DENVER (AP) - Joe Saunders was on his back, his head woozy. The Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher knew he had to stay in the game.
``After I got knocked up a little bit on the ground, I thought 'I can't come out of this game,'' Saunders said after his collision at home with Colorado's Dexter Fowler in the bottom of the third. ``Our bullpen would have been toast the rest of the week.'
Saunders stayed in the game and pitched five more strong innings to help the Diamondbacks beat the Rockies 5-2 in the second game of their doubleheader Tuesday night.
Saunders (1-5) snapped a personal six-game losing streak dating to last season and earned Arizona a split of the two games. Colorado won the opener 12-4 when the Diamondbacks had to go deep into their bullpen.
``We were short and he gave us eight very strong innings and got stronger as the game went on,' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. ``It's always good when your starting pitcher throws that way.'
Saunders' outing helped a depleted bullpen. Right-hander Juan Gutierrez left the opener with tightness in his right shoulder and was unavailable for the nightcap. He is heading to Phoenix to get checked out and could land on the disabled list.
Saunders was able to go eight innings despite nearly getting knocked out of the game when he collided with Fowler, who was trying to score on a pitch that got away from catcher Miguel Montero with two outs in the bottom of the third.
Saunders and the throw from Montero arrived as Fowler was sliding, and Saunders applied the tag before flipping over and landing on his head.
``He got me good,' Saunders said. ``I caught the ball and he hit me at the same time. I was focusing on trying to not let him get much of the plate. It's kind of a blur. I remember flipping over and I remember my head smoking the ground. I just laid there because my head was a little numb.'
Saunders not only stayed in the game, he dominated a Colorado team that had 14 hits in the opener. He gave up six hits, struck out four and walked one and allowed just two hits over his last five innings to get his first win since Sept. 21, 2010, against Colorado.
``I feel like I got the monkey off my back for sure,' Saunders said of the win.
His only mistakes were solo home runs to Jason Giambi in the second and Ty Wigginton in the seventh. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez, who hit two homers in the first game, to finish the eighth. J.J. Putz pitched a perfect ninth to get his 13th save in as many chances.
``We were talking about whether we should take him out or not,' Gibson said. ``It was kind of his game, but J.J.'s been perfect, and ultimately we thought this was the best way to lock it down.'
Kelly Johnson gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead when he hit a one-out homer in the first. They led 2-1 then broke it open in the sixth.
Ryan Roberts led off with a walk and Johnson doubled him home. One out later, Stephen Drew doubled down the left-field line and with two outs Montero doubled Drew home to make it 5-1.
``We got some timely hits,' Gibson said.
And some timely pitching from Saunders.
``Joe pitched phenomenal,' Johnson said. ``That can't be overstated how big that is for a ballclub when you're in a doubleheader and you're trying to piece things together. When Joe goes eight innings, it makes it real easy.'
NOTES: Giambi was plunked in the right elbow by Saunders in the fourth but didn't come out until the eighth after his elbow started to swell. ... Gutierrez left the opener with a sore right shoulder after facing just two hitters in the sixth.
The Associated Press News Service
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