DENVER -- Consider Rickie Weeks' debut in the No. 5 spot a success. And the Brewers' new bullpen alignment, too.Batting in the five-hole for the first time in his career, Weeks delivered a two-run homer off Rockies closer Huston Street in the ninth inning to give the Brewers a much-needed road win, 8-7, in front of 46,783 at Coors Field on Saturday. Weeks' homer made a winner of Francisco Rodriguez in his Brewers debut. The reliever pitched a scoreless eighth inning, then closer John Axford worked the ninth to earn the save.
In an effort to shake up a stagnant lineup, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke moved Weeks from the leadoff position to fifth and moved Corey Hart to the top spot. Hart helped the Brewers turn the momentum with a two-run home run in the fifth.It will take more than one game to measure the success of those moves -- but so far, so good.
"The change, hopefully, will spark guys a little bit," Roenicke said. "We didn't do it for a lot of innings."
But the Brewers did it when they needed to the most. The win was a see-saw affair that featured a strong outing from Zack Greinke, a win for Rodriguez in his Brewers debut, a heart-pounding save from Axford and one thunderous swing by Weeks.
After retiring the first two batters in the ninth inning of a 6-6 game, Street issued a full-count walk to Prince Fielder. Weeks followed the free pass with the homer to center, which just cleared the outstretched glove of a leaping Dexter Fowler.
"It's always good to get the game-winning home run, regardless of the situation," said Weeks, who nearly homered in the sixth on a double high off the right-field wall. "That felt good right there."
In the Brewers' first save situation since they acquired the longtime closer Rodriguez on Tuesday, Roenicke gave the ball to Axford in the ninth, in relief of K-Rod. The right-hander gave up a run, as Todd Helton's single scored Carlos Gonzalez, but he earned his 24th save when Troy Tulowitzki grounded into a forceout. Rodriguez threw a scoreless eighth inning to earn the win in his first outing since July 8."I felt great," said Rodriguez, who allowed only one baserunner. "I thought my location was where it needed to be. As far as the velocity, I was fine. Hopefully I can continue to keep the same rhythm."
Said Roenicke: "That's the Frankie I'm used to seeing."
The Brewers had to overcome a three-run deficit and a hostile Coors Field crowd, which bellowed consistent boos after a seventh-inning play that gave the Brewers their first lead of the game and resulted in the ejections of Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta and manager Jim Tracy.Mark Kotsay, pinch-hitting for Ryan Braun -- who exited in the sixth and is day-to-day with left calf and hamstring tightness -- flied out to center field for the second out of the seventh inning. Fowler's throw home appeared to be in time to nail a tagging Hart, but home plate umpire Cory Blaser ruled Hart safe, giving the Brewers a 5-3 lead.
Iannetta was tossed moments later after vehemently arguing the call, and Tracy was ejected after coming to his catcher's defense.
"To see Chris Iannetta that animated, as you're heading out there to defend your player, it's clear there's something that's been badly missed," Tracy said. "You go back and look at the replay and he was clearly correct in being as frustrated as he was."
The Brewers entered the seventh trailing, 3-2, and began their rally with back-to-back singles from Josh Wilson and Jonathan Lucroy. After pinch-hitter Craig Counsell sacrificed both runners into scoring position, Hart was hit with a pitch from Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin.Nyjer Morgan followed with a bunt single that scored Wilson, and an error by the first baseman Helton -- whose errant glove throw home sailed over Iannetta's head -- allowed Lucroy to score, giving the Brewers a 4-3 lead. Kotsay's sacrifice fly then gave the Brewers a two-run advantage. But spurned on by the energy of their crowd, the Rockies staged a comeback of their own off the Milwaukee bullpen in their half of the seventh. Helton's double high off the right-field wall off reliever Kameron Loe scored Gonzalez and Eliezer Alfonzo, who earlier singled in his first at-bat after replacing Iannetta. Tulowitzki then singled to score Helton, giving Colorado a one-run lead. Two of the runs in the inning were charged to LaTroy Hawkins, who gave up hits to two of the three batters he faced. In the eighth, the Brewers tied the game and set the stage for the late-inning dramatics, when Yuniesky Betancourt, pinch-running for Casey McGehee, scored from third on pinch-hitter George Kottaras' groundout to reliever Matt Lindstrom.
Lindstrom checked Betancourt after fielding the ball and threw to Helton for the out, but Betancourt took off for home on the throw. Helton's return offering home pulled Alfonzo away from the plate, allowing the tying run to score easily.
"That comes down to judgment and a little instinct on the baserunner," Roenicke said. "If he thinks he can make it, he tries. If not, he's got to hold there."
The Brewers comeback attempt seemed unlikely early, as they initially struggled to produce any offense against the Rockies' Chacin, who gave up just two hits through the first 4 2/3 innings. But with two outs in the fifth, the right-hander walked Greinke on four pitches.
Hart, hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time since 2009, made Chacin pay by belting a home run to deep left to cut the lead to one run, turning the momentum to the Brewers' dugout."It was a hanging slider," said Chacin, who was charged with five runs on seven hits. "I was trying to throw a fastball in and then the slider away, but it stayed in too. He stayed with it and hit it out."
The Brewers know that their margin for error on the road is slim, and their miscues during the Rockies' half of the second were magnified.After retiring the first two batters, Greinke surrendered a triple to Ian Stewart. The right-hander recovered to strike out Fowler, but the third strike kicked away from the catcher Lucroy. The Milwaukee backstop got to the ball in time to make a play, but his throw to Fielder nearly hit Fowler, and the first baseman couldn't make the catch. That allowed Stewart to score, setting the stage for a big inning. Iannetta belted a double to left to score Fowler, who was running on the pitch. Chacin followed with a base knock in between the third baseman McGehee and Wilson, which plated Iannetta and gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead. But those three unearned runs were the only damage done off Greinke, who gave up five hits while striking out eight and walking two in six strong innings. He got out of a big jam in the fourth, when the Rockies loaded the bases with one out. But the right-hander struck out Chacin and got Gonzalez to ground out to end the threat. "I thought he threw the ball real well," Roenicke said. "We messed up that second inning for him, but he was good after that. Spotted his fastball well. I thought his breaking ball was good again, the last couple of games it's been good."
Nick Kosmider is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.