Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw six strong innings, striking out 10 batters, and the Rockies held on for a 4-3 win over the Dodgers on Friday in front of a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium.
"What we did tonight has been our M.O. for a long time," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "We got some scoring opportunities where we cracked them and we got great defense and great pitching."
With the win, Colorado is just one game back of Los Angeles and can claim its first division title by winning the last two games of the season against the Dodgers. If the Rockies pull off the sweep, it'll mark the biggest comeback in baseball history as they were 15 1/2 games back of the Dodgers on June 3.
"We still have a chance to win the division, that's how I look at it," Tracy said. "But I want to do it sensibly, and I think we did that tonight with our pitching staff."
Tracy was sensible with Jimenez as he lifted the right-hander after six innings because he struggled a bit with his command and needed 115 pitches with four walks on the night and a wild pitch that allowed his only run to score in the third inning.
"It wasn't the greatest performance I've seen him have, and the only reason I say that is from a command standpoint he was a little erratic," Tracy said. "But when he was in the strike zone, he was extremely difficult to hit."
Jimenez was nearly unhittable with his fastball and slider working to the tune of just two hits allowed.
"I was to able to locate my fastball and it felt good and strong," said Jimenez, who finished the season with a 15-12 record 3.47 ERA. "And I was able to use my breaking pitches, too. All of my pitches were working."
His pitches were especially working against slugger Manny Ramirez, who struck out three times against him and a fourth time later in the game against reliever Rafael Betancourt.
DIGGING OUT OF A BIG HOLE
|These three teams overcame the largest deficits to finish in first place. No team has ever overcome a 15 1/2-game deficit to win a division or a league title, which is what the Rockies are threatening to do.|
|Boston Braves||1914||15 games|
|New York Yankees||1978||14 games|
|New York Giants||1951||13 games|
The plan with Ramirez was just to keep pounding fastballs against the feared slugger, who has been mired in a slump as of late.
"You can't him throw him too many breaking balls because he's such a good hitter," Jimenez said. "I just stuck with my best pitch, which was my fastball. Sometimes it happens. He had a bad day."
Ramirez, who left six men on base in the game, credited Jimenez for pitching a good game.
"Jimenez threw a lot of good pitches," Ramirez said. "We missed a lot of opportunities to bring the guys in."
Jimenez, though, benefited from by early runs coming on a bases-loaded, two-run double by Yorvit Torrealba off left-hander Randy Wolf with two outs in the first inning. But the Rockies left the bases full when Ian Stewart struck out to end the inning.
"We got a big at-bat from Torrealba, but we left the bases loaded in the first," Tracy said. "We had a lot of opportunities."
Another lost opportunity came in the fourth inning when Clint Barmes was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Andre Ethier on a single by Carlos Gonzalez, who advanced to second on the throw. And just moments later, Gonzalez was thrown out at third on a ground ball hit to shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"We had opportunities to do more than what we got," Tracy said. "But we just needed a two-out hit here or there."
But it was Troy Tulowitzki who came through late with a towering, two-run homer in the seventh on an 0-2 fastball from reliever Ronald Belisario to give the Rockies a three-run lead that proved important when the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning on a home run by Russell Martin and a run-scoring bloop single by Ethier.
"We got a long, long home run from Troy Tulowitzki with two strikes, and as a matter of fact, that ball was high and wouldn't have been a strike," Tracy said. "But he still hit it as far as he did."
Tulowitzki credited the frenzied atmosphere at Dodger Stadium for getting him amped up to hit that deep home run.
"It's one of the loudest atmospheres around," Tulowitzki said. "It felt like a playoff game out there, especially with two good teams playing."
Closer Huston Street had a four-out save to clinch the win for the Rockies, who improved to 4-12 against the Dodgers this season. But as Tracy noted, his club is 3-4 over their past seven games against the Dodgers and have been playing them much closer than the lopsided record would indicate.
"If you go back and look at those previous seven games, we've played them competitively and put ourselves in position to win more than three of those games," Tracy said. "They beat us up the first two months of the season, but they're not beating us up now."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.