Kennedy sharp, but 'pen, defense falter
Starter tosses six scoreless innings, leaves with calf cramp
DENVER -- Just when the D-backs thought they'd solved the riddle of the Rockies, Colorado climbed back into Sunday's game and turned the tables to take their 10th in a row, sweeping the series with a 4-2 walk-off win on Jason Giambi's pinch-hit homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
D-backs starter Ian Kennedy effectively silenced Colorado's lumber, holding the Rockies to a pair of hits over six scoreless innings. But a double switch following a Mark Reynolds ejection and a right calf cramp for Kennedy turned the game over to the bullpen, and the Rockies bounced back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the seventh and set up the walk-off win.
"We did not play well at all; let's not sugar coat it," said interim manager Kirk Gibson. "We played poorly against a very good team. We allowed [Rockies manager Jim Tracy] to get to a veteran bench player. That's why they have them on a very good team."
There was no fault to find with Kennedy, and no sugar-coating needed for his sterling performance. Aside from a cramping calf before taking the hill in the sixth, Kennedy's biggest challenge came in the first, when he walked three and allowed a hit, loading the bases with two outs before escaping any damage on an inning-ending grounder back to the mound. He didn't allow another baserunner until he had two outs in the sixth, retiring 15 in a row since the first-inning rally.
"Early on, the very first inning, I was trying to find my command," Kennedy said. "After that I tried to keep the ball down and let them put it in play. If I didn't get ahead first pitch, I just tried to get back to even."
When he wasn't shutting down Colorado, Kennedy was igniting his own offense, leading the charge with three hits. He sparked a third-inning rally with a leadoff single to right, reached second on a throwing error by Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin, and went to third when Chacin walked the bases loaded. Adam LaRoche hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Kennedy, and Miguel Montero doubled in a run down the right-field line to give the D-backs a 2-0 lead.
"Not only did we not do much with Ian Kennedy today, we couldn't get him out either," Tracy said. "He threw great, he really did. He commanded everything today. I think one of the things that might have caught up with him was all the baserunning he did."
Kennedy kicked off another rally in the fourth with a two-out single to center. The D-backs loaded the bases, but couldn't bring anybody home, though they did drive Chacin from the game. Kennedy kept pouring it on, singling off reliever Esmil Rogers in the sixth and triggering a cramp in his right calf while running the bases.
"I felt it when I was running," Kennedy said. "I was running to third base on the last out. [Gibson] said he was more concerned, especially late in the season, if something happens and I have to change my mechanics, it's not smart. I wanted to go back out there, because I knew my pitch count was low and my arm felt good. Being on base too much, I guess -- that's usually not my problem."
Kennedy had given the D-backs their best chance to beat the surging Rockies, but Gibson couldn't see enough upside in leaving Kennedy out there while nursing a calf cramp on his push-off leg.
"I'm not going to mortgage his future and have him continue to throw," Gibson said. "It was a terrible break for us."
Arizona collected just three hits over the final five innings against Colorado's relievers, and Reynolds was ejected after watching a called third strike to end the seventh. The pitch looked low and outside, and Reynolds threw his helmet and bat down in disgust before walking away and apparently making a comment to home-plate umpire Gerry Davis, who sent Reynolds packing.
The Rockies' comeback started in the seventh when Todd Helton drew a leadoff walk on four straight balls against reliever Blaine Boyer and Miguel Olivo took a four-pitch free pass with two outs. Pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs dropped a game-tying shallow fly to the dead zone between short and left, just out of reach of the back-pedaling Drew and the charging Brandon Allen.
"Off the bat, I thought we had him for sure," Boyer said. "Then I looked back and I saw Brandon coming hard and I saw Stephen hauling butt out there. He almost caught it. I thought it was out. Ian pitched lights-out. You hate when a guy does that and you come in in that kind of situation and blow it like that. It's terrible. It's my fault."
Both bullpens held their ground in the late innings, but the D-backs faltered in the final frame when Johnson missed a one-out grounder to second.
"Just lazy," Johnson said. "I got over there and tried to get down, and I didn't get down far enough. Just lazy feet. Routine play. There's no excuse. There's certainly no reason that play doesn't get made. It gets made 1,000 times every year. Make one error like that in a situation, they make it hurt. It's just brutal."
Rookie right-hander Sam Demel struck out Clint Barmes for the second out, but Giambi drove a 1-1 change-up over the center-field wall for a walk-off homer to sweep the series.
"It was down below the zone, he went down and got it. What can you do?" said Demel. "It's Coors Field. Anything's possible. He caught it well. He got out in front, popped it up in the air, and it was out of here."
The loss was Arizona's sixth in a row at Coors Field, and their seventh in their last eight games overall.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.