Rockies roll to 11th consecutive win
Bats smack three homers; Morales ties scoreless-innings mark
LOS ANGELES -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle took three walks of faith to the pitcher's mound in the sixth inning Thursday night, turning the team's dreams over to the inexperienced right-hander Ryan Speier, and trusting lefty Jeremy Affeldt and righty Jorge Julio despite scary stats.
The trio took over as pilots on a white-knuckle ride that the Rockies hope will land in the National League playoffs, mitigated a Dodgers rally and allowed the Rockies to win their 11th straight contest, 10-4, at Dodger Stadium in front of 51,999.
With two on, no outs and a two-run lead, Speier, a September callup, replaced starter Franklin Morales (3-2) and fanned Matt Kemp. Affeldt, who had given up a .324 batting average against left-handed hitters since the All-Star break, held James Loney to an RBI grounder. Julio had seen Russell Martin go 4-for-5 with a home run against him before forcing him to ground out to preserve a 4-3 lead.
"The only thing on our minds is getting the job done, and there's no doubt," Affeldt said.
If the Rockies were doubters, they wouldn't have such a rich possibility of the second playoff trip in the club's 15-season existence and first since 1995.
The Rockies remained one game behind the Wild Card-leading Padres and two back of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, who will arrive at Coors Field on Friday night for a three-game showdown to end the regular season.
The Phillies and Mets, out of the NL East, also have the same record as the Rockies, but that's immaterial. A sweep, which has suddenly become a regular occurrence, would guarantee the Rockies of at least being in tiebreaker action and could even give them the division.
They were 6 1/2 games down in the division and 4 1/2 games behind in the Wild Card when the streak began. They started with a four-game sweep of the Dodgers at Coors Field, followed by three-game sweeps of the Padres and the Dodgers.
"This puts us in a good position, especially going home," Hurdle said. "This has got to be one of the best road trips in organizational history, no doubt about that. We've played good baseball."
Garrett Atkins, who had four hits, hit his 25th homer of the season, for two runs in the fourth off Esteban Loaiza (1-4). Brad Hawpe followed with his 29th homer for one of his four RBIs for a 3-0 lead.
Morales, 21, who spent much of the season at Double-A Tulsa, didn't give up a run over the first three innings to extend his scoreless-innings streak to 20 and tie Denny Neagle (Aug. 3-20, 2002) for the club record for a starter. He gave up three runs in five-plus innings.
"Whatever count, I feel good -- I feel I've got it," said Morales, who made his eighth start.
After the Rockies escaped the gripping sixth with a one-run lead, Todd Helton jerked a two-run homer in the seventh. Troy Tulowitzki added an RBI double and Hawpe put it out of reach with a three-run double.
Once, the idea of turning over an inning of that magnitude to Speier, Affeldt and Julio was absurd.
In 2005 and this year, Speier bounced between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, and spent last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Affeldt gave up runs five times in seven games from Sept. 3-14. In the first nine September games, Julio gave up nine runs, including three homers.
But Speier has pitched out of tight situations in his last three appearances. Affeldt turned it around after bullpen coach Rick Matthews told him he was tentative with his curveball against the left-handers -- a tough problem for a curveball specialist paid to face lefties. Julio struck out two in 1 1/3 innings, and has fanned six in his last three appearances.
"When the bullpen is struggling, you're going, 'What sign am I going to put down?' but now the guys have so much confidence," said catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. "That's why they're so good."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.