DENVER (AP) -- Clint Barmes had the wind knocked out of him and a big welt on his forehead.
A small price to pay for a game-saving catch in the middle of a tight playoff race.
Colorado's second baseman made a diving grab in shallow right field to start a game-ending double play, preserving a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday that kept the Rockies 2 1/2 games ahead of the surging Atlanta Braves in the NL wild-card race.
"There's been pitches of the year, innings of the year -- that's the defensive play of the year," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said.
With runners on first and third and one out, Barmes sprinted into the outfield on Ryan Ludwick's flair. He dove headfirst for the ball, snaring it and firing to first base to double up Albert Pujols, who ran on contact.
Given the circumstances, Barmes doesn't think he's ever made a more important catch.
The welt on his head? He didn't even know it was there.
His wound could become as memorable as Matt Holliday scraping up his chin sliding into home plate during a win over San Diego in the NL wild-card tiebreaker in 2007.
But Colorado has to make it to the postseason first.
The Braves are charging hard, applying the pressure. Colorado's victory also kept the Los Angeles Dodgers' magic number at two for clinching the NL West title.
The Rockies are going all out to get in.
That's why Huston Street was called on for his first six-out save since Aug. 2, 2006, with Oakland. He allowed leadoff hits in both the eighth and ninth, but worked his way out of it.
Barmes provided help in the ninth.
Street was surprised that Ludwick even made contact on the pitch, thinking he'd put it in the perfect spot.
Nervous? No time for that.
"You're waiting to see what happens," said Street, who earned his first save in more than a month after sitting out with soreness in his biceps tendon. "You're just watching. You become a fan."
And the fan in him let loose when Barmes hauled in the catch and fired to first to get Pujols.
"I sprinted out to right field," Street said. "It was such a special moment, a special play."
Barmes was mobbed in the outfield, a moment he'll treasure.
"Unbelievable feeling," he said. "That was my contribution today. I didn't do much offensively."
Tracy doesn't expect him to -- as long as he keeps making plays in the field.
"I kept playing him through times when there were some offensive shortcomings," Tracy said. "I will never ever give up on Clint Barmes."
It was Street's 34th save in 35 chances this season.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had no qualms with how the game ended. He thought Pujols did the right thing by digging hard for third, assuming the ball would drop.
"It was just a great play," La Russa said. "He's a great athlete and he got a jump and he made a great play."
St. Louis went with a patchwork lineup a day after clinching the NL Central title. Yadier Molina (sore knee) and outfielder Matt Holliday (sickness) were held out for precautionary reasons.
The Cardinals still have plenty left to play for as they eye home-field advantage in the NL playoffs. They trail the Dodgers by three games for the best mark in the league.
Jorge De La Rosa (16-9) became just the second lefty in Rockies history to reach 16 wins. He gave up three runs and four hits in five innings.
He wiggled out of a bases-loaded predicament in the fourth, striking out Pujols and Ludwick.
De La Rosa couldn't escape a jam in the third, though. Pujols drilled a one-out double into the right-center gap, clearing the bases.
Kyle Lohse (6-9) gave up four runs (three earned) and six hits in five innings. The righty is trying to make a case to be in the rotation come playoff time.
"I felt like my pitches were good, sharp. I just got bad results," he said.
Colorado trailed 3-2 heading into the fifth, but an RBI double by Carlos Gonzalez tied the game and Todd Helton's bloop single put the Rockies up for good.
"You kind of walk away shaking your head wondering how they got four runs out of that because I feel like I was hitting my spots," Lohse said. "The ball was moving. ... You can't beat yourself up for guys getting little hits that were finding holes."
Or when a potential hit gets turned into a game-ending double play.
"(Barmes) just made a great play and that was it," Pujols said. "That's how you win big games."
NOTES: Molina is still hobbled after being struck on the left knee by a foul ball Saturday. He will be re-evaluated in Cincinnati. ... Cardinals INF Brendan Ryan left the game in the sixth with a bruised right index finger after he was struck on the hand while bunting.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)