Rox win on Barmes' fantastic double play

Rox win on Barmes' fine double play

DENVER -- Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes felt the wind driven from his lungs, having landed on his elbow when he hit the grass in short right field. But once he was sure what he had achieved, the pain went away.

"I came up and the ball was in my hand," Barmes said. "It happened so fast."

Barmes will have to look at the replay to know for sure how he made a game-saving catch of Ryan Ludwick's ninth-inning popup, with Sunday's game with the Cardinals -- and maybe his team's playoff hopes -- at stake.

After completing the catch with an awkward and painful roll, Barmes doubled Albert Pujols off first base to preserve the Rockies' 4-3 victory at Coors Field before 42,032. The Rockies stayed 2 1/2 games ahead of the fast-approaching Braves in the chase for the National League Wild Card.

"That may be the best defensive play that's been made all year," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose team's Wild Card magic number is five (combined wins and Braves losses).

Julio Lugo, who had led off the ninth with a single, was at third, and Pujols, who accepted an intentional walk, was dashing madly when Ludwick softly tapped Rockies closer Huston Street's 1-2 slider into the afternoon air. It looked as if the Rockies would lose the lead in a game they truly needed -- and been close to a defeat that could have had a far-reaching impact.

Earlier Sunday, the Braves earned their 14th victory in 16 games, 6-3, over the Nationals, and have momentum not seen since, well, the 2007 Rockies won 14 of their last 15 in the regular season and 21 of 22 before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. With the Braves' result posted ominously on the scoreboard in right field, the Rockies put a runner at third with less than two outs in the fourth, sixth and seventh, but didn't score in any of those innings.

The Rockies would have continued saying they are not the ones under pressure because they're leading in the standings. But that might have rung less true.

Now, having won two-of-three from a Cardinals club that has already clinched the NL Central and could be a playoff opponent, the Rockies are speaking a happier tune.

"Hopefully, we'll be talking about this at the end of the season, what a save this was," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.

"It was the best play I've ever had made behind me," said Street, who wound up with his 34th save in 35 attempts -- and went two innings for a save for the first time since Aug. 2, 2006, for the Athletics against the Angels.

Pujols didn't second-guess his decision to run.

"You just read the ball, and if the defense makes a great play, so be it," he said.

The stellar ending was in sharp contrast to most of Sunday's action.

The Cardinals could lament loading the bases twice in the third and once in the fourth, yet scoring just three runs off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa (16-9).

Strange would be the best description of De La Rosa's five innings, during which he struck out eight, gave up four hits that included Pujols' three-run double in the third, walked three and hit two.

Still, De La Rosa extended his strikeout total to 189, a club record for a left-hander. De La Rosa is one shy of matching the club record for wins in a season, shared by Jeff Francis (2007), Pedro Astacio (1999) and Kevin Ritz (1995).

After Pujols' double in the third -- the only one of three hits that inning to leave the infield -- De La Rosa fanned David Freese and worked Jason LaRue into a foul pop that required an over-the-head catch from Barmes. After a walk, one of Tulowitkzi's two errors and a single in the fourth, De La Rosa struck out Pujols and Ludwick.

"We talked an awful lot in the early part of the season when adversity like that would strike, he had no understanding of damage control whatsoever," Tracy said. He got himself into a bind twice, where he had to get some big outs and make some good pitches in order to do so."

Tulowitkzi had an RBI triple and Brad Hawpe an RBI single in the first inning against Kyle Lohse (6-9). With the Cardinals leading, 3-2, Pujols booted Eric Young Jr.'s leadoff grounder. Carlos Gonzalez doubled to right field off Lohse and scored on Todd Helton's single.

After Lugo singled to open the ninth, Tulowtizki made a backhanded catch and across-the-body throw to first base that umpire Sam Holbrook ruled beat sliding pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker to first base. Lugo stole third during Ludwick's at-bat.

Once Ludwick made contact, Barmes judged where he thought the ball would land, looked to where he thought it would land and sprinted. It was a longer run than normal for Barmes because he was at double-play depth, closer to the middle of the infield.

"By the time I looked back up, the ball was on top of me," Barmes said. "That was where it kind of got all off-balance, with the roll.

"As I was going down, it hit my glove then went across my body or something and ... I don't even know, but I came up with it in my bare hand."

Because of that, the Rockies have a better chance at grabbing the Wild Card.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.