Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
DENVER – Todd Helton drove in three runs, including a tiebreaking double in the eighth inning, to rally the Colorado Rockies past the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6 Friday night.
Carlos Gonzalez singled with one out in the eighth off Bryan Shaw, whose pickoff attempt scooted past Paul Goldschmidt for a two-base error on the first baseman.
Shaw (0-1) struck out Troy Tulowitzki, who had three hits, but Helton stroked a cutter into the left-field corner.
That made a winner of Rex Brothers (1-1), who pitched a scoreless eighth. Rafael Betancourt got three outs for his second save. He allowed only Miguel Montero’s one-out single.
Helton finished with three hits, including a two-run single that tied it at 6 in the fourth inning and chased Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson, who failed to hold a 6-2 lead.
Rockies right-hander Juan Nicasio struggled in his first start at Coors Field since Aug. 5, when he was hit in the head by a line drive and suffered a fractured skull and broken neck. He allowed six earned runs on five hits and five walks in 2 2/3 innings.
“I remember back when the injury first occurred, there were two questions that Juan was asking. One, ‘Where’s my mom?’ and No. 2, ‘Am I going to get an opportunity to pitch again?’” Rockies manager Jim Tracy recalled before the game. “When he found out from the doctors that he was going to have every opportunity to go out there and do what it is you love to do, he got busy.”
Nicasio labored through a 44-pitch first inning that included three walks, a wild pitch and a two-run single by Goldschmidt after he’d walked the bases full. Nicasio followed that with a 1-2-3 second inning but struggled again in the third after the Rockies had tied it on solo homers by Dexter Fowler and Ramon Hernandez, throwing 36 pitches and failing to get out of the inning.
Montero restored Arizona’s two-run lead when he turned on a slider and sent it into the seats above the scoreboard in right for his first homer of the year following Justin Upton’s bunt single. Geoff Blum’s sacrifice fly and Ryan Roberts’ RBI single made it 6-2. Nicasio then walked his counterpart, and that was it. In came Esmil Rogers.
The Rockies got two runs back in the bottom half on Hernandez’s two-run double over Upton’s outstretched glove in right and then tied it in the fourth on Helton’s two-run double that chased Hudson and brought in Brad Ziegler.
The Diamondbacks had runners at second and third with nobody out in the fourth, but Rogers stranded them there, and the Rockies tied it in the bottom half, taking Nicasio off the hook for a loss.
Last year, Nicasio was 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in seven starts at Coors Field. His ERA was the lowest for a pitcher with at least five starts in a single season in Denver’s spacious downtown ballpark that opened in 1995.
Nicasio earned a spot in the Rockies’ rotation this spring just eight months after the accident that landed him in the hospital for 11 days and had doctors – who usually see fractures of the C-1 vertebra in diving or auto accident patients – wondering if he’d ever walk again, much less return to the mound.
“I’m very amazed and very glad to see Juan playing again and being on the field and doing as well as he’s doing. It’s clearly amazing how fast he did get better,” said his neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Witt of Denver Health.