NEW YORK -- There's a reason baseball is called a game of inches.
The Rockies -- literally -- edged out a 3-1 win at Citi Field on Monday night by taking advantage of two costly eighth-inning blunders by the Mets, and overcame a brilliant outing by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey -- likely the most intimidating factor in the team's four-game set against New York.
Colorado's bullpen almost blew the one-run eighth-inning lead the team took in the top of the frame, but with the bases loaded and two outs, reliever Matt Belisle narrowly beat out -- by no more than an inch -- a sliding Jordany Valdespin at first base to kill the rally. Rockies first baseman Tyler Colvin fielded Valdespin's sharp ground ball down the line, then tossed to Belisle for the out -- though Mets manager Terry Collins darted from the dugout to argue the call along with Valdespin.
"At that moment, you're not thinking anything," Valdespin said. "All you want to do is go in safe."
Replays later indicated that Valdespin was out, but the play likely shouldn't have been as close as it was, as Belisle landed off-balance after the pitch and had to recover before running to cover the bag.
"What could have been a fairly easy play after Colvin makes the terrific back-handed play ended up being a bang-banger, just because of a little bit of a late break," manager Jim Tracy said.
It was a busy eighth inning.
Jonathan Herrera opened the top of the frame with a bunt single between the mound and first base, but Mets reliever Josh Edgin's glove-toss to first baseman Ike Davis sailed past the bag to allow Herrera to advance. He scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball two batters later after advancing on a sacrifice bunt.
Colorado ultimately tacked on an insurance run in the ninth on a pinch-hit RBI single by Ramon Hernandez off Jon Rauch.
Even though Colorado will -- at least temporarily -- return to a five-man rotation this week with Jhoulys Chacin's return from the disabled list, the Rockies didn't let Alex White pitch far beyond the team's set 75-pitch limit for members of its four-man rotation.
White threw 29 pitches in the first inning -- the only frame in which he allowed a run -- and ultimately departed after four innings with 83 pitches. Piggyback reliever Guillermo Moscoso pitched 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball as Colorado's tandem system worked to full effect.
"Our job is to keep the team in it and hand it off to the guy behind us," White said. "But our bullpen is really good, and we're doing our jobs right now and its helping us win.
"It's great, that's what we're supposed to do. The Mets are a good team, but me and [Moscoso] were pretty good keeping them down tonight."
As for Dickey, the knuckleballer held the Rockies to just one big hit over seven innings -- a game-tying solo home run by Tyler Colvin in the fifth -- but that was the only run they put on the board against him. In all, Dickey allowed just three hits and struck out six before he was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"No matter who was pitching, we didn't score. So it's always easy to say, 'Well, you could have left [Dickey] out there,'" Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And had he given up a run [if I left him in], nobody [would say] anything because he gave up the run. But we just aren't hitting."
Overall, Colorado's pitching staff did a formidable job of shutting down New York's lineup, and Rafael Betancourt sealed the deal with his 24th save of the season. That, coupled with getting to the worst bullpen in the National League, was and will be the Rockies' formula for success for their four-game set against the Mets.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.