Rox run coincided with 'pen hitting stride
Betancourt, Beimel among additions to contribute
DENVER -- It's probably not a coincidence that the revolving door on the Rockies' bullpen stopped spinning about the time the team began its midseason push for the postseason.
To be sure, the bullpen Rockies manager Jim Tracy has leaned on in the second half of the season and in the first two games of the National League Division Series looks little like the bunch that came to Spring Training looking to win jobs.
Take the Rockies' 5-4 victory in Game 2 of the NLDS over the Phillies on Thursday as Tracy used three pitchers who weren't with Colorado a year ago to get eight important outs to help secure a victory.
Jose Contreras, whom the Rockies traded for on Aug. 31, worked one scoreless inning of relief. Matt Belisle, who came to Spring Training on a Minor League contract and had a rough go earlier this season, worked another shutout frame.
Finally, Rafael Betancourt, who was added in a July 23 deal with Cleveland, was able to get two outs before allowing a home run to Jayson Werth.
All told, in the first two games of the NLDS, the Rockies' bullpen has allowed one run in seven innings.
"We have reliability in our bullpen," Tracy said. "And we've got people down there that can get outs and they can get big outs."
With the postponement of Game 3 on Saturday because of inclement weather, that bullpen will get an additional day of rest, giving Tracy a bevy of fresh arms to lean in Sunday's game at Coors Field, giving him mid-, to late-inning options to attack the Phillies' lineup.
It's just not probably the way the Rockies envisioned it in Spring Training, when two relief pitchers -- Manuel Corpas and Taylor Buchholz -- figured to play prominent roles. But Buchholz was lost in March after he needed right elbow surgery. Corpas also had right elbow surgery, his coming in July.
The addition of Betancourt and left-hander Joe Beimel from the Washington Nationals helped solidify the bullpen around the time the Rockies were on their way toward an impressive second-half push that saw the team go 72-38 from June 4 on.
"The best thing about having a bullpen this strong is that anyone can come in at any time and get the job done," Beimel said.
The best thing for Beimel was the change in scenery, going from a last-place team to one headed toward the playoffs.
"Washington was a good city and I had good teammates, but you play this game to win ... we weren't winning there," Beimel said. "I probably gained 35 games in the standings when I came here."
BULLISH ON 'PEN
The gains haven't gone unnoticed by Tracy, especially in this series. In Game 1, after starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez left after five-plus innings, the bullpen combined for three scoreless innings.
In Game 2, Contreras came up big in the sixth inning after starting pitcher Aaron Cook allowed the first three hitters of the inning to reach base on successive hits.
Contreras struck out Werth for the first out before Raul Ibanez knocked in a run with a single. Another hit to Pedro Feliz followed, but Contreras got out of the inning as he got Carlos Ruiz to bounce into a double play.
Belisle worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning before Betancourt opened the eighth inning with two outs before Werth homered. Franklin Morales, a hard-throwing left-hander, got the final out of the inning to set up a Huston Street save.
"Number one, it's the reason why we're here," Tracy said of the bullpen success. "And what I mean by being here, is in the postseason, they have done a tremendous job.
"But there has been a real sense of reliability from that group in that you know there are specific situations that make a lot of sense for guys that you have down there, and I'm certainly not going to be shy about using them if the situation dictates it."
Right-hander Matt Daley has pitched well at times and tossed a scoreless inning in the Game 1 loss to the Phillies. Morales, a converted starter, has given the Rockies a power arm in the back end of the bullpen.
"I think [Morales] has always [had] an attacker mentality," Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "For people coming with the arm strength that he has that pitches one inning ... he had sprinter inside of him, and that's what he is now.
"Absolutely, until a team fortifies the back of their bullpen, they are not going to be in contention in the playoffs."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.