Iannetta helps Rox stretch Wild Card lead
Catcher hits pinch-hit homer in 11th for three-game cushion
DENVER -- The Rockies were two outs away from their first smooth-sailing victory in nine days. But they have been all about the drama this September, and with closer Huston Street on the mound and a three-run lead in the ninth, Colorado satisfied its taste for another nail-biter as the Brewers' Jason Kendall drove Street's one-out offering over the left-field fence for a three-run homer.After the Rockies nearly exhausted their bench, it fell to pinch-hitting catcher Chris Iannetta to supply the fireworks, capping Colorado's thrilling win with an 11th-inning walk-off homer into the right-field bullpen. The Rockies' critical 7-5 victory lengthened their National Lead Wild Card lead over the Braves to three games. "I guess we're going to continue to keep doing it that way," said manager Jim Tracy, whose last four wins have all been by one- or two-run margins. "My heart could take a little bit less." But it was heart that carried the day, as Iannetta emerged from the shadows of the dugout to carry his team that much closer to a playoff berth. Relegated to a bench role in late August after Yorvit Torrealba heated up and became one of the Rockies' best clutch hitters down the stretch, Iannetta never missed a step, even as he missed game after game. "What does it say about a man for whom things haven't gone quite the way he wanted them to and who has not been catching a whole lot?" Tracy asked. "To be called upon in a situation like that and deliver -- just a tremendous effort by Chris Iannetta. And it speaks volumes for the man with the way things have gone to not give up on himself, not give up on his teammates, and deliver one of the biggest hits of the season." It was a game that took contributions from up and down the roster, as the Rockies used 22 players in 11 innings to get the job done, lowering their magic number to clinch the Wild Card to three, while still staying alive for the NL West title. Rockies starter Jason Marquis was not in top form to start the game Tuesday, but he battled to limit the damage in a pair of dangerous innings and ultimately found his form, lasting six frames while holding the Brewers to two runs on six hits and four walks. "This was huge," Marquis said of his good feeling on the mound after the Rockies lost his previous three starts. "To feel comfortable with my delivery and bring it out to the game was definitely a step in the right direction. "I felt good. The ball was coming out of my hand clean -- it had life, it had sink on it. I've been working hard between starts to get where I need to be. Bringing it into the game is a little different feeling with the adrenaline. Luckily, I was able to make pitches when I needed to and get the game under control before it got out of hand." Marquis escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, then walked in a run with the bases loaded in the third, both times inducing inning-ending ground-ball double plays. Todd Helton knocked in two runs and helped spark a sixth-inning three-run rally that drove Brewers starter Chris Narveson from the game. Narveson was the "player to be named later" in the trade that sent former Rockies player Larry Walker to the Cardinals, and his performance Tuesday night was the first real impact a player in the trade has made on the Rockies. The big inning was made even sweeter by the fact that Atlanta lost to Florida while the Rockies' rally was building, ending a run in which the Braves had won 15 of 17 games to climb within two games of the NL Wild Card lead entering play Tuesday. "You obviously feel pretty good," Tracy said, admitting to some scoreboard watching. "They showed a quick highlight of the last out of the game with the Marlins and the Braves. With what Huston Street has done this year, you feel awfully good with where you're at at 5-2 with three outs left to go." Matt Daley and Rafael Betancourt pitched a perfect seventh and eighth, respectively, with Betancourt striking out the side to get it to the closer. Street's blown save was only his second of the year, and it came on a hanging slider, his best pitch. "It stayed up, but he still had to hit it," Street said. "He didn't have to hit it for a homer. I wish he'd hit a double." Three outs turned into nine as the Kendall homer sent the Rockies into extras, and Tracy brought a parade of pinch-hitters to the plate and seven pitchers to the mound, but with David Weathers on the hill in the 11th for the Brewers, Tracy saw an edge in the catcher on his bench who had a favorable history with the right-hander. "Sometimes memory serves you very well," Tracy said. "I remember at the Trading Deadline in the three-game series in Cincinnati against that same pitcher, he hit a very similar type of home run to the second deck in Great American Ball Park. Tonight, he hit this ball just as hard and just as far, but used the other side of the field to do it." Iannetta has epitomized the good teammate, working hard in the cage after losing his starting role, working with pitchers in the bullpen and adding to a strong clubhouse chemistry. He understands the hot hand Torrealba has wielded, but he was thankful to get his own cuts when it mattered Tuesday. "It doesn't change your desire to want to play and contribute," Iannetta said. "It was great to do so. I knew I hit it really well. I just wanted to make sure. That was me being a little pessimistic. If I had to make a bet, I'd say it was definitely a homer. I just wanted to make sure and actually see it with my own eyes go over the fence." When it did go over the fence, his teammates erupted from the dugout, as happy for him as they were for themselves. "It's good to see I-man hit that home run right there," Helton said. "Every time he goes up to the plate, you pull for him. He's a good guy, he works really hard. That's a season-changer right there for him."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.