DENVER (AP)—“Are the fireworks about to start?” Dexter Fowler wondered as he sauntered out of the shower.
The pyrotechnics show going on at Coors Field was secondary to the thunderous prelude provided by Fowler, who went 7 for 9 and reached base nine times Monday in his return to the top of the batting order, sparking the Colorado Rockies’ doubleheader sweep of the Houston Astros.
The Rockies won the opener 9-7 and the nightcap 7-6 when Fowler capped his big day with a game-ending triple off Brett Myers with one out in the 10th inning.
“He blistered that ball,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Fowler’s line drive past a diving first baseman Carlos Lee.
When right fielder Brian Bogusevic turned his back and gave chase rather than try to cut it off, the ball scooted into the corner. Fowler wasn’t even to second base when he thrust his right arm into the air in celebration, certain that Michael Cuddyer would score from first.
“If he wasn’t,” Fowler said, “I was right behind him.”
After Cuddyer slid across home plate ahead of the throw, Fowler ripped off his helmet and threw it across the field in excitement as his teammates streamed out of the dugout to mob him.
“Tears of joy,” Fowler said. “I had one walk-off hit before but it’s nothing like this for what I’ve already battled through this year and what the team has gone through.”
The Rockies had entered the day 6-18 in May and Fowler had struggled so mightily he was dropped to eighth in the order.
Fowler batted leadoff for the first time all season and he reached base nine times in 11 trips to the plate with a sacrifice bunt accounting for one of the times he didn’t.
“This is the player that we think he’s capable of being on a regular basis,” said Tracy, who has stood by his speedy center fielder throughout a season of struggles.
“I was ecstatic when I saw my name up there,” Fowler said. “You go through ruts and I’ve been through a couple in the box.”
Coming into the Memorial Day twin-bill, Fowler had just two hits over his previous eight games, with both hits being pinch-hit home runs. He’d also been nursing a sprained right ankle that he hurt in Miami when he slipped in the dugout last week jumping up to high-five Gonzalez.
Josh Roenicke (1-0) pitched a scoreless 10th for the win. Myers fell to 0-2.
In the opener, struggling right-hander Jeremy Guthrie finally found a way to contribute to a Rockies victory. Pinch-running for Jason Giambi in the eighth, he scored the go-ahead run in Colorado’s 9-7 victory.
Fowler collected three hits and scored twice in the opener, then did more damage in the nightcap, leading off the game with a homer off Jordan Lyles, singling and scoring in the third and drawing a two-out, full-count, bases-loaded walk in the fourth that was followed by Marco Scutaro’s bases-clearing double.
After Bogusevic’s two-run homer off Alex White gave the Astros a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, Fowler bunted his way aboard in the bottom half of the inning and went all the way to third on third baseman Matt Downs’ throwing error. He scored on Gonzalez’s groundout.
Houston scored twice more in the fourth, when Chris Snyder hit a solo homer, his third, but the Rockies responded with four runs in the bottom half. Snyder’s run-scoring single in the fifth made it 6-5, and Justin Maxwell’s pinch-hit homer in the sixth tied it and chased White, who allowed six runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings. Lyles gave up six runs, four earned, on six hits in five innings.
In the opener, it was Guthrie’s right foot and not his right arm that made the difference.
With the score tied at 7, Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie fielded Fowler’s two-out roller and flipped to second baseman Jose Altuve, who wasn’t expecting the throw and didn’t cover the bag. The ball hit Guthrie’s right foot and bounced into no-man’s land in center field.
“Not running the bases a whole bunch, I wasn’t sure what that meant when it went off my foot,” Guthrie said. “Little League rules, you’re out.”
Quickly realizing the situation, Guthrie raced to third and Fowler scooted into second.
Lowrie had told Altuve he’d throw to first on anything hit to the left side, “but I thought I thought I heard him calling for it,” Lowrie said. “I didn’t think I had a chance at first with Fowler running, anyway. I thought we had a better chance with Guthrie at second.”
“I haven’t helped any other way, so I guess it’s nice to do something positive,” said Guthrie, who was acquired from Baltimore over the winter to anchor the Rockies’ rotation but has gone just 2-3 and spent time on the disabled list after crashing his bicycle.
Colorado’s bullpen allowed just one run over eight innings.
“We won those two games despite the starting pitching,” White said.
And thanks to their no-longer-struggling center fielder.
NOTES: The Astros hadn’t played a doubleheader since April 13, 2006, at San Francisco. … Colorado split a pair in Pittsburgh in April. … The series continues Wednesday with LHP Christian Friedrich (2-1) facing Astros RHP Lucas Harrell (4-3). … The Rockies optioned RHP Carlos Torres to Triple-A Colorado Springs after calling him up for the doubleheader.