DENVER -- The Rockies scored early and often Saturday against the Phillies, tagging rookie starter Nick Pivetta for eight runs and holding on for an 8-5 win. An eighth-inning three-run homer from Phillies outfielder Daniel Nava made things interesting, but Philadelphia couldn't complete the comeback.
Six Rockies reached base in the first inning, with five scoring, as the Rockies batted around against Pivetta. Some poor defense behind the rookie didn't help things, as Tommy Joseph's fielding error led to two unearned runs. The Rockies tacked on three more runs in the third.
"[Pivetta] threw too many pitches in that first inning, that's why I took him out," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Because of his potential, we've got to let him pitch. He's got a good arm and good stuff."
The win, combined with the D-backs' loss to the Giants, vaulted the Rockies into first place in the National League Wild Card standings.
Jon Gray kept the Rockies in front, showing good fastball command while giving up just one run on six hits in seven innings. It was Gray's second straight quality start following his three-run, seven-inning outing in Washington last Sunday, the first time this season he has thrown consecutive quality starts.
"The last two games from Jon are indicative of what I think he can do," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Seven innings, in control. He continued to pitch aggressively with the fastball, which I liked. From my viewpoint, it looked as though the fastball command was very good. And in talking to [catcher Jonathan Lucroy] in between innings, he reiterated that."
After Pivetta left, reliever Mark Leiter shut down the Rockies' offense with 4 1/3 scoreless innings and nine strikeouts, the most by a Phillies reliever since Lowell Palmer fanned 10 on May 3, 1970.
"He's a rookie getting his feet wet, but he pitched like a 10-year veteran tonight," Mackanin said of Leiter. "He put on a clinic for every pitcher in baseball. It was a lot of fun to watch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Quick hook: Pivetta threw 42 pitches in that ill-fated first, but seemed to rebound in the second; he needed only eight pitches to get through the frame. The third inning did him in, however, and Pat Valaika's two-run homer to left field ended Pivetta's night. Pivetta's eight runs allowed are the second-most of his young career.
"Here's a guy [in Valaika] who got a start and made the most of it with three RBIs and a homer," Black said. "Pat's dependable. We've talked about a lot of our guys, but Pat's really done a nice job in his role, complementing other players."
Quick leap: Gray held the Phillies at bay for most of his outing, but the visitors nearly put together a rally in the top of the fifth inning. Cesar Hernandez walked with two outs to load the bases after Maikel Franco and Jorge Alfaro both singled, bringing Freddy Galvis to the plate. Galvis turned on a 95.5-mph fastball, but it went right into the glove of leaping first baseman Mark Reynolds. The timely catch saved at least two runs, and maybe three.
"We had opportunities with the bases loaded, opportunities to scratch and claw a couple more runs across, which would've made it a whole different ballgame, especially here in Denver the way balls fall in," Mackanin said.
"It's just making quality pitches to a very good baseball team. They're gonna hammer any mistake that you make, so go out there and be better." -- Pivetta, on his early struggles
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In 129 at-bats this season, Valaika has 34 hits, 20 of which have been of the extra-base variety. No other player in MLB has 20 or more extra-base hits in 129 or fewer at-bats.
Phillies: The Phillies send out emerging star Aaron Nola (8-7, 3.16 ERA) in Sunday's series finale beginning at 3:10 p.m. ET. Nola has been one of the Phillies' bright spots this season, as the young righty leads the team in ERA, strikeouts and walk rate. Nola has surrendered just 10 runs over his past eight starts, good for a 1.66 ERA during that span.
Rockies: Right-hander Jeff Hoffman will make his second career start against the Phillies as the Rockies wrap up the series at 1:10 p.m. MT on Sunday. Hoffman gave up one run over six innings in an 8-1 Rockies win at Citizens Bank Park on May 22. In his last start, he allowed two runs over six innings against the Mets last Tuesday.
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