Wilson, Graves go on record to beat Rockies

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 21, 2004

CINCINNATI - Danny Graves felt like a rookie when he took the mound before his milestone save.

Graves recorded two assists in a perfect ninth to become the Cincinnati Reds' all-time saves leader, backing a solid effort by starter Paul Wilson in a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.

Graves moved past John Franco with his 149th career save, and major league-leading 18th in 22 opportunities this season.

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''I'm still shaking,'' said Graves, who got an assist on the final out despite bobbling Todd Helton's chopper in front of the mound.

''I've never been so nervous in my life,'' he said. ''All I was thinking was, 'Please hurry up and get this over with.' I was more nervous tonight than in my major league debut. I'm so happy it's over with.''

Wilson (6-0) outdueled Colorado's Joe Kennedy, who had a no-hitter through five innings. Wilson pitched eight solid innings and contributed a key hit to Cincinnati's three-run sixth inning.

''I can't say enough about our defense, and I'm super-pumped about (Graves),'' Wilson said. ''He's an unbelievable guy and an unbelievable closer.''

Wilson allowed one run, three hits and struck out six while extending his career-best winning streak to six games.

''Paul did an unbelievable job of pitching,'' catcher Jason LaRue said. ''The defense turned in some highlight-reel plays behind him, and he was moving the ball in and out and keeping it down. He was able to keep them off balance.''

Colorado manager Clint Hurdle was impressed by both starting pitchers.

''(Wilson) threw strikes to both sides of the plate,'' Hurdle said. ''He controlled our bat speed, but so did our guy. Kennedy pitched great.''

Kennedy (4-2) retired 15 of the first 16 he faced, including seven strikeouts, and allowed only Barry Larkin to reach on a walk. In seven innings, Kennedy allowed five hits and three runs - two earned - with one walk and a season-high nine strikeouts.

''Their guy did a good job of keeping the ball down and mixing it up,'' LaRue said.

With the Reds trailing 1-0, LaRue broke up the no-hit bid by lining a 1-1 pitch into right field for a clean single to lead off the sixth.

''It was a sinker away,'' he said. ''I just tried to go with it and I squeaked it through. Then we exploded a little bit.''

Wilson came up with a single up the middle with the corner infielders charging on the pitch.

''I actually heard (first baseman Todd) Helton say he was charging, and before I could get the bat off my shoulder, he was down my throat,'' Wilson said. ''I tried to hit a groundball at them, and I was lucky enough to hit it up the middle.''

The Reds tied it when Ryan Freel reached on a bunt single and Kennedy's throw got away from second baseman Denny Hocking covering first - allowing LaRue to score from second and Wilson to move to third.

''I knew he was going to try to bunt,'' Kennedy said. ''I rushed the throw a little bit, but that's still a play I've got to make.''

Larkin's sacrifice fly scored Wilson and Freel moved to third. Sean Casey made it 3-1 with a single to right.

Vinny Castilla gave Colorado a 1-0 lead with his third homer in four games and 12th of the season, an opposite-field shot to right with two outs in the fourth.

Wilson was more than happy to turn it over to Graves.

''I was gassed,'' Wilson said. ''I wanted him to get (the record) on my night. He's my closer.''

Notes: Colorado scored first for the first time since May 9 at Chicago, a span of nine games. … The game lasted 1 hour, 56 minutes, the shortest for the Reds since 2001 … The Rockies fell to 0-6 in road series this season. … Colorado lost for the 78th consecutive time on the road when trailing after eight innings, dating to a comeback win at Seattle on June 30, 2001. … Cincinnati's Austin Kearns celebrated his 24th birthday with his first hit in six at-bats since being reinstated from the disabled list Wednesday. … Reds 3B Brandon Larson, on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps, will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Chattanooga on Saturday. … Colorado placed RHP Scott Elarton on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.