Now winners of five straight against the Tribe, the Rockies shoot for a sweep of this interleague series when the two clubs square off again tonight at Progressive Field.
The Indians had won their first six interleague bouts of 2011 before losing the first two tests of this set, though both games were decided by only a single run. After edging Cleveland by an 8-7 count in Monday's opener, the Rockies pulled out a 4-3 triumph last night on a clutch ninth-inning home run off the bat of Seth Smith.
Smith led off the top of the ninth by launching a pitch from Indians closer Chris Perez into the right-center field seats that snapped a 3-3 deadlock. The blast was the outfielder's second homer of the night, having previously connected on a two-run shot in the sixth.
"I just didn't come through," said Perez. "I made some good pitches [earlier] on Smith, I just hung a slider."
Cleveland did put together a late threat in their half of the ninth, however, as Cord Phelps tripled with two out off Colorado's Huston Street and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a walk before stealing second. However, Street struck out pinch-hitter Austin Kearns to end the game and record his major league- leading 22nd save of the season.
Smith's first long ball put the Rockies up by a 3-0 score, but the Indians slowly chipped away to draw back even. Shin-Shoo Choo knocked in the Tribe's first run with a single in the bottom of the sixth, and Travis Hafner and Travis Buck both came through with RBI base hits in the eighth to knot the contest at 3-3.
Choo's hit was the first surrendered by Colorado starter Jhoulys Chacin, who held the Indians to one run and struck out seven over the first 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander did issue six walks, however, including back-to-back free passes to Cabrera and Hafner in front of Choo's RBI single.
"He did a phenomenal job with the exception of hitting a couple of speed bumps, command-wise," Rockies manager Jim Tracy told his team's official site about Chacin. "He walked the bases loaded and had another inning where he walked two guys. He could've potentially pitched us right on through to the ninth inning."
Both Smith and Jason Giambi finished 3-for-4 to lead Colorado to its seventh win in its last eight tests and fifth in a row versus Cleveland. The Rockies swept a three-game set between the teams in Denver back in 2008.
They'll send Jason Hammel to the hill tonight in hopes of extending that streak. The right-hander comes in off a needed victory in his most recent appearance, which ended a string of five straight losing decisions over an eight-start span.
Hammel didn't pitch particularly well in that game, however, as Detroit reached him for six runs and he walked four batters in 6 1/3 innings of work this past Friday. He still managed to notch his first win since April 30 thanks to a Colorado offense that pounded out 14 hits in a 13-6 verdict.
The 28-year-old has faced Cleveland six times previously, two of which came in a starting role, during his tenure with Tampa Bay from 2006-08 and has never beaten the Indians, having gone 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA in those games.
Cleveland, which still holds a one-game edge on the Tigers for first place in the AL Central, will try to get back on the positive side of the ledger behind Josh Tomlin, the club's leader in wins this season. The second-year major- leaguer has delivered a very solid first half for the Tribe, posting an 8-4 record along with a 3.93 ERA in 14 starts.
Tomlin has been especially tough at home, where he's gone 5-1 with a 3.22 ERA over seven trips to the Progressive Field mound this season. That was the case again this past Friday, when the native Texan fired 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball with no walks to down visiting Pittsburgh.
The 26-year-old also threw a gem in his only other interleague matchup this year, limiting Cincinnati to a run and just three hits through seven frames in a 2-1 victory on May 21.