Rox win in 10th, trim West deficit to two

Rox win in 10th, trim West deficit to two

DENVER -- After 14 innings of baseball on Monday, the Rockies went back to the well in the series opener against the Dodgers, coming from behind and trading leads with their National League West rivals and taking a 5-4 win on Troy Tulowitzki's walk-off single to center in the bottom of the 10th Tuesday.

The win brought the Rockies within two games of the division-leading Dodgers and maintained their Wild Card lead at four over the Giants, who also won. It set the tone for a taut series between two teams battling for bragging rights in the NL West.

"We played [the Dodgers] our last series at their place, and we played them pretty tough, but they ended up taking a couple games late," second baseman Clint Barmes said, feeling like the Rockies were showing their true colors after bringing a 2-10 record against L.A. into the series. "This is a series you got to really get up for. This is exciting. It's why we play the game. These kind of games, you can't beat it."

The winning rally was sparked by the injured Carlos Gonzalez, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the ninth as the Rockies tried to protect a two-run lead. A stitch in his hand prevents him from hitting, but with Ian Stewart earning a leadoff walk in the 10th, Gonzalez dropped a beautiful bunt down the first-base line, and the rushed play forced an error at first base, sending Stewart to third.

After Gonzalez took second uncontested and Omar Quintanilla struck out, the Dodgers walked Todd Helton to load the bases, bringing Tulowitzki to the plate with the winning run 90 feet away. Tulowitzki singled to center for the game-winner.

These three teams overcame the largest deficits to finish in first place. No team has ever overcome a 15 1/2-game deficit to win a division or a league title, which is what the Rockies are threatening to do.
Boston Braves191415 games
New York Yankees197814 games
New York Giants195113 games

"What you like to see from an offensive player in that situation is the mental awareness," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "If they start you low in the strike zone, leave it alone. There's a reason why they're throwing it down. They want you to fire at it and hit it on the ground. Force the guy to bring it up, because where they had to play their infield, you don't have to hit it too far for us to win a game. He put a great swing on it."

The Dodgers got on the scoreboard first, posting a run in the opening inning as Matt Kemp singled and stole second, then came home on a single to right from Andre Ethier. They added a second run in the top of the fourth before the Rockies had registered a hit, riding a leadoff homer from Casey Blake to a 2-0 lead.

The Rockies battled back in the bottom of the inning, with Helton breaking through with the Rockies first hit, a double down the left-field line. Brad Hawpe took Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw deep into center field, blasting a towering two-run tater to tie the score.

Rockies starter Jason Hammel had a strong seven-inning outing, giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking two (one intentional). A day after the Rockies used seven pitchers to beat the Giants, he gave the bullpen some much-needed rest before giving way to Franklin Morales for a scoreless eighth.

"I knew we were short in the 'pen, but you can't really think about it. You have to go with your game plan and do what you can," Hammel said. "I stayed with the same plan as last time, sticking with the four-seamer. Tugged it a couple times, cut it, but that was on accident. Just come right at them and trust the stuff. It worked."

The Rockies went back to the long ball in the bottom of the seventh, with Barmes launching his 21st round-tripper of the season to take the lead. Tulowitzki gave the Rockies a crucial insurance run with a two-out RBI double in the eighth, scoring Ryan Spilborghs, but Helton was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first.

"I thought I got it good enough, but I wasn't sure," Barmes said of his homer. "That's the nice thing about this club. On any given night you show up and you never know who's going to step up."

The Dodgers rallied in the final frame, with pinch-hitter Juan Pierre blooping a shallow single into center field. Rafael Furcal followed with a double into right and Kemp plated Pierre with a sacrifice fly, bringing the tying run to third with one out. Rockies reliever Joe Beimel struck out Ethier and Matt Daley came on to face Manny Ramirez, getting two strikes on him before yielding a tying RBI single.

James Loney kept the rally alive with a soft fly down the left-field line. Third baseman Stewart ran after it, trying for an over-the-shoulder catch, but bobbled the ball, putting Loney on second and Ramirez on third. The Rockies walked Blake to load the bases, then watched what looked like an inning-ending popup from Russell Martin bounce off a suspended cable in foul territory before Martin flew to center to end the inning.

"[The Rockies are] reminding people of the way we played in the first half," Ethier said. "We lost the game, rather than they beat us. Don't get me wrong, they played well. But we didn't come through when we had the chances to score. We kind of beat ourselves."

If it sounds like bulletin-board material, the Rockies don't need it. They've made up 13 1/2 games on the Dodgers since June and have them squarely in their sights.

"A lot of people have said we could win the Wild Card, but we haven't given up the division," Hammel said.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.