Fresh off the largest ninth-inning comeback in baseball's modern era, the resurgent Rockies try to deal the Cardinals another defeat when these two 2009 postseason participants resume a key three-game series tonight at Coors Field.
St. Louis had lost eight of its past nine meetings with Colorado heading into last night's opener of this set, but seemed to have turned the tables after carrying a six-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. However, the Rockies erupted for nine runs and came through with a stunning 12-9 triumph on Seth Smith's tie-breaking three-run homer with two out.
The game marked the first time in history in which a team scored nine runs in the ninth inning to win a game and was the largest ninth-inning deficit the Rockies have ever overcome.
Colorado scored its first run of the ninth on a passed ball and pulled within 9-7 when Chris Iannetta greeted Cards closer Ryan Franklin (3-1) with a three- run homer with one out. Dexter Fowler followed with a double and scored on Carlos Gonzalez' single to cut the lead to a single run, and Gonzalez crossed the plate on outfielder Randy Winn's fielding error on a base hit off the bat of Jason Giambi to tie the score.
After Miguel Olivo singled to put two men on, Smith took a Franklin pitch over the wall in right to complete the improbable victory.
"We didn't need a home run right there, but that was awesome," Iannetta said of Smith's shot. "When we saw it went over the fence it was complete elation, we were excited."
The win was the fourth in the last five games for Colorado and moved the club within four games of first-place San Diego in the National League West standings. Gonzalez finished 4-for-6 with a homer and three RBI to pace the Rockies' 19-hit barrage, with both Olivo and Smith collecting three hits and Iannetta driving in four runs on the night.
St. Louis, on the other hand, has lost four of six and remains two games off Cincinnati's lead atop the NL Central. The Cardinals have also dropped five of their last six contests to the Rockies held in Coors Field.
"There's no way you cannot get three out with a six-run lead," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said afterward. "It was just one of those games. There's no way to explain it, no excuses you make. It's a really difficult loss."
Former Rockies star Matt Holliday had a three-run homer for St. Louis, while Felipe Lopez also went deep and produced three RBI in a losing cause. Starting pitcher Blake Hawksworth worked the first five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits.
The Cardinals will attempt to bounce back tonight in a matchup with Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook, who's generally been a tough customer when pitching on his home mound. The sinker specialist is 3-0 with a 2.64 earned run average in nine Coors Field starts this season and has won four straight decisions there dating back to last September.
Cook's latest home win took place this past Thursday, when the veteran held rival San Francisco to three runs over 6 1/3 frames. He's worked into the seventh inning in each of his last three starts and posted a 2.95 ERA over that span.
The 31-year-old hasn't garnered much success when facing St. Louis in the past, however. In nine lifetime appearances (eight starts) against the Cardinals, Cook is just 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA.
Colorado will get its first-ever look at the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia in tonight's clash. The young left-hander has emerged as a leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year honors by producing an 8-4 record in 16 starts this season, while his impressive 2.10 ERA trails only Florida All-Star Josh Johnson for tops in the Senior Circuit.
Garcia had his worst outing of the season back on June 27, lasting only two innings and surrendering five runs in a loss at Kansas City. He rebounded strongly in his most recent effort, though, firing seven shutout innings and yielding just three hits to beat Milwaukee this past Friday.
For the season, Garcia has compiled a 5-3 record and a 2.92 ERA in nine road starts.