SAN DIEGO -- Down to their last strike, the red-hot Rockies mounted a ninth-inning comeback to extend their winning streak to eight games and hold ground in the playoff chase with a 4-1 win over the Padres in Friday's series opener at PETCO Park. Yorvit Torrealba doubled home three runs against Padres closer Heath Bell to erase a 1-0 deficit and send the Rockies on their way to a victory that kept them within two games of the National League West-leading Dodgers. Colorado also extended its NL Wild Card lead to 5 1/2 games over San Francisco, which fell to the Dodgers on Friday.
"You always get excited," said Torrealba, who did not start the game, but entered in the seventh. "It doesn't matter if we're trying to make it to the playoffs or not. It was a 1-0 ballgame, and to be able to come through off the bench pretty much, because I wasn't playing, and help the team win is huge. For us, we're trying to make the playoffs, so obviously it's more exciting." The move to insert Torrealba proved to be crucial to manager Jim Tracy, who felt confident that the club had the right player at the plate in that do-or-die situation. "We've had some dramatic games since the end of May, but that one right there goes to the top of the list," Tracy said. "We're down to a swing, and the interesting thing about it is the guy who is one of the hottest hitters on our club is the guy at bat. What an at-bat he had there in that situation." Bell, who had not blown a save at home all season and had converted 37 of 40 chances prior to Friday, got Torrealba to an 0-2 count with fastballs in the mid-90s, but did not vary his pitch selection and threw two high pitches to even the count at 2-2. The steady stream of fastballs caught Torrealba off-guard. "It actually surprised me -- the fact that he threw so many fastballs -- to be honest with you," Torrealba said. "On 2-2, I figured that he was going to throw me a fastball again, because he doesn't want to get me to 3-2. It seems like he didn't feel comfortable throwing his slider, because he threw me so many fastballs, and then I just jumped on the fastball and hit it good." For his part, Bell admitted that switching to an offspeed pitch in that situation may have produced a different result. "My mechanics were off, and I wasn't hitting my spots," Bell said. "I should have thrown him a curve ball. If I had thrown him a curve ball, I think we would have won the game, even though I didn't have anything out there." The clutch hit snapped an 0-for-7 stretch for Torrealba that came on the heels of a 16-game hitting streak, which set a club record for a catcher. "That's not the first real good swing we've seen [Torrealba] take over the past couple weeks or so," Tracy said. "He's had a number of them, and he's had a few big hits in some big situations, but I think it would be safe to say that's the biggest one of them yet." Prior to Torrealba's decisive double, the Rockies managed just four hits against six San Diego pitchers, but Colorado starter Jorge De La Rosa overcame a shaky first inning to keep the game close and position his team for the win. De La Rosa issued a bases-loaded walk to Oscar Salazar that gave San Diego a 1-0 advantage in the first, but the 28-year-old left-hander settled down from there and threw seven innings total. He allowed the one run on five hits while striking out eight and walking four batters. "I was jumping a little bit in the first inning," De La Rosa said. "After I made an adjustment, that helped me for the rest of the game." Tracy also admired De La Rosa's adjustment and ability to minimize San Diego's lead. "In order for you to win a game like that, we couldn't afford to have any more offensive damage occur on their side of the field, and Jorge De La Rosa did an unbelievable job," Tracy said. "He had a little difficulty in the first inning getting into the strike zone, but he rectified that situation and basically cruised to the point that we had to hit for him." Colorado managed just one other scoring opportunity in the game when Joe Thatcher hit Helton with a pitch to lead off the seventh, and Brad Hawpe's double sent Helton to third as the first Rockies baserunner to move into scoring position. Luke Gregerson entered for San Diego and induced a popup from Garrett Atkins and struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs to end the threat. Franklin Morales retired the side in order in the ninth for his sixth save in seven chances this season. Rafael Betancourt (3-1) recorded two outs in the eighth to pick up the victory, Colorado's 10th in 11 games.
Tim Powers is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.