For the first time in weeks, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki didn’t do the heavy lifting for the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies won their ninth straight game and stayed within striking distance of the NL West lead Saturday night thanks to a long list of unusual suspects and a couple of fortuitous moments.
Pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera’s sacrifice fly off Mike Hampton after a miscommunication on a squeeze play broke a seventh-inning tie, and rookie Matt Reynolds (1-0) picked up his first major league win by working one scoreless inning in Colorado’s 2-1 nail-biter over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies stayed 2-1/2 games behind San Diego in the NL West race. The Padres beat San Francisco 1-0.
”When you’re on a really good roll, you’d like them all to be easy, but unfortunately, it’s not going to be that way,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. ”And tonight we had to do it the hard way.”
Diamondbacks right-hander Rodrigo Lopez cruised along until the seventh, when he gave up three straight hits, including Miguel Olivo’s RBI single that tied it at 1 and took Ubaldo Jimenez off the hook for a hard-luck loss.
Jimenez had allowed just one run over six stellar innings and stranded runners at third in three straight innings.
With switch-hitter Herrera coming up to pinch hit, Lopez (5-14) , who was aiming for his first victory since Aug. 7, was replaced by lefty Hampton, the 37-year-old lefty whose two years in Denver were marked by a big contract and lots of losses.
Herrera fouled off a pitch with Ryan Spilborghs bearing down on him at fullspeed on a squeeze play mix-up. Then, with that sign wiped off, Herrera lofted a fly that center fielder Chris Young had to back up on, allowing Spilborghs to score.
”You do make your own breaks,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. ”They botched a sign there and the squeeze was on and Herrera had to hit … and they got away with it.”
Todd Helton also was out of the starting lineup, but Gibson took umbrage at the notion that the Rockies were any easier to face on this night.
”They also had Jimenez throwing,” Gibson said. ”I don’t care who’s in the lineup. You’ve got to play a baseball game.”
And Herrera’s a pretty good bat-handler, whether he’s squaring around or squaring it up.
”We play like a team,” Herrera said. ”Everybody is part of it, not just the nine guys in the lineup. We have a lot of guys on the bench, too, and we’re looking for anything to help the team win.”
Lopez had been awful since Aug. 1, losing all four of his decisions. Against Colorado he allowed just two runs on seven hits in 6-1/3 innings.
”Rodrigo threw a great game for us,” Gibson said. ”We got out-executed in the finer points of the game and they came away with a win.”
Rafael Betancourt held the lead with a 1-2-3 eighth and Huston Street picked his 18th save in 22 chances. With one out and the tying run at second, Street struck out Gerardo Parra on high heat, then got pinch-hitter Ryan Church looking at strike three with the sellout crowd of 48,000-plus standing.
The Rockies didn’t have their usually potent lineup.
Gonzalez’s 0-for-8 hiccup over the previous two games prompted his manager to give him a breather. Gonzalez had started to show signs of fatigue after a career-best 16-game hitting streak that put him in contention for the Triple Crown and the Rockies in the thick of the playoff race.
With CarGo getting a night off — until he played left field in the ninth — Tulowitzki, who’s been on a power surge himself over the last week and a half, moved up from the cleanup spot to the third spot in the order.
Tulowitzki went 0 for 4 from there after having hit .444 (16 for 36) over his previous nine games while collecting eight homers, 17 RBIs, 15 runs, five walks and a dozen extra-base hits.
Gonzalez’s replacement in left field, Spilborghs, misplayed Tony Abreu’s fourth-inning drive into a double and he couldn’t catch up to Stephen Drew’s RBI double an inning later that scored Brandon Allen.
Lopez, who had singled, had to stop at third on the hit.
”Fortunately for us the pitcher was running or they would have had two runs,” Tracy said.
Notes: The Rockies are 18-4 at Coors Field since July 29. … Street has saved nine straight games since Aug. 22. … The sellout crowd of 48,023 included a September record walk-up of 7,673 Saturday.