05/20/08 2:38 AM ET
Small plays lead to big Rockies win
Timely hitting, crisp defense, clutch pitching sink Giants
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla's double-play pivot under the hard slide of Emmanuel Burriss in the eighth inning, arguably the most important play in the club's 4-3 victory over the Giants at Coors Field before 28,362, gave the Rockies something greater than hitting and pitching.
It gave them a chance to talk about how execution wins ballgames.
Certainly, they were happy about Clint Barmes' fourth-inning leadoff home run and the fact he's hit .500 (22-for-44) since May 6, not to mention his 12-game hit streak. They were pleased about Torrealba's first RBIs in 14 games, which came off Vinnie Chulk (0-3) with two out in the sixth. It was the timely hitting that's only beginning to show up a month and a half into the season.
The pitching was noteworthy, as well. Jorge De La Rosa went 5 1/3 innings to give the Rockies their fourth straight serviceable start, and relievers Jason Grilli (1-0), Matt Herges, Taylor Buchholz and Brian Fuentes (sixth save) each overcame a hit in bringing home the victory.
But the Rockies talked up their defensive execution last year, when they set the all-time record for fielding percentage and wound up in the World Series. It's still a favorite subject in these parts.
"As big a play as anything tonight was Quintanilla turning the double play. You lose sight of that, you missed the game," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
With two on and none out against Buchholz, the Giants' Aaron Rowan grounded to third. Garrett Atkins' speedy throw to second put Quintanilla directly in the path of the rapidly approaching Burriss. The clean slide took out Quintanilla's right foot as he was leaping. Nonetheless, Quintanilla pushed a throw to first that barely made it in time for the double play.
Quintanilla entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and popped out, extending his hitless streak to 15 at-bats. But his job is to help win games, whether he gets hits or takes them away in the field. After the collision, Quintanilla landed hard and got up gingerly, suffering some mild whiplash.
"I knew I had to turn it somehow," Quintanilla said. "I knew what was coming. I just tried to get that throw off."
The defense, Hurdle has said, began turning the corner before other aspects of the Rockies' game. While on the subject, the Rockies had another key play.
Grilli replaced De La Rosa -- who gave up three runs (including Randy Winn's first-inning solo shot, extending his hitting streak to 14 games) and four hits in 5 1/3 innings -- with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth.
Grilli gave up a Rich Aurilia single, which gave the Giants a 3-1 lead. But he struck out Jose Castillo as Aurilia was trying to steal second. Torrealba threw to starting second baseman Jeff Baker, who chased Castillo back toward first, then threw home to retire Rowand trying to dash in from third.
The relief pitching also was clutch. Herges overcame Fred Lewis' second triple of the night with two out in the seventh by striking out Ray Durham to end the frame. Buchholz induced a fly ball from Aurilia after the double play in the fateful eighth. And Fuentes gave up a leadoff single in the ninth but picked off pinch-runner Eugenio Velez to end the threat.
But the Rockies needed timely hitting, too. Matt Holliday doubled and scored on Atkins' single, both off Giants starter Pat Misch. With two on and two out, Torrealba doubled into the left-field corner for the go-ahead runs.
"We haven't been doing that all year long, but hopefully this week will get us going," Torrealba said.
However, if Hurdle can turn to players like Quintanilla to provide a skill that should be constant, he feels he has a weapon when the hitting isn't present.
"He turns the double play as well as anybody that I've come across in a long, long time," said Hurdle. "He has a special skill at turning the double play from second base."
That's meaningful to Quintanilla, who knows what's important to this club.
"It's a good thing to hear," Quintanilla said. "It makes you go out there and work harder. Plays like that win championships."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.