Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rockies Fight Past Reds To Sweep Series

The Rockies were heading into Sunday's game looking to sweep the Reds and sweep away the memory of a bad series in New York to start the road trip. With Jason Marquis on the mound everything was in line for that scenario to play out.

Just three innings away from making that a reality and winning their fourth straight game on the road, Marquis gave up a single, then hit Scott Rolen in the head and proceeded to leave a fastball up and over the plate to Laynce Nix, who belted it high and deep into the right field bleachers. The home run tied the score at three and put the outcome in doubt.

Troy Tulowitzki did his best to help Marquis get his 13th win of the season by launching a line drive into the Reds bullpen down the right field line after a long at bat to give the Rockies another lead.

Rafael Betancourt was summonsed from the bullpen to work the eighth inning, the spot that the Rockies picked him up just over a week ago to do. He quickly got the first two batters, then manager Jim Tracy elected to go to the bullpen and get newly acquired lefty Joe Beimel to get the final out of the inning, lefty Joey Vatto. Beimel, who has only given up four home runs since 2006, left a hanging breaking pitch over the plate. A hitter like Vatto more times than not will make a pitcher pay for a bad pitch. That is exactly what he did, planting a solo home run to straight away center field.

The game headed into extra innings, where the Rockies coming into the game were winless on the season, going 0-4.

Lefty Franklin Morales, who was brought in to face Nix in the ninth was left in the game for the 10th inning. After walking the leadoff man, Morales was able to strike out pinch hitter Homer Bailey, in the game to bunt the runner over. He then got leadoff man Drew Sutton to hit sharply into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

In the 11th inning, Chris Iannetta, struggling at the plate, hit a bounding ground ball through the hole between the shortstop and third baseman. He then alertly moved up to second base on a ball in the dirt, then moved to third on a ground out by Carlos Gonzalez, who went 3-for-4 on the day, improving his confidence and becoming a true threat for the Rockies.

After Omar Quintanilla hit a slow ground ball to second base for the second out it looked like the Rockies may blow an opportunity to win the game. However, Dexter Fowler, another Rockie struggling at the plate, lined a ball into the right-center gap, easily scoring Iannetta from third base. Fowler sped around the bases for a triple, then scored on an infield single by pinch hitter Garrett Atkins.

Huston Street worked a perfect bottom of the 11th inning on his 26th birthday for his National League leading 28th save.

It was a game that showed the character of the Rockies. After struggling in New York it would have been easy for them to quit fighting on the road trip, instead they came back and avoided a sweep, then went on to two dominating wins in Cincinnati before having to battle the final game out with the Reds. After Marquis gave up the game tying home run, momentum was clearly in favor of the Reds. However, Troy Tulowitzki did not let it affect him, homering to regain the lead the very next inning.

Even with a loss the Rockies had won the series. It would have been easy for them to give in and be content with a series victory. Instead, they rallied and fought for the sweep. After starting the road trip 0-3, they are now 4-3 and should be able to at least go home with a .500 road trip, exactly what they need to do with the majority of the remaining games at Coors Field.

The Rockies now travel to Philadelphia to battle the defending World Series champs, who took the series from the Rockies on opening weekend in Colorado. A series win would give the Rockies confidence and almost certainly assure them of being at least tied for the Wild Card lead before heading home to play the Cubs.

The win was the 31st road win of the season. That number is significant because it is the same number of wins on the road that the 2008 squad had all year.

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