Fowler finishes superb day with walk-off triple

Fowler finishes superb day with walk-off triple

Fowler finishes superb day with walk-off triple
DENVER -- Dexter Fowler pulled off his helmet and joyfully flung it across the Coors Field infield and jumped in jubilation until his purple-clad teammates rushed him. Fowler knows all too well celebrations can be dangerous, but he deserved this one, and wasn't going to miss a single high-five or elaborate hand slap.

Fowler had just lashed a 10th-inning RBI triple into the right-field corner to give the Rockies a 7-6 victory over the Astros to complete a doubleheader sweep Monday night, and allow 35,786 fans to truly enjoy the ensuing Memorial Day fireworks.

"Tears of joy ... I was excited," Fowler said. "Actually, I had one walk-off hit before, but nothing like this, from what I've battled through this year, and what the team has battled through."

Fowler -- who also homered off of Astros starter Jordan Lyles -- drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth just ahead of Marco Scutaro's three-run double, and finished 4-for-4 with three RBIs. His triple off of Brett Myers (0-2) drove in Michael Cuddyer, who had just singled.

Fowler had every reason to let go.

Monday marked his return to the starting lineup after four games because of an ankle injury, which he suffered when he slipped by the dugout in Miami last week while high-fiving Carlos Gonzalez after a homer. All Fowler did was go 7-for-9 in the two games -- including a 9-7 victory in the first game -- to lift his batting average 39 points to .276.

With the important exception of a starting pitching staff that at times has scuttled any other forward step by the Rockies (19-29), and nearly managed to do so Monday, it was a day that went the way the team believed the season would go. The Rockies pounded out 27 hits and began a stretch of 10-of-13 games at Coors Field in rousing fashion.

Monday was Fowler as he ought to be.

Projected as the team's leadoff hitter, Fowler hit just .149 in Spring Training and began the year hitting second behind Marco Scutaro. Then he was dropped to eighth. For a brief period, manager Jim Tracy began giving center field starts to Tyler Colvin.

But the switch-hitting Fowler began finding his swing during the team's last homestand. When he returned to the lineup on Monday, Tracy presented him with a gift: the No. 1 spot in the order, which he had occupied just once previously. Two games there Monday could be the start of what the Rockies hoped would have happened in the beginning.

"I was ecstatic when I saw my name up there," Fowler said. "I'm accustomed to hitting at the top of the lineup, but you go through ruts. I have been feeling comfortable in the box. I guess it was the right place at the right time."

Tracy has been emphatic about his belief in Fowler. Even when he told Fowler that Colvin had moved ahead of him, he challenged Fowler to win back playing time. It's beginning to pay off, much like last year, when Fowler was demoted to Triple-A in June but returned to hit .288 with a .381 on-base percentage in the final 68 games.

"What we saw today was the guy that we saw in the second half of last year, and then some," Tracy said. "What a really good day he had."

Fowler's hit became a game-winner when Astros right fielder Brian Bogusevic tried to play the ball off the wall instead of cutting it off. It ended a tough day for the Astros, who have followed up four straight wins with four straight losses. The series continues on Wednesday.

"We played tough," Myers said. "We played hard all day, and it's tough to lose those tight games, especially when you're battling all day. We just need a day off to clear our minds tomorrow and come back and get them the next day."

The game-opening homer gave Fowler a career single-season high seven. All have come from the left side -- not the natural side for Fowler -- who didn't begin switch-hitting until being drafted by the Rockies out of high school in 2004.

But Rockies starter Alex White yielded six runs -- four with two out -- and gave up three homers among 10 hits in five innings. White gave up Bogusevic's second homer of the season, a two-run shot with two out in the third. Chris Snyder went deep in a two-run fourth.

White hit Matt Downs in the helmet with two down and one on in the fifth, and Snyder followed with an RBI single. White departed after Astros pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell homered to open the sixth.

It was a tough doubleheader for starting pitchers. Colorado's Juan Nicasio, who went six innings in the first game, and White, were given a combined 13 runs of support in their 11 innings, yet neither received a decision. The Astros' Lyles, who yielded six runs (four earned) in five innings, and Astros Game 1 starter Wandy Rodriguez struggled just as much.

But White said he and Nicasio could at least accept their lessons happily.

"We won two games today, maybe the start of something good, and we won those two games despite [the] starting pitching," White said. "Me and Juan just tried to keep the team going, keep us in it."

The Rockies had two on and no outs in the eighth. But Fowler was asked to sacrifice the runners to second and third, which he did successfully. However, Scutaro's infield bouncer led to Wil Nieves being cut down at the plate on the contact play (when the runner moves on contact). Gonzalez was cut down on a similar play in the seventh.

After Nieves was thrown out, the Astros intentionally walked Gonzalez. Fernando Rodriguez coaxed an inning-ending fly ball from Troy Tulowitzki, who was on a 5-for-11 run before that at-bat.

The Astros' Jed Lowrie and Marwin Gonzalez each singled in the 10th, but Rockies reliever Josh Roenicke (1-0) forced Chris Johnson into a double-play grounder.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.