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OAK@COL: Helton crushes a grand slam in the first

DENVER -- Off-balance is an apt description for the Athletics' Coco Crisp with two strikes against him as he led off the ninth inning Wednesday night. "His rear end was over in our dugout," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

But the Rockies are totally out of whack, and that trumps being off-balance any day.

Crisp stuck his bat on a good Rafael Betancourt two-strike pitch and lifted the ball into right-center field for a single that opened a three-run ninth inning in a 10-8 outcome, which extended the Rockies' losing streak to seven games in front of 32,155 at Coors Field.

The previous games of the streak took a monotonous pattern: poor starting pitching that kept the offense playing catch-up. This one, though, had enough little mistakes and bad breaks to threaten to make a team feel unlucky. It's a passing posture the Rockies must fight to avoid.

"I don't like to think like that," Betancourt said. "If you start doing that, everything's going to be negative. I don't like to feel that way. But we're going through a tough time right now."

Todd Helton's first-inning grand slam in a five-run frame and Michael Cuddyer's two home runs, which accounted for three runs, kept the Rockies ahead from the bottom of the first to the fateful top of the ninth. All of the runs came off Athletics starter Tommy Milone, who lasted four innings.

But all along, the Rockies made just enough mistakes to keep the Athletics close enough to eventually hand Betancourt (1-2) his second blown save in 12 attempts and send the Rockies (24-37) to 0-8 in Interleague Play and a season-worst 13 games below .500.

"Obviously I think we're a better team than our record, but it's hard to argue with our record," said Cuddyer, who lifted his season homer total to nine. "But you don't give up. You can't throw the towel in with 100 games left. You still go out, play the game hard and hope things turn."

The Athletics (28-35) have won just nine of their past 27 games, but at least they can build on two straight victories.

"Here in this ballpark, you really do play all 27 [outs]," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We got behind a little bit early and fought our way back close enough to where we had a chance in the ninth."

The Rockies carried an 8-7 lead into the ninth. Crisp singled and moved to second on Jemile Weeks' sacrifice bunt. Betancourt tried to hold Crisp with fakes and pickoff moves, but when Crisp went, there was no chance to stop him. Collin Cowgill flied out to right, and Crisp just beat Cuddyer's throw home.

Former Rockies outfielder Seth Smith, who homered off Outman for two first-inning runs, followed with a double, and Inge doubled in the winning runs after the Rockies intentionally walked Josh Reddick. The hit made a winner of Jerry Blevins (1-0) and Ryan Cook survived a hit and a walk for his second save.

"It's tough for me because it's the whole team," Betancourt said. "I don't care how many runs we gave up. We lost the game. As a team, the win, we needed it. I didn't do my job."

It was a night full of jobs almost done.

Outman -- a left-hander who joined the Rockies in the trade that sent Smith to the A's -- also gave up a two-run home run to Brandon Moss, who has hit three homers in two games at Coors Field and has gone deep on four of his five hits since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento.

But despite the homers, and despite giving up five runs in five innings (which drove the Majors' worst starting pitching ERA up five points to 6.32), Outman's night bordered on passable. And he was unlucky.

In the fourth, Josh Donaldson hit what should have been a double-play grounder but second baseman Chris Nelson bobbled the ball and managed just one out. Moss' homer followed.

"Both the mistakes I made ended up in the seats," said Outman, who gave up six hits and a walk, and struck out four. "We're playing good baseball but we can't catch a break. Every time we make a mistake, it gets magnified. Just the way the game goes sometimes."

Nelson made a pair of fine glove plays at second and moved to third base in the ninth. Inge's game-winning hit came his way, but it had such vicious topspin that the ball nearly hit Nelson in the head.

"Brutal," Nelson said.

Now the Rockies are left trying to find their way back after another brutal night.

"It's gut-check time," Helton said. "It's time to see what we're made out of."

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