DENVER -- The situation looked out of Rockies reliever Esmil Rogers' control Friday night.Trying to put a cork in a crazy game with the D-backs that the Rockies trailed by two runs in the fourth inning, Rogers gave up a Jason Kubel single and a Justin Upton double. He knocked down a hard grounder by Miguel Montero and stared at the dangerous Chris Young. "I was thinking, 'I'm going to strike out the next hitter,'" Rogers said. "That was the first time in my life I felt like that." It was a sequence of a lifetime. Rogers fanned Young and Paul Goldschmidt, on curveballs after beating them with fastballs reaching 97 mph. His team tied the game in the bottom of the inning, and ultimately Todd Helton's RBI double in the eighth gave the Rockies a 7-6 victory at Coors Field in front of 30,642. The Rockies improved to 2-2 so far during the first homestand of the season, which will be nine games, all against National League West opponents. Both victories were after early misfortune. Wednesday's 17-8 triumph over the Giants came after the Rockies blew an early six-run lead. Friday's was after Juan Nicasio -- in his first home game since suffering a fractured neck on the Coors mound last Aug. 5 -- lasted just 2 2/3 innings and left with the Rockies trailing, 6-2. Troy Tulowitzki knocked three hits and walked once, and Dexter Fowler and Ramon Hernandez belted their first home runs of the season. Helton's game-winning hit accounted for his third RBI, and it was the 557th double -- 23rd-most all time -- of his career. But this game belonged to Rogers, whose escape and his strong 2 2/3 innings with three strikeouts settled the game after Nicasio's struggles, and fellow relievers Matt Belisle (two scoreless innings), Rex Brothers (1-1) and Rafael Betancourt (2-for-2 on save chances). The bullpen combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings Friday, and has a 1.71 ERA through seven games. "When they had second and third with nobody out, to get out of that, that's what won us the game," said Helton, whose winning hit came off Bryan Shaw (1-1), after Carlos Gonzalez singled and took third, when Goldschmidt didn't handle a pickoff throw to first base. The Rockies are still somewhat a mystery during the early portion of this season. Some of their ills -- such an offensive inconsistency that has seen them have big games like Wednesday and Friday but also struggle to score in other games, and nine errors -- figure to even out over time. It is a veteran lineup with solid defenders all over the field. The Rockies face another major question that one can't assume will be answered positively. A rotation that saw the starters go seven innings in two of the season's first three games, but has seen just one starter last as many as five innings this homestand. But the ability to put together mature at-bats and pitch well out of the bullpen -- as long as the arms aren't overused -- argues well for the Rockies. As long as those traits stay in place, victories like Friday's are possible. "That was a character-building win right there," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. Before the game, first responders, Rockies training staff and Denver neurosurgeon Peter Witt, all of whom formed a chain that allowed Witt to repair Nicasio's C-1 vertebrae last year, were honored. Nicasio received two warm pregame applauses, one while warming up, the other just before first pitch. The roars grew when Nicasio retired the first two batters, but the night quickly turned ugly. Nicasio, at times showing displeasure with plate umpire Mark Wegner's strike zone, walked the next three and gave up Goldschmidt's two-run single. Miguel Montero homered in the D-backs' four-run third. But Nicasio admitted he didn't control his fastball. "They were close but the umpire didn't call them strikes, so they must've been balls," Nicasio said. Tracy said he asked veteran catcher Hernandez, who concurred with the umpire. Tracy removed Nicasio after a walk to D-backs pitcher Daniel Hudson -- his fifth of the night, after he had walked just 19 in 78 2/3 innings last year between the callup and the frightening accident. Nicasio gave up six runs and five hits and struck out three in 2 2/3 innings. But Hudson said he had "just terrible command tonight." Both homers came off him. Helton's two-run single in the fourth tied the game at 6, and chased Hudson after 10 hits and six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Both bullpens performed well.
The D-backs entered with a 1.83 relief ERA and gave up just one run. But the star Friday was Rogers, who bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, and the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, for three seasons before Tracy put him in the bullpen this spring. Rogers also pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Thursday and has gone 5 2/3 scoreless this season."This is the best I've felt in my life," Rogers said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.