Rockies spring late rally to force tie with White Sox
Colorado takes advantage of Chicago's miscues with three-run eighth inning
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies relief pitcher Matt Belisle overcame an error, a hit and a hit batsman by forcing Chicago's Kevan Smith into a double play to end the top of the ninth and preserve a 5-5 tie with the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in front of a sellout crowd of 12,500.
The Rockies tied it with three runs in the eighth, with one run scoring on a Nate Jones wild pitch and two on a Marcus Semien throwing error. The game ended after the Rockies were scoreless in the bottom of the ninth.
It was a big start for White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, who had been scored upon in every previous spring outing -- badly so in the previous two. On Sunday, however, Quintana faced the minimum 15 batters over five scoreless, one-hit innings.
Quintana entered having given up 20 earned runs in six innings -- an ERA of 30.00 in four games. He didn't manage an out in two of his outings. His last two appearances were seven runs and six hits in three innings against the Angels on March 13 and nine runs and seven hits with no outs against the Athletics on Tuesday.
This time, the only batter to reach against him was Wilin Rosario to open the second inning. But Quintana erased him with a pickoff move. Quintana finished with two strikeouts and forced seven groundball outs.
"Working with more ground balls, changeup was working good," Quintana said. "[I'll] continue my work and keep the ball down now, and I'm ready for the season."
Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood labored, giving up 10 hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings, while walking two and striking out three. Six of the hits were delivered by successive batters in the three-run second inning as the Sox sent nine hitters to the plate.
Chatwood said his four-seam fastball, which he was working on using inside against left-handed hitters, wasn't sharp.
"It kept running back over the middle, and I gave up six hits in the second inning on it," Chatwood said."I've got to try to make adjustments on it.
"You want to go out and compete, get better. As a competitor, you're not happy with that kind of outing. As long as you're trying to get out of it, just keep working and get ready for the season."
Chatwood said he used his slider, which he usually doesn't use against left-handers, to strike out three lefties. He said he will have a 100-pitch limit for his next start, and he'll approach it with a regular-season pitching plan rather than concentrating on a given pitch.
Conor Gillaspie, expected to be the White Sox's regular third baseman, doubled twice and scored a run. Blake Tekotte doubled and singled.
The Rockies didn't score until the bottom of the sixth, when DJ LeMahieu led off with a double off Daniel Webb and eventually scored on Jackson Williams' fielder's choice grounder. Drew Stubbs tripled to open the seventh and scored on Jordan Pacheco's single.
Rockies righty reliever Wilton Lopez pitched a scoreless top of the seventh to drop his spring ERA to 1.86, and has been scored upon just once in nine outings.
The Rockies also used their two projected catchers, Rosario and Pacheco, at first base, and could use them there occasionally during the regular season to give them extra at-bats and rest Justin Morneau. The Rockies also use right fielder Michael Cuddyer at first base and are expected to do that more than move their catchers.
Belisle entered Sunday with a 6.75 ERA in eight innings. Some of the problems arose because he was testing strategy, some because of bad luck, some due to lack of sharpness. The luck looked bad Sunday when Ryan Wheeler bobbled a grounder and Adam Dunn grounded a single past Belisle.
Belisle struck out Keon Barnum, then Adam Heisler was hit by a pitch. But Belisle cooly forced Smith's double-play grounder.
It was a good confidence-builder for Belisle, coming off an iffy 2013 (5-7, 4.32 ERA in 72 games).
"He really didn't do anything wrong," Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright said. "He had three balls on the ground and a strikeout. He did nick a guy on the kneecap, and you look up and he's got bases loaded and one out.
"To get the groundball double play is a big boost for him, especially in the ninth. He's used to pitching earlier in the game but I saved him. I ran the bullpen without an order so that they didn't know when they were going to get up. I like to do that toward the end of Spring Training."
Up next: Rockies lefty Franklin Morales will start against the Royals, who will use one-time Rockies righty Jeremy Guthrie, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick at 2:10 p.m. MDT.