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Kahnle claiming key role in Rockies bullpen

Righty helps secure win with double plays in 7th, 8th

DENVER -- Right-hander Tommy Kahnle rewarded the Rockies for their new-found trust by delivering the biggest pitch of Saturday's 5-1 victory over the Brewers -- a changeup for a double-play grounder that ended the seventh and protected a two-run lead.

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Kahnle replaced effective starter Chad Bettis with one out and runners at first and third. After starting Jonathan Lucroy with fastballs at 98 and 97 mph, he forced Lucroy to roll an 89 mph power changeup. He had help -- third baseman Nolan Arenado fielded the short hop and second baseman DJ LeMahieu made the turn despite taking a shot from runner Martin Maldonado. But it started with Kahnle making big pitches.

"My mentality coming in is to save my pitchers' runs and not allow them to score," said Kahnle, who gave up a one-out hit in the eighth but ended that inning by inducing a double play from Ryan Braun.

Video: [email protected]: Kahnle induces double play to escape jam

Kahnle arrived last year as a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Yankees. Unable to send him to the Minors without having to offer him back, the Rockies ushered him through 54 games with encouraging results at times (2-1, 4.19 ERA). This year, however, the club sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque late in Spring Training.

"I understood why I was there -- it was mainly to get consistency down and grow up a little bit, learn from mistakes," Kahnle said. "I did all that, worked hard and found my way up here. I just got to come of age, help the team win."

After a rough patch in April, Kahnle threw scoreless ball in eight of his final 10 appearances before being recalled June 1. Kahnle -- along with rookie right-hander Scott Oberg, who has had high moments but struggled with the home run -- is finding himself pitching in important situations.

Saturday was the third time Kahnle has pitched with a lead -- a figure that would be higher if the Rockies weren't going through a 2-9 stretch. It also was the third time he has pitched beyond one inning.

"If you look at our bullpen right now, that's where I have him slotted -- late in games to protect leads," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's big-time stuff."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page.
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