CarGo helps Rox make noise in Wild Card
Outfielder homers twice as deficit stands at 4 1/2 games
DENVER -- What a difference a homestand makes.
A week ago, the Rockies returned home from yet another losing road trip trailing in the National League Wild card race by seven games. After a 10-5 win against the Dodgers at Coors Field on Sunday, Colorado sits just 4 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the race.
By now, it should be expected that as summer cools into fall, the Rockies heat into one of the best teams in baseball.
"We're trying to build momentum," Rockies starter Jason Hammel said. "There's still a lot of baseball left and we're not out of it. We're definitely not out of it."
The Rockies finished the stand 5-1, including the club's first series win against the Dodgers since Aug. 19-21, 2008. They improved their home record, second best in the NL, to 43-21.
But as successful as Colorado has been at home, the follow-up question remains the same: Can they do enough on the road to make it count?
"We needed to win the ballgame," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "And we need to win tomorrow and the next day, so we're going to take one day at a time and do what we have to do win a game that day and move on."
No player in baseball has been better on his home turf since July 3 than Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has a .461 batting average, 35 RBIs, 29 runs and 28 extra-base hits at Coors Field in that span.
"What is it that we've seen that he can't do very well?" Tracy said of Gonzalez, whose 3-for-4 performance boosted his batting average to an NL-best .326. "I don't see anything he can't do. He's as graceful a baseball player in any facet of the game that I've ever seen."
The Rockies battered Dodgers starter Ted Lilly for his first loss with the club, just 10 days after the southpaw baffled the Rockies in a shutout in Los Angeles. Lilly was pulled after a brutal five-run fourth that included triples from infielder Jonathan Herrera and center fielder Dexter Fowler, as well as Gonzalez's second homer of the day -- a no-doubter into the right-field seats to make it 7-0.
By day's end, Gonzalez had his second-multi homer day of the year and Fowler had two triples to take over the franchise single-season record with 12.
"It's awesome," said Fowler, who also leads the big leagues in triples despite spending time in Triple-A Colorado Springs. "Especially to do it at home. All the fans have been good to me. Its good to come out and do it here."
Hammel threw three no-hit innings then allowed seven hits and two runs in the following 2 1/3. Southpaw Matt Reynolds came in and issued a walk to Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus in the sixth before pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate.
With one at-bat this series (a strikeout), Ramirez took a called first strike, argued it with umpire Gary Cederstrom and was ejected. Reed Johnson, hitting for Ramirez, grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"I came into the clubhouse [between innings]. I was angry," Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "I asked Manny what he said. He said, 'The pitch was outside, it's a ball.' Manny doesn't curse. Then I asked Cederstrom between innings. He said the same thing as Manny. I'm very disappointed in the fact he threw him out. He [Cederstrom] said he [Ramirez] was 'demonstrative' about it. What the [heck] does that mean?
"The crew chief can't do that in a pennant race, or any time. This game is high pressure. I came back in and apologized to Manny for getting mad at him. I'm totally disappointed in the way Cederstrom reacted. In that situation, that's crazy."
Rockies reliever Matt Belisle surrendered three runs in the eighth but closer Huston Street needed just nine pitches to record a perfect ninth.
"There's a part of me that would have liked to see us do it a little bit cleaner and not have to use quite as much pitching as we used today, considering the fact that we started off with a 7-0 lead," Tracy said.
As the Rockies players scurried about the clubhouse preparing for the upcoming trip to San Francisco, there remains a sense of urgency for the club's remaining games. Sitting at 25-40 away from Coors Field, the Rockies must put together a better showing in their next seven games -- three in San Francisco, one at home against Philadelphia and three in San Diego -- to remain in the thick of things.
"We have to forget about the past," Gonzalez said. "We have to forget about how badly we've played on the road. This is the opportunity for us to change everything and play well on the road. We have to get back on track. We know we're running out of time and this is the time for us."
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.