video thumbnail

COL@LAD: Kouzmanoff clears bases with bloop double

LOS ANGELES -- Before Sunday's game, Rockies manager Jim Tracy noted that his team had spent too much time "hanging on by our fingernails" in late-inning losses during the first two games of a weekend series in Los Angeles.

Sunday was more of the same, only this time the collective grip was firm enough for the Rockies to hold on for a 7-6 victory over the Dodgers in their final meeting of the season.

"It's obviously a good game to win," Tracy said before acknowledging that he could've used a few more innings from his walk-happy starting pitcher to rest a beleaguered bullpen. "But it wasn't the cleanest way of doing it."

Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin looked OK through five innings and took the mound in the sixth with a five-run cushion. But he walked the first three batters he faced, forcing Tracy to go to his bullpen earlier than planned, a day after he had used six pitchers in an 11-inning slugfest.

As the Rockies packed their bags for a three-game series in Arizona, Tracy said they must sweep the division-leading D-backs "to have a pulse." Chacin's walks may not have affected Sunday's outcome, but they forced Tracy to go to his three Matts -- Reynolds, Belisle and Lindstrom -- to get him through the sixth and seventh innings.

"Not only does it put the game in jeopardy, but it runs him out of the game a [heck] of a lot sooner than I wanted to take him out -- because his pitch count gets run through the roof," Tracy said of the walks. "We have got to get him over that hurdle. And if, in fact, we're able to, then we've got somebody special."

By the time Chacin took the mound in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday, he already had a five-run lead, as the Rockies scored four runs on a pair of hits that bounced off a diving outfielder's glove.

The bad breaks that plagued the Rockies in the first two games of the series may have been self-inflicted wounds, but they were bad breaks -- two seventh-inning balks on Friday and two sixth-inning bobbles on Saturday -- nonetheless. By the first inning on Sunday, the ball was already bouncing a little differently.

The Rockies got on the board first when Troy Tulowitzki hit a laser to left field that a diving Tony Gwynn Jr. couldn't get to, as the ball hit the side of his glove and caromed forward. Three batters later, with the bases loaded, Kevin Kouzmanoff plated three with a well-placed popup that right fielder Trent Oeltjen couldn't handle.

"The sun's tough here," said Kouzmanoff, whose double prompted slow reactions from both Oeltjen and second baseman Jamey Carroll. "I figured just to run the ball out hard because you never know. It's hard, too, to see the ball off the bat because of the yellow seats in the background, so you really have to zero in."

Kouzmanoff's double marked the first time this series that a Rockie other than Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez knocked in a run.

Kouzmanoff, whom the Rockies acquired in a deal with the A's on Tuesday, drove in four runs, saying he's starting to feel comfortable with Colorado.

"I love Colorado," Kouzmanoff said. "So it's a great opportunity for me to be here, to produce and do my part to help the team win."

Rex Brothers pitched a perfect eighth and Rafael Betancourt did the same in the ninth to seal the win. For Betancourt, he did so by striking out James Loney on a high fastball for the second out, one day after Loney had taken him deep for a game-tying, ninth-inning homer.

But Tracy may not have had to use two of his top guys if Chacin hadn't run into trouble in the sixth.

"Two walks through five innings -- and to walk three straight guys, that's something you can't do," Chacin said. "You have to throw strikes."

In the fourth inning, the Dodgers mounted a threat against Chacin, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Justin Sellers hit a liner that would have scored two runs and kept the inning alive for MVP-candidate Matt Kemp, but Gonzalez made a sprawling catch just before the warning track down the right-field line to save Chacin.

"CarGo's play, we're down 5-2, that's two runs -- and they came back and jumped on us for two more [in the fifth]," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "That's a four-run swing, right there."

Mattingly will be happy his team doesn't have to face Gonzalez again, after the right fielder added three more hits on Sunday to finish the series 8-for-13 with four runs scored and three RBIs.

"When you're hot, everything coming out of your bat is hits or hard-hit balls," Gonzalez said.

As for where Gonzalez's catch ranks on the list of great catches Tracy has seen his Gold Glove right fielder make, his answer was simple.

"Just put it on the list," he said.

MLB.com Comments