Tovar's walk-off single caps big day for heart of Rox's lineup
DENVER -- With a couple of big bats on the bench and one on the injured list, the Rockies maintained their May momentum with a big day for the middle of the makeshift lineup, ultimately rallying twice to claim the lead in the eighth and reclaim it in the ninth for a 7-6 walk-off victory that clinched the four-game set with Miami on Thursday at Coors Field.
Elias Díaz took a day off from catching but stayed in the lineup as the designated hitter in the No. 3 spot, and he hit his third home run of the series to tie the game in the sixth before working a walk to help fuel the game-winning rally in the ninth.
Randal Grichuk hit cleanup in the absence of C.J. Cron (on the IL with back spasms), and he went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs, scoring to put the Rockies on the board in the fourth and again to take the lead in the eighth.
And Ryan McMahon upped his game by going 2-for-3 from the No. 5 spot, with a pair of walks and a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning. He’d entered the game 0-for-10 in the series and was hitting .212 with four homers and 19 RBIs on the season.
“It just feels good to contribute, man,” McMahon said of his clutch hit. “It's no secret I haven't been playing the best baseball, so any time you do something to help the team, you feel better about yourself, feel like you're a part of the team. Usually, good things happen after that.”
Also contributing at the tail end of the middle of the order was rookie Ezequiel Tovar, who went 2-for-4 with a walk and the walk-off hit in the ninth -- a ground-ball single to left through a five-man infield.
“I'm a proponent of the five-man infield [in that situation],” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We’ve done it in the past. It's a good baseball play. We just snuck it through today.”
The middle of the lineup was aided by a couple of big pinch-hits in the eighth, with a single from Charlie Blackmon and a two-run single from Mike Moustakas. Blackmon’s single off Dylan Floro was his first hit in 14 at-bats against the reliever. Brenton Doyle capped the rally with an infield single that scored Michael Toglia before Moustakas was thrown out going to third on the play.
Doyle made a highlight-reel effort in center in the ninth, leaping on the warning track and catching a deep drive from Jorge Soler in his glove above the wall before he lost it into the stands for a home run when he crashed into the wall. Doyle left the game after an agonizing injury to his right knee, later identified as a contusion with no apparent ligament damage. Doyle made a similar play at the wall with Triple-A Albuquerque earlier in the season and missed 10 days to a bruised right knee.
The inning fell apart for the Rockies after the Soler homer, with the Marlins making up a four-run deficit and handing closer Pierce Johnson his first blown save in 11 opportunities when Garrett Cooper slugged a game-tying two-run homer.
With one out and two on in the bottom of the ninth, Marlins reliever Huascar Brazoban walked McMahon to load the bases, his third free pass of the inning. Garrett Hampson came in from right to make the five-man infield, and Tovar threaded his grounder through the tiniest of holes in the infield for the first walk-off hit of his career.
The victory came in large part as a result of five strong innings from starter Kyle Freeland, who gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four. He grinded from the first inning on, challenging a lineup that ran his pitch count up to 91 and forced an early exit.
It was a great followup to his last start, one of the least effective outings of his career, when he yielded eight runs (five earned) in two innings.
“You always want to bounce back as best you can after a bad outing,” Freeland said. “Over those five days in between outings, you're itching to get back, just because you want the ball. You want to prove yourself and everyone wrong, show that you can rebound well and get your team a win. So it was nice to be able to get out there and get the team a win and pitch well.”