Padres put squeeze on Rockies' WC chase

Padres put squeeze on Rockies' WC chase

DENVER -- With a chance to make up for a one-out walk, and help the Rockies improve their playoff prospects, closer Greg Holland lost his grip in the ninth inning of a 4-3 loss on Sunday afternoon at Coors Field. And because of it, the Rockies' handle on a playoff spot is a little weaker.

Holland fielded a squeeze bunt by the Padres' Austin Hedges and made a diving tag on Matt Szczur, who was making a headfirst slide to the plate. However, the ball popped out of Holland's glove when he landed, and the Rockies lost the game and a chance for a three-game series sweep.

Had Holland completed the tag (he covered home because catcher Jonathan Lucroy was out of position on Hedges' short bunt) he may have been able to make up for walking Sczcur. Allen Cordoba had singled Sczcur to third.

"They gave me a gift, gave me a chance to get out of the inning there," said Holland, who was charged with an error. "I didn't do it. But it started with the walk."

Because of the loss, the Rockies' advantage over the Brewers for the second National League Wild Card shrunk to 2 1/2 games because of the Brewers' win over the Marlins on Sunday. The long-eliminated Padres can celebrate proper fundamentals at a key time.

"It was great to see Hedges get it down," Padres manager Andy Green said. "Always being the guy who nitpicks too much, I think Szczur could have gotten a better break at third base, but at the end of the day, he was safe and we got the win that way."

The Rockies' Trevor Story delivered a two-run double during a three-run fourth inning, and starter Jon Gray struck out seven in five innings But Gray didn't return after a 1-hour, 23-minute rain delay.

Gray's stellar effort dampened by delay

Rain delays play at Coors Field

"Mother Nature was probably the most valuable player for us today," Green said.

The Padres were sparked by Yangervis Solarte's 443-foot homer off Chris Rusin in the sixth, and five Padres relievers held the Rockies to four hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

Solarte credits 'his angel' on special anniversary

Solarte's solo smash

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Aggression backfires:
Story's two-run double came with no outs in the fourth, but his aggression -- and some stellar defense from the Padres -- made the play costly for the Rockies. Story attempted to stretch to a triple, but throws from Szczur in center and shortstop Erick Aybar set up Solarte to tag Story on his back just before he reached third. 

"I've had some close ones where I didn't know if I could make it to third, but off the bat I felt like I had a good chance," Story said. "I decided to be aggressive. But they made a good play."

Story's two-run double

Generally it is considered a no-no to make the first or last out at third base, but throughout his managerial career, and from the day he took over the Rockies, manager Bud Black has emphasized erring on the side of aggression.

Tense moments: Rockies righty reliever Scott Oberg, who entered Sunday with 9 2/3 scoreless innings over eight games, came into Sunday's game in the eighth with runners at second and third and two down. After walking Wil Myers, Oberg gave up a two-run, game-tying single to Hector Sanchez, but struck out Cory Spangenberg to finish the inning.

Sanchez's game-tying single

"Their bullpen outpitched our bullpen," Black said. "That's about as plain as you can put it."

"When we go to the right side of our bullpen, the guys are going to give us real opportunity to win baseball games," Green said. "Those guys have been really good for a long time."

QUOTABLE
"The last four or five games of this road trip have been as tough as anything we've had. It's a 3-5 road trip. That's not good by any stretch, but when you go through your toughest stretch of the season and you walk off a tough road trip against three teams that are heading to the playoffs and you're 3-5, it's not as ugly as some of those games end up looking. I think we can take some positive momentum back home. We face the D-backs again, we face the Rockies again. It doesn't get any easier for us." -- Green

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Until Solarte's solo home run in the sixth, the Padres hadn't scored a run since the sixth inning of Friday's series opener, a span of 17 innings.

WHAT'S NEXT
Padres: Luis Perdomo gets the nod to open the seven-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. PT against the D-backs on Monday. Perdomo gave up three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four in Arizona on Sunday. All three of the runs against him came on solo homers. It was his 10th consecutive start lasting six innings or longer.

Rockies: Rookie righty German Marquez (10-7, 4.41 ERA) has helped keep the Rockies in contention all season; however, he has slumped in his last three starts, with a 6.59 ERA and 23 hits in 13 2/3 innings. Marquez hopes to regain form when the Rockies face the Giants and righty Johnny Cueto at AT&T Park on Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. MT.

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Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver and covered the Padres on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.