Rockies survive seesaw affair
Sullivan, Spilborghs thwart Dodgers with defensive gems
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Clint Hurdle says the Rockies love to talk defense. Throughout the season, they discuss how it's done right and point out when it's done poorly, by them or by their opponents.
Now the talk is the Rockies remaining one game off the Wild Card pace with a 9-7 victory over the Dodgers on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium before 44,660. The Dodgers have all fall and winter to gab, since the loss in the opener of the three-game set eliminated them from playoff competition.
And there was plenty of defense to discuss on a night when the Rockies won their ninth straight to match a club record (Aug. 26-Sept. 5, 1997), moved into a tie with the Phillies and kept pace with the Wild Card-leading Padres, who used Brian Giles' three-run homer in the ninth to beat the Giants, 6-4.
The Rockies have even re-entered the division championship chase. They trail the first-place Diamondbacks by three games, with the Padres down two games.
Say what you will about Troy Tulowitzki's two-run homer in the sixth that put the Rockies ahead to stay, or the two hits by Matt Holliday in his return from missing two games with a sore oblique muscle or Todd Helton's two RBIs.
Outstanding defensive plays by center fielder Cory Sullivan to quell a Dodgers rally in the fifth and by catcher Yorvit Torrealba and center fielder Ryan Spilborghs in the eighth will ring as truer reasons for victory. Conversely, bad Dodgers defense zapped their hopes.
"We have a good team," said Hurdle, who said securing 27 outs and trying to keep the ball off the ground on throws -- Spring Training stuff -- constantly is mentioned by coaches and players. "Good teams do good things."
Here were the plays that won it for the Rockies, who lead the NL in defense:
The Dodgers had taken a 6-5 lead on James Loney's three-run homer off Ubaldo Jimenez in the fifth and had two on with no outs. But Andre Ethier lined a pitch from Ryan Speier (3-1) to Sullivan, whose throw home erased Kent at the plate. Tulowitzki's 23rd homer would come off Mark Hendrickson (4-8) the next inning.
Brian Fuentes struggled in the eighth, giving up an Andy LaRoche RBI single with no outs. He would walk three in addition. But Ching-Lung Hu's bunt with runners at first and second was fruitless because Torrealba pounced and threw out Ethier at third.
With two down and the bases loaded, and Hurdle sticking with the left-handed Fuentes against the dangerous right-handed hitting Matt Kemp, Spilborghs ended the threat with a sliding catch on a line drive to center.
Spillborghs added an RBI double in the two-run top of the ninth. Manny Corpas would yield a Delwyn Young homer in the ninth, but end up with his 17th save in 18 chances since taking over as closer at midseason.
Sullivan and Spilborghs are playing because Willy Taveras is out with strained right quadriceps. Hurdle was happy to have both Tuesday.
"I told Cory it was probably the best five innings I've ever had a guy play that I took out of the game," Hurdle said. "Spilborghs comes in, gets on base in the sixth and drives in a run later. That sliding catch in the eighth turned out to be pivotal."
How the Spilborghs catch came about is an example of the team's defensive consciousness.
In that tight situation and with the big Dodger Stadium outfield, Spilborghs said he needed guidance from Holliday in left and Brad Hawpe in right to determine how to play Kemp with the bases loaded. The crowd was yelling, but it didn't hurt communication.
"We made eye contact and had a plan right before the pitch, so I moved in a couple of steps," Spilborghs said.
The Dodgers were left looking askance at one another because of their defense.
The Rockies scored their first runs in the second when Kazuo Masui singled to center off Dodgers starter Brad Penny to drive in Sullivan from second. Matsui continued toward second and catcher Russell Martin threw wildly, allowing him to score.
Hu tied it with a two-run shot in the fourth off Jimenez, who yielded five runs and nine hits in four innings, plus the first four batters of the fifth. But the Dodgers' unsound defense helped the Rockies in the fifth.
Matsui led off with a walk and took advantage of center fielder Juan Pierre's throwing arm by dashing to second on Tulowitzki's fly, and scored on Helton's single. Later, Hawpe grounded to Kent, but the Dodgers couldn't turn an inning-ending double play because Hu couldn't pull the ball out of his glove to make the throw to first.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.