Pitching in relief feels odd for Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood. But the high-fives certainly felt good.
Chatwood -- who will wear the nickname "Chatty" on the back of his jersey for Players Weekend -- was perfect, dominating even, in the bottom of the 12th for his second career save -- his first since April 11, 2012 -- to seal a 3-2 victory over the Indians on Wednesday at Progressive Field.
The solo shot by Charlie Blackmon, aka Chuck Nazty, in the top of the 12th provided a lead. Then Chatwood forced a couple of funky swings -- by Jason Kipnis on a high fastball for a leadoff strikeout, and by Francisco Lindor on an eventual chopper -- before forcing Jose Ramirez's game-ending bouncer.
"It was pretty cool to see Charlie hit a homer, and then I was trying to go in and not mess it up," Chatwood said. "Just tried to keep us winning."
It was Chatwood's second relief appearance this season, but his first as a true reliever. He gave up a run in one inning at St. Louis on July 26, in his first relief appearance since July 5, 2012. However, the game against the Cards was a get-your-feet-wet appearance after he had come off a right calf strain.
This time, manager Bud Black chose righty Antonio Senzatela over Chatwood for a rotation spot. Senzatela, a rookie, accounted for himself well while striking out five and giving up two runs in five innings. Chatwood entered Wednesday with 63 walks, behind only the Orioles' Wade Miley (66) in the Majors. But Chatwood's proficiency at forcing weak contact and ground balls profiled well in the bullpen, the Rockies reasoned.
Chatwood looked electric while warming up before the 12th, and he did his job in relief. His only other save was a three-inning job in a 17-8 victory over the Giants on April 11, 2012. If a pitcher enters ahead and works the final three innings, he receives a save regardless of the margin.
It's not clear if Chatwood can work back to the rotation. In addition to having five starters now, right-hander Chad Bettis, who hasn't pitched in the Majors this season because of testicular cancer, could be close to a return. Lefty Tyler Anderson is eligible to return from a left knee injury on Aug. 25. But as the Rockies and D-backs continue their battle atop the National League Wild Card standings, Colorado hopes Chatwood remains an asset.
"He's been put in a tough spot a little bit team-wise," Black said. "He responded today, and that was good for Tyler."
Chatwood mixed a fastball that topped at 97.7 mph, on Lindor's bouncer, with a curveball in the 70s and a cutter in between. Nine of Chatwood's 11 pitches were strikes.
"At that point, you just try to go up there and get three outs," Chatwood said. "You don't worry about being out there for however many innings."
Chatwood capped the bullpen's seven scoreless innings, which they accomplished without regular closer Greg Holland (who had blown saves the past two games, including Tuesday night's 4-1 heartbreaker to the Indians), righty Pat Neshek and lefty Mike Dunn because of high usage in recent games.
Lefty Chris Rusin gave up a harmless hit in 2 1/3 innings while working his second straight game. Righty Adam Ottavino gave up a hit and a walk in one-third of an inning, but lefty Jake McGee -- in his first game since missing time with a mid-back strain -- fanned two in 1 1/3 perfect frames, and righty Carlos Estevez (5-0) struck out one and walked one in two innings to earn the decision.