Diamondbacks end Rockies’ 11-game winning streak to clinch playoff spot

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DENVER (AP)—The Arizona Diamondbacks lined up for their usual postgame handshakes. No wild celebration here.

They had clinched a playoff berth with a 4-2 victory over Colorado and didn’t even know it.

The manual scoreboard at Coors Field hadn’t shown that the Mets’ loss to Florida was final.

“We went out there and were like, ‘We’re not going to storm the field, they’re still in the ninth,”’ ace Brandon Webb said. “It went final and someone yelled from the dugout, ‘We did it!”’

Then, the celebration of Arizona’s first postseason party since 2002 really started with a scrum behind second base as the relievers rushed in from the bullpen in center field. It continued with 10 cases of champagne used to shower the clubhouse.

Left fielder Eric Byrnes didn’t know until teammates told him at second that Arizona was assured of postseason play.

“These guys were yelling and screaming and all excited, they said we were going to the playoffs,” he said. “Here we are, having a champagne shower and enjoying the night.”

Arizona, which stopped Colorado’s team-record winning streak at 11, won’t find out until this weekend whether its going in as a wild card or the NL West champion, a small matter that didn’t dampen exultation, even if it was delayed a bit.

“This is the best feeling I’ve had in baseball so far,” a drenched Webb said. “This is tops on my list.”

Colorado dropped two games behind San Diego, the wild-card leader, and three back of Arizona. Just two games remain.

“It’s been a crazy year so far,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Maybe the craziness isn’t over.”

All the timely hits, defensive gems and solid pitching performances that had defined the Rockies’ unlikely playoff push dissipated on a warm night in the Rockies—and Webb did his part.

Webb (18-10) solved Colorado’s lineup for the first time this season. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner had been 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA in five previous starts against the Rockies this year. Still, manager Bob Melvin juggled his rotation to have Webb start the series opener at Coors Field.

“This was the guy we wanted on the mound today,” Melvin said. “There was a lot of talk about him not being able to beat the Rockies. He beat the Rockies when we needed it the most.”

Colorado lost for the first time since Sept. 15. The Rockies had moved back into the playoff picture with the longest winning streak in the majors this year and the longest in franchise history.

“They’ve been hot all year,” Webb said. “They have great bats. I think they have one of the best lineups in the National League, if not the best. The roll they’ve been on, 10-12 straight, I knew it was going to be tough.”

Webb allowed two earned runs and eight hits in seven innings. He escaped a jam in the seventh when the Rockies brought the go-ahead runner to the plate in Kaz Matsui, who grounded out to short to end the inning.

In the eighth, Matt Holliday hit a one-out double off Brandon Lyon, who came back to retire Todd Helton on a weak dribbler to the mound and got Garrett Atkins to chase a high strike three.

Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 47th save in 54 chances. Colorado put two on with one out in the ninth, bringing the sellout crowd of 48,190 to its feet before Valverde struck out pinch-hitter Joe Koshansky and Matsui.

“We didn’t get that big barrel on the bat like we had been,” lamented Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, who expected some more magic right until the final strike: “I thought we’d still get something done.”

Rockies ace Jeff Francis (17-9) failed in his bid to set a franchise record for wins by a starter and lost for just the second time in 14 starts against the Diamondbacks. He was hurt by his own base-running blunder in the third inning.

Colorado had swept three straight series and a sweep of this one against Arizona would have ensured them of at least a tiebreaker game on Monday.

Francis, who lost at home for just the second time in his last 14 starts at Coors Field, gave up four earned runs and seven hits in six innings. The big blow came in the third, when Conor Jackson sent a hanging curve into the left-field seats for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

After allowing Jackson’s 15th homer, Francis singled in the bottom of the third and lugged to third base on Matsui’s double into the left-field corner. But the lanky left-hander hurt his own cause when he was caught off third base on Troy Tulowitzki’s ground ball to shortstop.

His base-running blunder haunted the Rockies immediately because Holliday followed with a sharp single up the middle to score Matsui and make it 3-1 before Helton grounded out to end the inning.

“We had a chance to do something special here,” Francis said. “We still do. We just have to catch a couple breaks.”

Notes

Francis was trying to top Kevin Ritz (1996) and Pedro Astacio (1999) for most wins in franchise history. … Holliday became just the eighth player in the last half century to record 200 hits and at least 90 extra base hits.

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