Bullpen lifts Rockies to series win

Bullpen lifts Rockies to series win

DENVER -- The bullpen was the Rockies' most uncertain unit heading into the season. Through one week, it is at the forefront in consistency.

Starter Ubaldo Jimenez pitched with distinction but had to leave after six innings because of his high pitch count, 114. Four relievers combined to pitch three scoreless innings as the Rockies beat the Padres, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon to win the first series of the year at Coors Field.

This was after the relievers held the Padres to one run in seven innings of Saturday night's 14-inning, 5-4 loss. Not bad for a relief staff that doesn't have closer Huston Street because of a shoulder strain and is waiting for Joe Beimel, who signed a contract on March 22, to demonstrate that he's ready before being activated.

"It's six games, so the storylines change for that all year," said left-hander Randy Flores, who forced the sizzling Chase Headley into a fly ball with two men on base to end the seventh inning. "I hope the storylines keep like that, that we're holding together and we're picking each other up."

Troy Tulowitzki had a two-run single in the third inning, Miguel Olivo homered in the fourth, and Dexter Fowler -- in for Carlos Gonzalez, who suffered left hamstring tightness in the third -- tripled and scored on Seth Smith's single in the fifth. All the runs came off Jon Garland (0-2). But as has often been the case, the hitting was spotty.

Pitching -- the bullpen even more so than Jimenez (2-0) -- was vital to the Rockies winning the series, their first of the season. The Rockies also won against a National League West opponent; they managed to go to the playoffs last year despite a 33-39 divisional mark.

"We did enough offensively to win, but it was because of the job our starting pitcher did and the follow-up by our bullpen," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Every reliever that pitched Sunday also worked in Saturday night's lengthy contest. Before Sunday's game, Tracy ruled out right-handers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle because of their recent workloads. Still, the Rockies had enough to get the win.

Jimenez left the game after six innings, holding the Padres to two runs, one earned, and six hits while striking out seven. Manuel Corpas, who pitched two innings and absorbed Saturday's loss, shook off a Melvin Mora fielding error to open the seventh. He retired two batters, one with a strikeout. Wanting to pitch Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez inside, Flores missed with a fastball and hit him. But Flores attacked Headley and forced the fly ball to end the inning.

Matt Daley gave up a first-pitch single to Will Venable but nothing else and finished with two strikeouts in the eighth. Franklin Morales dispensed with the Padres with 10 pitches in a perfect ninth.

"I've been extremely impressed with the way Franklin has handled his job," Tracy said. "Not only was he throwing hard, but he was throwing hard and locating. And he was getting his breaking ball over just enough to get his fastball, when he was throwing it to the spot he was throwing it to today, difficult to deal with."

It takes some doing to overshadow Jimenez, who was barely touched until there were two outs in the sixth.

That's when Chase Headley doubled and Will Venable singled him home. The next hitter, Scott Hairston, walked and Venable advanced to third on a wild pitch. With runners at the corners, Tulowitzki could not field ex-Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's grounder, and venable scored on the error. Jimenez, however, fanned Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the inning.

"I wanted to go seven or eight innings and couldn't do it, but it was good," Jimenez said.

"Ubaldo was great today, throwing [115] pitches the second time out and getting us through the sixth inning," Daley said. "That was huge for the bullpen. Manny, after pitching two innings yesterday, did a great job, then me, [Flores] and Morales did what we had to do today."

The Rockies will have their first off-day of the season on Monday and head into Tuesday's opener of three with the Mets hoping to play more complete baseball. They may be without Gonzalez, who has a .393 average but is listed as day to day)

"Our pitchers have done a great job this whole series," Tulowitzki said. "Offensively, we're not where we need to be. Defensively, we're not where we need to be. To be 3-3 right now not playing good baseball at all is somewhat OK. At the same time, we know we're a better team."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.