But the highlight that counts eluded the Rockies. Unable to manage a simple quality at-bat after loading the bases with no outs in the eighth inning, the Rockies fell to the National League Central-leading Reds, 3-2, at Great American Ball Park.
Reds All-Star Arthur Rhodes forced a weak fly ball from Fowler and struck out Jonathan Herrera looking and Carlos Gonzalez swinging on elevated pitches. The Rockies, still second in the NL West and leading the Wild Card standings, began the post All-Star break schedule with disappointment. The loss also ended a six-decision win streak for Rockies starter Jason Hammel (7-4), who struck out a career-high 10 in seven innings.
"We were in a wonderful position, but unfortunately, we didn't take very good at-bats," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "I actually thought we were in a great position to go ahead and steal a game, but it didn't work out."
Fowler's catch at the end of the fifth inning, which robbed Jay Bruce of a three-run homer and kept the Rockies' deficit at 3-0, ignited an offense that needed a spark. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (10-4) held the Rockies to one hit and faced the minimum number of batters through 6 2/3 innings, before Gonzalez's groundball single and Jason Giambi's RBI double plated Colorado's first run.
Miguel Olivo led off the eighth with his 12th home run of the season, which was reviewed but upheld by instant replay.
"I thought the momentum would shift our way," Fowler said. "It did a little bit."
OK, it didn't result in a Rockies victory. But it did result in a teachable moment as far as Reds manager Dusty Baker was concerned.
"That's an athletic play," Baker said. "That's a basketball play. That's what he's built like. I tell kids that I like them to play all sports for that reason. That's like timing a rebound or as a wide receiver going up for a football."
A walk and a hit after Olivo's homer, Arroyo was gone. Rhodes walked Ryan Spilborghs to fill the bases. But Rhodes gave the fans at GABP more reason to sing than the postgame tribute to the 1990 World Series Reds and MC Hammer's postgame concert.
"You get fired up when you have bases loaded when you have two outs," Rhodes said. "So I was a little hyped up and had the fans out there behind me and behind [Francisco Cordero, who earned his 25th save], too, so it was a big win."
Tracy made a defensible point about the at-bats. Rhodes' 92-mph fastball to Fowler was on the inside black edge of the plate, but hittable. Herrera reacted as if he thought strike three was high and inside, but it was within a strike zone that plate umpire Tom Hallion called consistently.
But Fowler tipped his hat to Rhodes, who has a 1.50 ERA in 42 appearances.
"He hides it pretty good," Fowler said. "With that hesitation, it gets on you before you get ready. I should have hit it, but it got in on me."
Reds leadoff man Brandon Phillips and second hitter Orlando Cabrera combined for five hits and two runs against Hammel, who otherwise was barely touched. One of the two runs in the third scored after third baseman Ian Stewart, shifted toward the middle with Joey Votto batting, dashed to the left-field line but couldn't make an over-the-head catch on a popup. It went for a double. Jonny Gomes then drove home Votto with a single.
Hammel's own effectiveness, and the eye-popping Fowler play, made him as happy as he could be with a non-winning performance on a sweltering evening.
"I don't like pitching in humidity," Hammel said. "I hate it. I sweat like a pig. I think I did a pretty good job and our guys did, too. But that goes for both sides."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less