Walk-off win helps Rockies in two races
Wild Card lead extended to 4; deficit in West down to 2 1/2
DENVER -- Outfielder Seth Smith demonstrated Wednesday night that he has learned a safety lesson from all these dramatic Rockies victories. Get rid of the helmet, and maybe the teammates will take it easy on the ol' noggin in the celebration scrum.
"I've been watching SportsCenter, and everybody's been throwing their helmets," Smith said. "I did that pretty good."
It worked to an extent after Smith's grass-cutting, bases-loaded grounder in the bottom of the ninth squirted past Brandon Phillips for two runs to give the National League Wild Card-leading Rockies a 4-3 victory over the Reds in front of 23,721.
With the Giants having lost earlier in the day, 4-2 to the Padres, the Rockies -- winners of six straight and eight of their last nine -- extended their lead in the NL Wild Card race to four games and pulled to 2 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers.
"You can tell as soon as the national anthem has been played, some of the different things you hear from people in the dugout, they're here to win," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
The Rockies poured from the dugout to greet Smith, and he survived. That's important. All he has done is hit .471 through nine games of a rousing homestand that ends with the fourth game of the Reds series Thursday afternoon.
Smith's game-winner came on a 2-2 pitch that was the eighth from Francisco Cordero (2-5), who threw all fastballs, none slower than 96 mph.
"When it was 1-2 and he threw another heater, I figured he wasn't gong to wild-pitch the tying run in," Smith said.
Cordero had given up a one-out Clint Barmes double, and walked pinch-hitters Jason Giambi and Ryan Spilborghs. Carlos Gonzalez struck out, but Smith won it, driving in Barmes and pinch-runner Jason Marquis. The Rockies are 11-3 in home games decided in the final at-bat.
"It seems like it's a close game every day we show up at the ballpark, and those games are a lot of fun to play," Barmes said.
Scott Rolen had given the Reds a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth with a leadoff homer off rookie reliever Matt Daley (1-1). But Daley, who had fanned Phillips to end the eighth with the game tied and bases loaded, ended up with his first Major League victory.
"It goes from elation to one of the worst feelings in the world to pure elation again," Daley said.
Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who held the Rockies to two runs in seven innings, never felt that second bit of elation Daley experienced.
"This team here the last three years has some sort of magic at home," Arroyo said. "They don't go down very easily. If it's close, they give themselves a chance. They stole it from us."
Wednesday was the second one-run Rockies triumph in the series. The other game was a two-run decision.
"They took it from us," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They're a hot club right now. When you're a hot club, you expect good things to happen, you seem to get the bounces."
If the Rockies pilfered the game, it was because it seemed the Reds had swiped the game first.
Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel struck out a career-high eight in 7 1/3 innings. Hammel gave up three hits, but just one before the eighth.
"This is the best I've felt all year," Hammel said. "Some days you're going to have it, some days you're not. But I was able to keep it going for a while."
However, Wladimir Balentien and Darnell McDonald doubled to open the eighth. Balentien scored on McDonald's double, and pinch-hitter Kevin Barker doubled McDonald home off Rafael Betancourt.
Betancourt walked Drew Stubbs and forced a Paul Janish pop-up. Rockies left-hander Joe Beimel walked Joey Votto on four pitches, but Daley kept the game tied with the strikeout of Phillips.
"After that inning, I was like, this is going to be my first win," Daley said. "I honestly thought that."
He just had to wait a bit for it.
The Rockies have had to scratch for runs the last two games because shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and third baseman Ian Stewart, who have combined for 47 home runs and 139 RBIs, are dealing with back issues. Tracy didn't rule out either playing Thursday.
It's the same with the pitching. Aaron Cook, the team's veteran leader, hasn't pitched since Aug. 21 because of right shoulder soreness and closer Huston Street is out with a strained right biceps tendon.
"Nobody's like, 'We can't win because Tulo is not in the lineup,' or, 'Cookie went down, we can't win,'" Smith said. "It would be better if those guys were playing. But you look around every team in the league, and they have guys hurt. You have to deal with it, move on and win the games."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.