Rockies 8, Padres 6: Justin Morneau hits walkoff HR to cap off exhilarating game

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies played one of their most exciting games of the season on Sunday. Fortunately, they came out on top.

DENVER -- When Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins blew his first save of 2014 by serving up a two-run homer to Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Justin Morneau and Nick Masset knew they had to step up.

"We all have faith in our closer, but he's not going to be perfect all year," Morneau said after the game. "When guys make a mistake, to be able to pick each other up is big and shows a lot about the resiliency of our team."

Morneau did his part to pick up the Rockies' 41-year-old closer by hitting a 3-2 fastball from Padres reliever Dale Thayer just over the outstretched glove of outfielder Cameron Maybin to give the Rockies an 8-6 victory in 10 innings and stretch their home series record in 2014 to 7-0.

The Rockies' veteran first baseman was looking to do some damage with two outs in the inning, and getting five consecutive fastballs from Thayer certainly didn't hurt.

"I got almost the same pitch [on the home run] that I missed on the 3-1, so it was good not to miss it again.," said Morneau. He certainly didn't miss this time, crushing the pitch into the rocks over the centerfield wall.

Morneau suspected he got all of it, but Maybin made it close enough to briefly cause some concern.

"I thought it was gone off the bat, but I saw him drifting back and it scared me a little bit," the 33-year-old Canadian said. "But, as good of an athlete as [Maybin] is, if he can't catch it then it's definitely gone."

The walk-off homer was the sixth of Morneau's career and his first with the Rockies. Colorado had one other walk-off home run in 2014, and that came off the bat of Charlie Culberson against the Mets in April. While it's not quite surprising having such a hit come off the bat of Morneau, it's still amazing to see from a guy who has gone through a lion's share of struggles since an All-Star first half in 2010.

Morneau's heroics might not have been possible without the solid relief work of Nick Masset, who pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning to earn his first major league win since 2011. The Rockies need a shutdown inning in the worst way after blowing a late two-run lead, and the 32-year-old right-hander delivered.

"That's when the momentum swung our way," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said after the game. Masset needed only five pitches and made the most of them, inducing a ground out, a foul pop out and a soft fly out, allowing the Rockies to get back in the dugout and try to win the game.

"That's my job as a pitcher," Masset said humbly. "I was just trying to pitch to contact and get ahead of guys. Fortunately they got themselves out."

Colorado's defense certainly helped with that, especially when Juan Nicasio was on the mound. That was no more evident than in the third inning, when Nolan Arenado started a triple play, just the third in franchise history. Morneau had a prime view of what unfolded to allow the Rockies to get out of a two-on, nobody-out situation with just one pitch.

"That was different than anything I've ever seen," quipped Morneau. "It's very rare that gets called but it looked like [Seth Smith] actually grabbed [DJ LeMahieu's] foot with his arm, and that's pretty much the definition of the rule."

Turning three allowed the Rockies to escape the inning with a one-run deficit, and the bats responded in a big way in the bottom half of the third. Wilin Rosario, who returned to the lineup on Sunday after spending a couple of weeks recovering from an illness, led off the inning with a bloop single and LeMahieu followed with an infield hit. After Nicasio laid down a sacrifice bunt, Charlie Blackmon roped a two-run single to centerfield. The next batter, Corey Dickerson, added two more with an opposite-field homer to give the Rockies a quick 4-1 lead.

San Diego rallied to within one with three consecutive hits off of Nicasio in the fourth, but the Rockies struck back the next inning on Troy Tulowitzki's National League-leading 13th home run of the season. Padres catcher Rene Rivera, who also had an RBI double and caught three Rockies baserunners trying to steal, got his team back to within one with a solo homer in the sixth before Carlos Gonzalez gave Colorado an insurance run on a broken-bat single an inning later.

Adam Ottavino worked a clean eighth but the Rockies went down in order in the bottom half, setting the stage for Cabrera's temporary heroics.

The win allowed the Rockies to return to five games over .500 and gained a game on the third-place Dodgers. However, the Rockies still remain three back in the division after the Giants scored a rare home win over the Marlins.

Colorado (25-20) will be back in action on Tuesday against those Giants (28-17) in a pretty big series -- or, as big as one can be in mid- to late-May, anyway. While the pitching matchup looks like a big matchup on paper, the Rockies have reason to be optimistic. Yes, the struggling Franklin Morales will take the hill for the Rockies, but he'll be opposite Madison Bumgarner, who has a 6.20 ERA on the road this season.


Source: FanGraphs

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