NEW YORK -- With many of their everyday players learning on the job as major leaguers and a four-man rotation that necessitates a "piggyback" reliever for each starter, a lot has to go right for the Colorado Rockies to win a game. But each Rockies win provides a hint at the long-term promise of a team enduring a rough season.
Jonathan Herrera raced home on a passed ball in the eighth inning to break a tie, and reliever Matt Belisle escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the frame as the Rockies edged the New York Mets 3-1 in front of a crowd of 23,833 Monday night at Citi Field.
Rafael Betancourt worked around a leadoff single by Andres Torres and a two-out walk to Ruben Tejada in the ninth to earn his 24th save. He retired the potential winning run, Mike Baxter, on a fly out to center to end the game.
The Rockies (47-73) won for the sixth time in their last eight games and improved to 27-8 in games in which they allow three runs or less.
"We got what we could get offensively and we kept them to one," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "When you do something like that, you're going to win most of those type of games."
The Rockies embarked upon a rebuilding job after falling below .500 for good on May 4 and losing franchise icons Todd Helton (hip surgery) and Troy Tulowitzki (groin injury) for much of the year. The Rockies started five rookies Monday night and none of their starters was older than 27.
"Just won five out of seven on the homestand and a real good game tonight," Tracy said. "I think it's safe to say we're doing it with a lot of young kids. There's kids all over the place, but the experience that they're gaining versus taking those at-bats and playing those situations in the minor leagues - in the long run, we are going to benefit from this."
Tracy also has begun employing a four-man rotation in June - and limiting each pitcher to about 75 pitches per start - in hopes of minimizing the damage absorbed by the Rockies starters, who entered Monday with a 6.22 ERA.
Starter Alex White and reliever Guillermo Moscoso matched Mets ace R.A. Dickey in an unlikely pitcher's duel Monday by allowing just four hits in 6 1/3 innings. They didn't allow a runner past first base after the Mets scored their lone run in the first inning.
"We know what we've got going into the game - we've got 75 to 80 pitches and our job is to keep the team in it and hand it off to the guy behind us," said White, who threw four innings and 83 pitches.
One of the Rockies' few veterans, first baseman Tyler Colvin, went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and helped end the Mets' rally in the eighth by making a diving stop of a grounder by Jordany Valdespin. He flipped the ball to Belisle, who beat a sliding Valdespin to the bag by a hair.
"We've got a bunch of young guys here and it just shows you how much talent we have here," said Colvin, who was wearing a Helton T-shirt. "And once everybody gets comfortable and acclimated with the league, then I think we're going to have a really, really good team here."
Herrera led off the eighth with an infield single off a push bunt and went to second when the scoop throw from losing pitcher Josh Edgin (1-1) sailed past first baseman Ike Davis. Herrera advanced to third on a sacrifice by Chris Nelson before scoring on the passed ball charged to Kelly Shoppach, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh.
The Rockies added an insurance run in the ninth when Dexter Fowler drew a leadoff walk, went to third on Colvin's two-out single and scored on a single by pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez. Fowler reached base three times in four plate appearances and had a stolen base.
The Mets (57-65) dropped the opener of a series for the 25th time in 40 tries this year. Baxter had two hits for the Mets while Daniel Murphy had an RBI single in the first inning and reached base three times in four plate appearances.
Dickey, who is trying to become the Mets' first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990, endured a hard-luck no-decision after allowing just one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in seven innings. Dickey (15-4) has at least seven starts left.
"When you get a well-pitched game like he did, yeah, it's frustrating," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And the guys are frustrated by it. They're trying. They came out today knowing that you know when R.A.'s on the mound, you're going to be in the game. You're going to have a chance to win. And we're just not producing runs."
The Mets took an early 1-0 lead when David Wright doubled with two outs in the first and scored on Murphy's RBI single. The Mets entered Monday 26-3 when leading after one inning.
The Rockies tied it in the top of the fifth when Colvin launched a solo homer into the second deck. It was Colvin's eighth extra-base hit in 13 starts this month.
Dickey, who has thrown two one-hitters this season, set down the first eight batters he faced before White singled just over a leaping Murphy in the third.
White needed 52 pitches to get through the first two innings and was lifted after four frames. The Rockies have been going with the four-man rotation and 75-pitch limit for starters since June 19, though they will employ a five-man rotation this week with the return of Jhoulys Chacin, who has been out since May 1 with a strained right shoulder.
White failed to last at least five innings for the sixth time in his seven starts since the pitch count was put into place. Overall, Rockies starters have lasted less than five innings 32 times in 55 games since June 19.
NOTES: Collins said after the game that struggling left-handed pitcher Johan Santana would undergo an MRI on his back on Tuesday. Earlier in the afternoon, the Mets announced Santana would start Thursday's series finale against the Rockies but left open the possibility he would be shut down once rosters expand Sept. 1. "We think Johan is good for another start or two, minimum, and we'll take another look at the situation around the first of September," general manager Sandy Alderson said. Santana, who missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, opened the year 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA in his first 11 starts, a stretch that ended with Santana throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history June 1. But Santana is 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA in 11 starts since the no-hitter and has allowed at least six runs in his last five starts, a Mets record. Collins said Santana will be limited to less than 100 pitches on Thursday. Santana spoke after his bullpen session Monday and said he feels fine physically. "This is the first time that I've struggled like this, but it's part of the game," Santana said. "I've been through a lot this year-a lot-but I'm still here. To me that means a lot and I'm going to continue until they want me to [stop]." ... Fifteen of the 18 questions Collins fielded during his pre-game press conference were about Santana. When someone prefaced a question with "Back to Johan for just a moment..." Collins grinned and said "Yeah. Why not?" ... The Mets signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop German Rosario to a $1.75 million contract, the largest international bonus in team history. ... The Rockies had what amounted to a 23-player team Monday as Eric Young Jr. (strained rib) was out and Josh Rutledge (left quad) was available off the bench only in an emergency. Manager Jim Tracy said Young would likely be placed on the disabled list if he didn't show improvement by Tuesday. ... Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was placed on the bereavement list Saturday following the death of his grandfather in Venezuela, is expected to return Tuesday night but won't play until Wednesday.