect them from him every time out. He's throwing the ball extremely well and doing a great job," Mills said. "As a team, we're 4-1 in his last five starts. Even though he's maybe not getting the 'W's, he's keeping us in there and going deep into the games and giving our bullpen some rest."

The Rockies made the most of their only two hits through the first three innings, with Melvin Mora lacing a one-out double to left in the second and Seth Smith ripping an RBI single to left to give Colorado the early lead.

The Astros loaded the bases in the fifth and brought one home before Rockies starter Aaron Cook could retire a hitter. Bourn's bases-loaded dribbler to center tied the game, and Keppinger's double-play grounder sent the go-ahead run home.

Paulino put up a big shutdown inning in the bottom of the fifth, despite the Rockies getting runners on first and second with nobody out. Ian Stewart popped out to Manzella at short, and catcher Humberto Quintero picked off Smith at second base. Paulino finished off Cook with a 96-mph fastball to escape the inning and preserve the lead.

"When Q picked the guy off at second, that was a big play," Mills said. "It was a bunt situation, and with the pitcher bunting, he comes up and throws the guy out. You can't overemphasize how big that is."

Colorado evened the score in the sixth on an RBI double by Brad Hawpe. The score held until the 10th, when Lee stepped to the plate and let his 407-foot blast write the final chapter.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.