09/28/2004 11:53 PM ET
Rockies implode in the ninth
Chacon walks four straight batters to set up Dodgers
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
|Jamey Wright allowed just two hits in six shutout innings on Tuesday night. (Chris Carlson/AP)
LOS ANGELES -- Neither Colorado Rockies pitcher Shawn Chacon nor a crowd of 33,588 immediately left Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. Only Chacon sat in the dugout, mouth agape and silent, while Los Angeles fans screamed wildly.
Steve Finley's ninth-inning, two-run single brought the Dodgers closer to the National League West title with an improbable 5-4 victory. Chacon, unceremoniously jerked before then, bore responsibility by walking four straight batters after striking out the leadoff man in the ninth.
"I'm thinking, why can't I get two outs, man?" Chacon said. "One out, then the next. I can't remember the last time I had an inning like that where I walked four guys or whatever it was. I felt pretty much helpless out there when I couldn't throw strikes."
Until the ninth, the Rockies led, 4-0, and the story was Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley's two-run error and altercation with fans in the right-field corner after someone hurled a plastic beer bottle at him, all during the eighth inning. The bizarre ending Chacon authored reduced to three Los Angeles' magic number to clinch the NL West over second-place San Francisco.
Chacon struck out Olmedo Saenz, then walked Alex Cora, Robin Ventura, Jose Hernandez and Cesar Izturis, with the last walk, ruining Colorado's chance at its third shutout of the season. Chacon found the strike zone on just 14 of his 41 pitches before manager Clint Hurdle hooked him.
Dodgers fans cheered Chacon, appropriately. Chacon absorbed a 10th-inning loss and blew a save when he gave up a Shawn Green homer during Los Angeles' three-game trip to Coors earlier this month.
Tim Harikkala (6-6), Hurdle's desperate choice to rescue the game, gave up a two-run Jayson Werth double and Finley's game-winner. Colorado's 38th relief loss and 33rd blown save landed beside Harikkala's name on the stat table.
"When you walk four hitters in the ninth, you're in trouble -- I can't explain more than we walked four straight hitters," Hurdle said.
Chacon ended up with a no-decision but the Rockies are left with a big one: what to do now. Colorado moved Chacon from potential star starter and have witnessed him teeter all season. Chacon and the Rockies agreed to a $1.85 million base salary to avoid arbitration last offseason, but face the process again this winter.
Chacon began last season 11-2 and earned an invitation to the All-Star Game as a starter. But after an elbow injury reduced him to 11-8, the Rockies decided to make him a closer to in part to preserve his health. Chacon is 1-9 and has 35 saves but has blown nine, and Tuesday's didn't affect any of those figures. It did balloon his ERA to 7.11.
"This is unbelievable," veteran third baseman Vinny Castilla said. "We couldn't throw strikes. If you can't win this game, what game can you win?"
It was a game Bradley and the Dodgers nearly gave to the Rockies.
After Bradley lost Mark Sweeney's soft liner with two out and the bases loaded in the eighth to let two runs score. After Brad Hawpe's RBI single made it 4-0, a fan threw a plastic beer bottle in Bradley's direction. Bradley grabbed the bottle, walked to the stands in the left-field corner and threw it to the ground.
Bradley argued with umpires and earned an ejection. Bradley ripped off his jersey on his way off the field, and at the top of the dugout stairs flew into a screaming, arm-waving rage apparently directed at fans.
Before then, the Dodgers were popping their corks over the lack of clutch hitting. Colorado starting pitcher Jamey Wright had an on-and-off relationship with the strike zone -- six walks, two hits -- but held the Dodgers to 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in six innings shutout.
Colorado rookie Garrett Atkins knocked an RBI single in the first. It was the only run in seven innings against Kazuhisa Ishii, who pitched well enough for a win. Instead, it went to Elmer Dessens (2-6), who pitched a clean ninth. Then Chacon gave the Dodgers a one-run victory over Colorado or the second time in two nights and third straight time overall.
Long after the game was over, Chacon sat with a stimulator on his right arm, not quite ready to hit the shower for the nearly impossible task of washing this one away.
"Four run lead ... you know?" Chacon said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.