Hawpe helps Rockies outlast Padres
Colorado closes gap in National League Wild Card race
SAN DIEGO -- Brad Hawpe enjoys turning a crowd quiet every bit as much as sending one into delirium.
Hawpe, who received a curtain call at Coors Field earlier this week after a game-winning home run, popped a Joe Thatcher pitch into the left-center-field bullpen at PETCO Park in the 14th inning to give the Rockies an important 2-1 victory over the Padres on Friday night.
"You could hear five or six Rockies fans there, and our dugout," said Hawpe, who also knocked an RBI single in the seventh. "It's special."
By taking the opener of a three-game set, the Rockies won their sixth straight and ended the National League Wild Card-leading Padres' win streak at seven games. More importantly, the Rockies pulled to 3 1/2 games behind the Padres, who lead the Phillies by 1 1/2 games. The Rockies and Phillies have eight games to play, while the Padres have nine.
Final at-bat homers have given the Rockies half their wins on the streak. Todd Helton's two-run, ninth-inning shot Tuesday provided a 9-8 victory over the Dodgers. Hawpe went deep in the eighth the next night for a 6-5 win.
"It's another beautiful swing," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He hits balls and they carry like nobody's business. It's dead air out there, it's late and people that have played here know how hard it is to bust one."
It was the first home run off Thatcher this season, covering 253 batters faced at Triple-A Portland and with the Padres.
The Rockies improved to 10 games above .500 for the first time since July 4, 2000, and they assured themselves of finishing above break-even for the first time since going 82-80 that year.
But they've known they'd get there for awhile. They needed Friday's victory to feel good about all that, according to Matt Herges (5-1), who pitched two perfect innings to culminate a four-hit effort by six pitchers. That effort was led by rookie lefty Franklin Morales, who allowed one hit in six-plus shutout innings.
"What I know about games like this is if you lose them, it's devastating," Herges said. "But if you win them, it's an unbelievable amount of momentum that just gets thrown in your clubhouse."
The victory came on a night when closer Manny Corpas entered with a 1-0 lead in the ninth but gave up a first-pitch home run to Adrian Gonzalez. It was Corpas' first blown save in 17 chances since becoming the closer just before the All-Star break. It also eliminated a possible win for Morales, who struck out six, walked four and bested Padres Cy Young Award candidate Jake Peavy, who yielded three hits and one run in seven innings.
It was the seventh Major League start for Morales, who has pitched 17 scoreless innings in his last three starts. The Rockies lost starters Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Hirsh for the season with injuries. But Morales, 21, and 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez, who beat the Dodgers at Coors on Thursday, are among the reasons the Rockies have stayed alive.
"Wow, he's got one of the better arms we've seen this year," Padres manager Bud Black said.
Morales walked Kevin Kouzmanoff to open the seventh, but LaTroy Hawkins and Brian Fuentes, who would throw 1 1/3 perfect innings, provided a bailout. Corpas rebounded from the homer by getting six outs without anymore damage. Jorge Julio went a scoreless inning. The Padres had two on and two out against Jeremy Affeldt in the 12th, but he worked Brian Giles into a line drive that required a leaping catch by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
The Rockies had a chance with runners at first and second and two outs against Doug Brocail in the top of the 12th. Ryan Spilborghs bounced an infield single that second baseman Oscar Robles dived to corral. But Hawpe, the lead runner, rounded third hard and found himself in a no-chance rundown when Robles threw home.
"If we didn't score one inning, we'd just worry about keeping them from scoring one inning and taking another shot at them," Hawpe said.
Hawpe launched his next shot an estimated 409 feet and kept the Rockies in shooting distance of the playoffs.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.