Rockies' bullpen slams door shut on Cubs

Rockies' bullpen slams door shut on Cubs

Rockies' bullpen slams door shut on Cubs
CHICAGO -- Being a member of Major League Baseball's busiest and winningest bullpen has been a boon to right-hander Carlos Torres' career, even though he admits to sometimes feeling a little odd about some of the credit.

Torres, who entered Saturday's game because starter Alex White wasn't efficient enough with his pitches to make it past the fourth inning, began a relay that saw four pitchers throw five scoreless innings to spearhead a 4-3 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field in front of 25,296.

"Sometimes when the starter goes four and I come in and get the win, I feel like a jerk," Torres said with a smile. "But you take what you can get in this game, because usually it takes it from you. You'd like starters to get wins. In the bullpen, we just like to do our jobs and get outs."

The performance increased the Rockies' bullpen innings total to 494. Going into Saturday, the Royals were second in the Majors in relief innings at 441. The Rockies' 28 bullpen wins also tops the Majors.

Colorado (51-74), winners of 13 of its last 19 games, also had homers from a pair of rookies. Josh Rutledge, limited for the last week by a strained left quadriceps, hit his seventh homer since his July 13 callup from Double-A Tulsa -- a fifth-inning, pinch-hit shot off Cubs starter Brooks Raley. Alex Brown swatted his first career homer over the left-field bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue, off former Rockies pitcher Manuel Corpas (0-1), to tie the game at 3 while leading off the sixth.

The winning run scored on a giveaway. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro fielded Carlos Gonzalez's grounder with runners at first and third and threw wide of first base while trying to complete a double play in the seventh inning. DJ LeMahieu scored from third.

But the Rockies won because Torres (3-1) and fellow relievers Rex Brothers, Will Harris and Rafael Betancourt (26 saves) combined to hold the Cubs to two baserunners.

Part of the reason for the workload is the Rockies' decision to limit pitches and avoid letting starters face lineups for a third time -- statistically a losing proposition. White, who gave up a Brett Jackson two-run homer in a three-run fourth, left trailing, 3-0, after throwing 80 pitches. On several winning occasions, the starter left leading but the win went to the bullpen because the starter has to go five innings to qualify.

Torres (3-1), who struck out two and gave up one hit and a walk, certainly likes the role. Before joining the Rockies, his career consisted of 13 games with the White Sox in 2009 and '10, and an odd '11 that consisted of just six starts for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

But if Torres has truly found a home in the Rockies' "piggy-back" role -- one of the three relievers who rotate throwing up to 50 pitches after the starter leaves -- he will join fellow piggy-back reliever Josh Roenicke and primary setup man Matt Belisle as pitchers who bounced between starter and relief roles elsewhere but found the right niche with the Rockies. Rookie Adam Ottavino could also fall into that category if he keeps improving.

"I had never heard of the piggy-back role in the big leagues, but whatever works, you know?" Torres said. "My daughter lives in Colorado, so I signed here. It's turned out to be a very good thing, because they've given me chances."

Brothers, who struggled through lack of aggressiveness early this season before Belisle counseled him to relax, fanned one during a perfect 1 1/3 innings. Harris watched a breathtaking fly ball by Alfonso Soriano land in the glove of Carlos Gonzalez near the ivy. Betancourt pitched a perfect ninth, with plenty of help. LeMahieu, a former Cub, made a twisting catch in short right field on Welington Castillo's blooper for the second out.

Also in the seventh, catcher Wilin Rosario, who had thrown out Castro stealing in the fourth inning, erased Joe Mather at second on the back end of a double-steal attempt to end the seventh.

The strategy looked odd. Turns out Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he didn't exactly sign off on it.

"We were on our own," Sveum said. "Nothing was put on, it wasn't a signed steal. While [Brothers] was warming up, we talked to [first-base coach Dave] McKay about it. He said [the pitcher] is slow [to] the plate and thought we could get him."

Rosario said, "It's great to execute like that. When everybody knows what to do and does it, it makes us a good team."

It was a nice comeback for a Rockies club whose eighth-inning mistakes led to a 5-3 loss to the Cubs on Friday afternoon.

"What we did today, that we didn't do yesterday, was execute to win a one-run game," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who said the dugout signaled for Rosario to throw to get the back runner on the double steal. "We did a terrific job from Carlos Torres all the way through to Raffy [Betancourt]."

Rutledge had been starting at shortstop before suffering the quad injury. The Rockies are limiting his activity because they want him to play second when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returns from left groin surgery. Tulowitzki began a Minor League injury rehab assignment on Friday night at Double-A Tulsa. But Rutledge showed on Saturday that he can swing -- even when his leg hurts.

Brown, acquired from the Cardinals last October, has hit .205 during two callups from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Now, he has a memory -- not to mention added confidence.

"It was a phenomenal feeling to be able to do that, and with all the history this place has, I'll never forget it," Brown said. "We came back and won. That makes it better."

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.