Seth Wenig/Associated Press
NEW YORK – Tyler Colvin stood in front of his locker wearing a Todd Helton T-shirt and cracked a big grin when he was given a choice: tying home run off R.A. Dickey or terrific play at first base?
“I’d go with the game-saving play,” Colvin said.
Either way, Helton, the three-time Gold Glove first baseman on the disabled list since Aug. 6, would approve of Colvin’s night that led the Colorado Rockies to a 3-1 win over the New York Mets on Monday.
Getting more playing time at first base because of Helton’s hip surgery and the recently injured Michael Cuddyer, Colvin connected off Dickey in the fifth inning, then made a diving grab with the bases loaded in the eighth to preserve the lead.
Jonathan Herrera bunted for a hit in the top of the eighth and made his way around the bases with help from some inept defense to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.
“Looking for any opportunity to get on base,” Herrera said.
Colvin’s first home run in 105 at-bats denied the knuckleballer a chance at his 16th win and helped the Rockies to their sixth victory in eight games.
With their 10th loss in 14 games, the Mets (57-65) dropped into a third-place tie with Philadelphia in the NL East, 18½ games behind first-place Washington.
Colvin made a lunging stop on pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin’s sharp grounder just inside the bag with the bases loaded, and his toss to reliever Matt Belisle just beat a diving Valdespin to the bag.
Valdepsin jumped up, waving his arms in disbelief, and manager Terry Collins engaged first-base umpire Lance Barksdale in a prolonged discussion.
“They’ve all been told about you don’t see track runners diving at the finish line. There’s a reason they don’t do it. It slows you down,” Collins said. “Any time you hit the ground, it slows you down. Jordany gave it his best effort.”
Said Valdespin: “At the moment, you’re not thinking nothing. You go running. The only (thing) you want to do is be safe because you know the tying run is on third base.”
Rafael Betancourt, the Rockies’ fifth pitcher, put two runners on before getting Mike Baxter to fly out to center finishing his 24th save.
Guillermo Moscoso gave up a hit in 2 1/3 innings, Rex Brothers (7-2) allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings, and Belisle got one big out for the Rockies.
Alex White was done after four wild but effective innings under manager Jim Tracy’s four-man rotation. He allowed three hits and two walks on 83 pitches – 46 strikes. Tracy has been limiting his pitchers to about 75 tosses a game.
“You throw 30 pitches in an inning you got to set your sites on going four innings,” White said of his 29-pitch first inning. “It is what it is.”
The team could go back to a five-man rotation soon. Jhoulys Chacin (pectoral nerve irritation) is scheduled to make his first start since May 1 on Tuesday, and Drew Pomeranz will make his next start Friday, Tracy said. Depending on how Chacin does, all five could remain.
But Tracy said he never considered leaving White in.
“Eighty-three pitches in four innings,” Tracy said. “We want better than that.”
Dickey was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, and Herrera led off the eighth with a push-bunt toward first base. Reliever Josh Edgin (1-1) tried to shovel the ball with his glove to first baseman Ike Davis, but the toss went way off line, and Herrera raced to second on the Mets’ first error in 10 games.
Herrera advanced to third on Chris Nelson’s sacrifice and scored on a passed ball by Kelly Shoppach, who struck out batting for Josh Thole in the seventh with a runner on first.
The Mets loaded the bases against Brothers in the bottom half, getting a runner past first for the first time since they went ahead 1-0 on Daniel Murphy’s single in the opening inning.
Pinch-hitter Ramon Hernandez had an RBI single off Jon Rauch in the ninth to make it 3-1.
While the Mets have shifted to a six-man rotation to give extra rest to Johan Santana and Chris Young and help limit rookie Matt Harvey’s innings, Dickey will pitch on his regular schedule to give him a couple of more chances at a possible 20-win season.
The knuckleballer was coming off a rough start at Cincinnati in which he was asked to remove two bracelets and matched season highs by giving up three homers and 10 hits.
He had little trouble with the Rockies’ injury-depleted lineup. Dickey retired the first eight batters before White looped a single over the outstretched glove of a leaping Murphy, the second baseman. He gave up three hits overall and walked two in seven innings.
But a Mets’ offense that has averaged less than three runs a game over their previous 13 provided him with little support, and he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
“It’s tough, because the first half of the season, we scored a lot of runs, and the offense really picked up the pitchers,” Dickey said. “So it would be great to have a couple of games where we don’t hit the ball where the pitchers pick the hitters up. It doesn’t always work that way.”