First-place Padres cool off streaking Rockies, 6-4
Tejada tied a season high with four RBIs and San Diego snapped the Rockies’ 10-game winning streak with a 6-4 victory Monday night that gave the Padres a half-game lead over San Francisco.
“It’s a huge game for us because of the way Colorado’s played,” Tejada said. “To come in here and win is special.”
The Padres led the division by six games two weeks ago, but it’s been a struggle since. Losers of three of their previous four, they entered the night percentage points ahead of the Giants and were in danger of falling out of at least a share of the NL West lead for the first time since June 16.
Tejada made sure that didn’t happen, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning and driving in two more with a two-out single in the fifth.
It was Ryan Ludwick’s(notes) RBI single later in the fifth that gave the Padres a 5-0 lead and ended up being the difference as Colorado rallied back. Pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar(notes) added a little more breathing room with a solo homer in the ninth.
The Rockies fell 2 1/2 games back in the division and 3 1/2 behind Atlanta in the NL wild-card race. They hadn’t lost since Sept. 2 against Philadelphia, a defeat that left many thinking the Rockies were all but finished.
“We’ve made a mad dash back,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We have to bounce back.”
Rookie starter Cory Luebke(notes) was masterful through 4 2-3 innings, but the Rockies finally figured him out in the fifth. The lefty allowed a two-out, run-scoring single to NL Triple Crown contender Carlos Gonzalez(notes) and then a three-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki(notes), the reigning NL player of the week.
After singles by Melvin Mora(notes) and Todd Helton(notes) extended the inning, Luebke was lifted for reliever Ernesto Frieri(notes) (1-1), who got Ryan Spilborghs(notes) to ground out for his first major league win.
The Padres used five relievers to bridge the gap to closer Heath Bell(notes), including Mike Adams(notes) in the eighth. He got pinch-hitter Jason Giambi(notes)—who hit a game-winning homer the day before—to line hard to Adrian Gonzalez(notes) at first base for an inning-ending double play.
Bell had a shaky ninth, putting a runner on before getting Carlos Gonzalez, the NL’s leading hitter, to ground out to end the game.
Bell’s strategy? Go straight after Gonzalez.
“You’ve got to face one of the hottest hitters—let’s see what happens,” said Bell, who converted his 28th straight save opportunity. “Tonight, I broke his bat and I won. Hopefully, I won’t have to face him tomorrow because he’s going to want revenge.”
Jeff Francis(notes) (4-5) made his first start for Colorado in more than a month while filling in for Aaron Cook(notes), who broke his lower right leg last week when he was struck by a line drive on the mound.
Battling shoulder soreness, Francis was kept on a strict pitch count against the Padres. Tracy pulled him for a pinch hitter after he went three innings and reached 62 pitches.
The lefty gave up five hits and two runs, most of the damage coming in a 34-pitch first. He left an 89 mph fastball up to Tejada, who hit it into the left-field stands for a two-run homer.
“A bad pitch to a team like that and it’s usually going to cost you,” Francis said.
Colorado’s 10-game winning streak was the third-longest in team history. The Rockies rattled off 11 in a row in June 2009, shortly after Tracy took over. They also won 11 straight in September 2007, propelling them on their run to the World Series, where they were swept by Boston.
Notes: Rockies pinch-hitter Jay Payton(notes) doubled in the third inning for his first major league hit since Sept. 21, 2008. … Colorado 3B Ian Stewart(notes) (strained oblique muscle) went through simulated fielding drills, along with playing catch from 90 feet and taking some dry swings. … Before the game, the Padres had to juggle their lineup when OF Scott Hairston(notes) was scratched with a sore left shoulder. … It was Tejada’s 298th career homer.