Rox ride timely hitting, 'pen to win in Arizona

Reliever Belisle gets crucial out in seventh inning to preserve lead

Rox ride timely hitting, 'pen to win in Arizona

PHOENIX -- Relief pitcher Matt Belisle might not have thrown a perfect pitch, but it was just what the Rockies needed Friday night.

Belisle entered with runners at second and third and no outs in the seventh inning. After facing three batters, the bases were loaded with two outs when Belisle had a 1-2 count on the D-backs' dangerous Paul Goldschmidt. Belisle threw a slider that seemed to hang dangerously, but Goldschmidt's bat missed it and Belisle had the key strikeout in a 6-3 victory at Chase Field in front of 28,801.

"The slider stayed a little up, but it was away and it still had a little late break," Belisle said. "Whether [Goldschmidt] saw it as a mistake slider or whether he thought it was a fastball that was out of reach, I can't tell you. But it worked out."

The victory, which gave the Rockies a two-game lead over the D-backs and Giants in the National Legaue West, featured key two-out hits by Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki, a sixth-inning leadoff homer from Wilin Rosario and five strong innings from Juan Nicasio (3-0), who was throwing with his best velocity since his first outings in the Majors in 2011. However, Belisle and the bullpen were key to the victory.

The Rockies' relief staff extended its scoreless-innings streak to 12 while holding the D-backs to two hits in the final four innings. The bullpen entered the game second in the NL in innings pitched and increased that total to 82 1/3, but hasn't wilted.

Belisle, a key part of the Rockies' bullpen since 2009, played the biggest role for the 'pen Friday night.

Lefty Josh Outman threw a scoreless sixth, but he hit Didi Gregorious in the right temple -- the D-backs announced it was a contusion, but he will be re-evaluated Saturday -- to lead off the seventh, and gave up an Alfredo Marte double before being lifted for Belisle. Cody Ross and Martin Prado popped out, with a Gerardo Parra walk in between. But Belisle handled the challenge.

"You're hoping maybe he'll give up one, and he gets out of it without giving up anything," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That's a phenomenal job by Matty."

Rex Brothers survived a hit and a walk in the eighth by striking out three, and Rafael Betancourt improved to 8-for-8 on save chances.

The Rockies' clutch pitching came on a night when the offense regained its ability to deliver hits in tight situations. Cuddyer doubled with two out and two on in the first. Tulowitzki's double came after the slumping Carlos Gonzalez -- who went 1-for-5 and is 3-for-29 in his last seven games -- fanned against Brandon McCarthy (0-3) for the second out of the fifth.

"First-pitch cutter, that's how we've attacked him," said McCarthy, who also gave up Rosario's homer among nine hits in six innings. "That's what I would throw again, I just wouldn't throw it there again. It just kind of came out of my hand funny."

The Rockies' performance came on the heels of a 1-for-11 showing with runners in scoring position in Thursday night's 3-2 loss to the D-backs.

"We were able to get the big hit tonight, Juan gave us a chance and the bullpen gave us the rest," Weiss said.

Nicasio lasted just 4 1/3 innings against the D-backs in his last start. But in between, Rosario, his catcher throughout his pro career, noticed on video that Nicasio was not following through on his fastball. Nicasio said he saw himself pulling his head back right after releasing the ball.

That's understandable. Nicasio suffered a broken neck and fractured skull when he was hit in the head by a line drive from the Nationals' Ian Desmond on Aug. 5, 2011, and missed the rest of that season. To boot, his 2012 season ended in June when he suffered a right knee injury while trying to field another hard-hit ball through the mound.

On Friday, Nicasio, who had been throwing in the 94-mph range, was hitting 97 with his fastball. He gave up Eric Chavez's third homer of the season in the second and ended up yielding three runs, just one earned.

"I talked with Wilin during my last bullpen, and I was really trying to stay through the ball," Nicasio said.

To make the effort result in victory, Nicasio and the Rockies needed Belisle.

"I do enjoy big pitches in big situations," Belisle said. "The more you can experience those, the more you prepare yourself for big pitches in playoffs and the places where we want to be making big pitches down the road."

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.