DENVER — Improbable and unexpected, the Colorado Rockies first win since opening day was one worth framing.
The Rockies defeated San Francisco, 5-4, on Saturday before 23,439 fans at Coors Field and snapped their eight-game losing streak. They defeated one of baseball’s best pitchers, Giants ace Jason Schmidt, who handled them last weekend and entered with a 1.38 ERA. They used creativity and clutch hitting to key rallies, which proved to be just enough. Closer Chin-hui Tsao scared the Rockies and their fans in the ninth when he allowed Michael Tucker to hit a two-run homer, pulling San Francisco to within one. But with the tying run at second, Tsao coaxed a high pop fly out of Ray Durham that Rockies centerfielder Preston Wilson caught to end things.
But the real story Saturday comes in a bigger picture. Because in some ways, the Rockies drew a blueprint to follow if (when?) they find themselves mired in another long losing streak and they want to see how to end it.
“There are a lot of people tonight who probably didn’t think we had much of a chance, facing Schmidt and with an eight-game losing streak hanging in our face,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
“It’s been a while, but these guys realize why they won a ball game. We got a good starting effort. We were able to bridge the gap from the bullpen. We continued to work counts ... We didn’t chase pitches up top like we did (in San Francisco). We made some adjustments and played a better game, and that’s the reward that’s out there for you every night you play and the challenge is to meet it.”
Said shortstop Clint Barmes: “This was something we needed to do. And it was definitely a positive to go out and do it off of Schmidt. When we all come together and do those things we need to, we can compete.”
Starter Joe Kennedy went 62/3 innings and allowed only two runs and seven hits. When he faltered in the seventh, Bobby Seay came in with two on and two out and struck out Omar Vizquel, just like a real major league relief pitcher is supposed to.
Brian Fuentes threw a scoreless eighth preceding Tsao’s adventure in the ninth.
Kennedy said he was happy with his first two efforts, but not the numbers in the box scores afterward.
“The box score is better (Saturday night),” he said.
“I wanted to re-establish my fastball and keep hitters off balance. I was able to do that, and we were able to pull a victory out.”
Kennedy, a career .156 hitter, led off the third with a single. He took second on a wild pitch. Second baseman Aaron Miles failed twice trying to sacrifice, but then singled to center, sending Kennedy to third. Barmes followed with a bunt that Giants first baseman J.T. Snow fielded only to find none of his teammates covering first. Kennedy scored.
Wilson doubled home Miles and Barmes and Brad Hawpe singled in Wilson, making it 4-1.
Matt Holliday’s two-out single in the sixth scored Todd Helton with what turned out to be the decisive run.
Almost three hours before the game, Hurdle spent part of his daily press conference denying he harbors major concerns about this team nine games into the season. He said he wants to get back to basics. The Rockies stole five bases (their most since September 2001), they bunted when the opportunity arose and the bullpen held on, barely.
In short, the Rockies used the basics a bit more to scratch out a win.
It might be a formula worth revisiting.
“You never know what part of the game is going to be the biggest,” Hurdle said.