D-Backs take lead in race for home-field edge


PHOENIX (AP) -- Miguel Batista helped Arizona reduce its magic number for clinching the NL West to one, and made a pitch for a spot in the playoff rotation.

Batista won for the first time in more than a month, and Mark Grace showed there's plenty of life left in his bat as the Diamondbacks held off the Colorado Rockies 8-6 Friday night.

The Arizona bullpen wasted almost all of a 7-0 lead before
Byung-Hyun Kim pitched a perfect ninth for his 35th save in 41 tries.

"It got a little more exciting than we would like it,'' manager Bob Brenly said. "But the bottom line is we came away with the victory.''

The defending World Series champions can capture their second
straight division crown, and third in four years, with a victory
over Colorado on Saturday or a San Francisco loss to Houston.

Arizona clinched a tie for first, but the Giants hold the
tiebreaker because they won the season series.

"We'd rather not count on them losing,'' Grace said of the
Giants, "because the way they're playing that's probably not going
to happen. We need to go out there and win the baseball game
tomorrow. If we play anything like we did tonight, we'll do that.''

The victory, coupled with St. Louis' loss to Milwaukee, gave Arizona a one-game lead in the race for home-field advantage should the Diamondbacks and Cardinals meet in the division series.

If Arizona and St. Louis finish with the same record, the Cardinals would have the home-field edge because they won the season series.

Junior Spivey homered, and Rod Barajas had a two-run single and
a double as the Diamondbacks improved to 9-0 at home against the
Rockies this season. Steve Finley was 3-for-5 with two doubles, and
Tony Womack was 3-for-4.

Grace had three hits and two RBI, including a run-scoring
double in the eighth. He tied Babe Ruth for 35th on the career list
with 506 doubles.

"Same lifestyle,'' Grace joked. "He's still peeking over the shoulder for the home runs, but it's not bad company to be in.''

Batista (8-9), who was 0-2 in his previous six starts since beating Cincinnati on Aug. 22, had some strong performances in last year's postseason -- out of the bullpen and as a starter.

"You're asking the wrong man,''' Batista said when asked about
the playoff rotation. "Ask the man with the mustache (Brenly).''

Batista had a 7-0 lead until he walked pinch-hitter Ross Gload
with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh.

Batista "had some problems with the fake fingernail'' on the
middle finger of his right hand between the fifth and sixth
innings, Brenly said.

Left-hander Mike Myers relieved Batista and gave up a three-run
triple to Larry Walker off the center-field wall.

"The one thing I'll say about this ballclub is we have never
rolled over and closed the book early on a game,'' Rockies manager
Clint Hurdle said. "We play 27 outs, we play hard. But that hole
was a little bit too big to overcome.''

Juan Pierre doubled in two runs off Mike Koplove with two outs
in the eighth to cut it to 7-6, but was thrown out trying to steal
third to end the inning. Pierre attempted the steal on his own.

"There shouldn't even be a gamble on that play,'' Hurdle said.
"A home run puts you up by one. A base hit he's going to score all
over the ballpark. We've talked, I've got no more to say about
that. ... We battled back to get to that point and it kind of took
the heart out of us.''

It was the latest in a series of bullpen failures for Arizona.

"It can't concern us at this point, because we have no options.
These are our guys,'' Brenly said, "and they've pitched well for
the overwhelming majority of the season.''

The Diamondbacks scored seven runs on seven hits off Denny
Neagle (8-11) in the first two innings.

Neagle, still bothered by a sore arm and perhaps making his
final start for Colorado, hit two batters and Barajas drove in two
runs with a two-out bloop single in Arizona's four-run first.

"It's tough, to be honest with you,'' Neagle said when asked if
he wanted to be traded. "A couple of weeks ago I would have said
yeah, I'd love to come back here and try to be a leader of this

"I signed here for one important reason, to try to get the
Rockies to the postseason. Obviously, that hasn't worked out to
this point, and I'm not really sure what direction these guys are
going to go.''

Game notes
Plate umpire Larry Poncino was treated for a cut but stayed
in the game after he was hit on top of the head by Colorado
pinch-hitter Jack Cust's bat in the fifth inning. ... Colorado will
start Cory Vance on Saturday instead of Victor Santos, who pitched
two innings in relief of Neagle. ... Curt Schilling said he thinks
Randy Johnson should win the NL Cy Young Award.