DENVER -- After hard swing after harder swing, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki connected with great force as he chopped the ground near home plate in frustration.
With a three-run ninth-inning deficit and two runners on base, Tulowitzki battled Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal to 11 pitches before striking out on a high 100-mph fastball. Rosenthal then got Justin Morneau to fly out to end the Cards' 9-6 victory Wednesday afternoon.
The end of the game will be remembered for the epic confrontation between Rosenthal, he of the fastball that often touches triple digits, and Tulowitzki, one of the best hitters and the premier power-hitting shortstop in the Majors.
"That was just like two heavyweights standing in the middle of the ring just swinging at each other," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That was impressive."
Tulowitzki was more bummed about the result than appreciative of the theatre of the at-bat.
"I was hoping to come through for the team and get [Rosenthal] in deeper water than he already was," Tulowitzki said. "It was a battle. I knew it was an important out for them and I knew it was an important battle for our team. It hurts."
Rosenthal threw 41 pitches in 1 1/3 innings for the save. He had walked Brandon Barnes to open the inning and walked Drew Stubbs with one out. Walks have been a problem for the closer this year -- 22 in 37 1/3 innings. But Tulowitzki, who leads the Rockies with 18 homers, took a called strike on an 87-mph changeup on the first pitch and figured he wasn't going to spend many pitches with the bat on his shoulder.
Rosenthal was up for the task.
"[Rosenthal] was just letting it eat," Matheny said. "You could tell he felt good. It was nice having a couple days off to get him in there fresh. ... He went from some real hard to some nice changeups, some ones down. Trevor stayed with it."
Tulowitzki swung through a 98-mph fastball on the second pitch, then fouled off seven of the next eight pitches. Some were fastballs at 97-100 mph. Others were changeups that, at 86-88 mph, were the equal of others' fastballs. He laid off a 98-mph heater on the sixth pitch, but stayed in attack mode. The 10th was a curveball that Tulowitzki also tapped foul.
While some hitters would be happy to say they extended an at-bat that far with pitches that electric, Tulowitzki wasn't taking that type of solace.
"I battled," Tulowitzki said. "But I've got to at least put the ball in play. That's got to be a better at-bat.
"I felt like I was on him. That's the difference with guys throwing 99-100, you have room for mistakes. But this is one of those series where I was fouling off pitches that I would usually put in play."