video thumbnail

COL@CLE: Smith's second homer puts the Rockies up

CLEVELAND -- A classic, driving Ohio rainstorm rapidly approached Progressive Field as the Indians tied the game in the eighth inning Tuesday night, and Rockies right fielder Seth Smith feared for his safety.

"I'm wondering when they're going to call it so I don't get struck by lightning," Smith said.

Smith lit up the sky in the top of the ninth with his second home run of the game, a leadoff shot off Indians closer Chris Perez, to give the Rockies a 4-3 victory in front of 15,877 who braved the weather during a wild finish.

To garner his fourth career two-homer game and first since last May 26 against the D-backs, Smith forced himself to stop fearing the slash of rain and electricity.

"When you get in the box, you drown all that out," Smith said.

With a two-run homer off Indians starter Mitch Talbot in the sixth and the go-ahead blast, his eighth of the season, Smith lifted the Rockies -- winners of six of their past seven -- to 37-36. It's their first foray above .500 since May 24. By taking the first two of three against the American League Central-leading Indians, the Rockies improved to 4-1 in Interleague Play.

It all occurred on a night when effectively wild starter Jhoulys Chacin didn't give up a hit for 5 1/3 innings. Chacin struck out seven and gave up a run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings, but he tied a career high with six walks. His chance to win disappeared when the Indians scored two runs in the eighth, both charged to former Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt.

But Smith made it all OK.

"To be on the road and playing a club that is in first place, that for me is a huge character game right there, no question about that," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy.

Betancourt gave up three straight hits, the last an RBI single to Travis Hafner. Travis Buck tied it with a two-out single off Matt Belisle (5-2) that snapped an 0-for-24 slump.

Belisle worked Jack Hannahan to line out to center to end the threat, and Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 22nd save -- tops in the Majors -- but not without drama. Cord Phelps roped a two-out triple and Street walked Asdrubal Cabrera, who stole second. But Street used his slider to strike out Austin Kearns with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

"After Smitty hit the two-run homer, Chacin hadn't given up a hit to that point," Street said. "It just felt like we should've won that game, and it would have been a huge letdown had we not."

Instead, the Indians left feeling blue.

Smith's homer was the first earned run off the Indians' bullpen in 28 2/3 innings. The Rockies' unearned run in Monday night's 8-7 victory was the only score off Indians relievers during that streak.

Perez left a slider over the plate to Smith that became the first long ball he allowed all season.

"I just didn't come through," Perez said. "I made some good pitches on Smith, but I just hung a slider. It happens. Home runs are part of the game. I hadn't given one up in a while, but it's part of the game."

For much of his time in the game, Chacin hardly let the Indians make solid contact. But his half-dozen walks -- the third time in his career and second time this season he has reached that number -- were problematic. In the third, Chacin lost his fastball with two outs and walked Michael Brantley, Phelps and Cabrera before fanning Hafner to end the frame.

"In the third, after two out, I was feeling like I couldn't really grab the ball -- it was sliding from my hand," Chacin said. "[Pitching coach Bob Apodaca] came to me on the mound and said, 'It's OK. If you can't throw your fastball, use your breaking ball.' That's what I did to Hafner."

Chacin finished with a season-high 115 pitches, 60 for strikes. Tracy said the next step for the 23-year-old, who made the season-opening rotation for the first time this year, and at 8-4 is making a good case for an All-Star Game invitation, is consistent fastball command. It's been a project all season. If completed, Chacin could ascend to true stardom.

"He did a phenomenal job with the exception of hitting a couple of speed bumps, command-wise," Tracy said. "He walked the bases loaded and had another inning where he walked two guys. We're talking 40 pitches. He could've potentially pitched us right on through to the ninth inning.

"The way he was pitching and the fact that he hadn't given up a hit, we go back Atlanta and the Ubaldo [Jimenez no-hitter, when he overcame early command issues]. That's going to be a real tough decision for a manager, knowing there's a 23-year-old kid out there with a career at stake."

With one out in the sixth, Cabrera and Hafner drew walks, and Shin-Soo Choo singled to drive in Cabrera -- the first hit Chacin allowed. Carlos Gonzalez threw out Hafner at third, and Chacin forced a Carlos Santana grounder to end the inning. Chacin stayed in until Lou Marson's two-out triple in the seventh.

"I wasn't thinking about not giving up a hit; I was trying to throw as few pitches as I can to try to go deep in the game," Chacin said.

Still, Chacin, who is tied for second place in the National League with eight wins, lowered his batting average against for the season to .190, second to the .189 mark of the Braves' Tommy Hanson.

MLB.com Comments