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06/12/08 2:02 AM ET
Duel breaks in Rockies' favor in ninth
Atkins' run snaps longest scoreless contest at Coors Field
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- You know it was a weird and special night Wednesday when slow-footed Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins ended it by talking, and smiling, about his running. Atkins scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on Yorvit Torrealba's short fly ball to left as the Rockies won for the sixth time in seven games, 1-0, at Coors Field, where no game had ever gone as long before a run scored. It was a game in which Rockies surging right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez matched Giants ace Tim Lincecum for seven scoreless innings. The Rockies loaded the bases with Atkins' walk, Brad Hawpe's single and Chris Iannetta's walk against Keiichi Yabu (2-3). Atkins passed up a chance to score on Jeff Baker's fly into medium-deep center against Jack Taschner, but lumbered home on Torrealba's fly to medium left. "I was like, 'Let's give it a shot, see what happens,'" Atkins said. "We had the bases loaded and we had to win it right there, and we did it." The play was ruled an error because Bengie Molina could not hang on to left fielder Fred Lewis' throw. The fact plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth immediately called Atkins out and had to reverse when he saw the ball on the ground played a factor in the much-reviewed error call, which cost Torrealba an RBI. "That's unfortunate, but we'll take a win," Atkins said. There are those who believe in magic and point to last year's trip to the World Series as evidence. As the Rockies prepare for a possible sweep Thursday, believers will pay special attention to the fact the Rockies, although they're 26-39 and last in the National League West, are 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks but surging. But folks in the Rockies' clubhouse simply believe in good baseball, something the team wasn't playing when it fell into its early-season hole. "We need to continue to work hard, and we have," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need to make improvements in some areas. We're starting to do that. The lineup's slowly starting to come together. "That's where our focus needs to be. We can't control what the Diamondbacks do, other than when we play them, and we didn't do that very well early." It was a game the Rockies likely wouldn't have won as recently as a week and a half ago. But Brian Fuentes (1-2), who gave up one hit and struck out one in the top of the ninth, said the Rockies never expected to lose close games. "I don't think that ever existed in the clubhouse," Fuentes said. "Maybe from the fans' perspective, I don't know, or from [the media] perspective. But you expect to win every night, no matter how bad your team is or how good your team is. "All the teams I've played for expect to win, whether it's Cy Young throwing for the other team and your No. 5 guy throwing." In this case it was a Cy Young Award candidate -- Lincecum, who has eight wins and lowered his ERA to 1.99 Wednesday -- against Jimenez, who hasn't won since April 8, despite several deserving outings. One of those was May 21 against the Giants, when he threw seven scoreless innings and had a 2-0 lead, but Fuentes blew a save and the Rockies lost, 3-2, in 10. This time, Jimenez, who has the fifth-lowest run support among NL starters and could move up that dubious list after Wednesday, held the Giants to four hits, let just two runners reach as far as second base, struck out three and walked one. Lincecum struck out nine and gave up six hits. He escaped loaded bases in the fourth by forcing an Omar Quintanilla grounder. Lincecum also fanned Ryan Spilborghs and Willy Taveras to strand a runner at second in the seventh. Last year as a callup, Jimenez helped the Rockies into the World Series. He started off this year, his first on an Opening Day roster, taking lumps. But he is quietly living up to his top-prospect billing, having lowered his ERA from 6.46 through April 25 to 4.93. "I know he [Lincecum] is one of the best pitchers," said Jimenez, who controlled Giants bats with his low-to-mid 90s fastball and changeup, with a handful of well-placed sliders in the mix. "But I want to be in that place one day, hopefully soon."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.