07/01/2003 9:15 PM ET
Rox flex some muscle vs. D-Backs
Four Colorado home runs the difference in win
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies could do one of those before-and-after commercials.
A night after a loss that was blamed on poor execution, Ronnie Belliard led a Rockies club that did whatever, whenever. The result was a 7-4 victory to end the Arizona Diamondbacks' club-record win streak at 12 games Tuesday night at Coors Field in front of 25,209.
Belliard knocked a home run -- his first since April 29 -- to give the Rockies the lead in the seventh inning. He added another RBI on a surprise bunt to drive in Greg Norton from third in the eighth. Now Belliard, who won a game earlier this season on a surprise, ninth-inning squeeze bunt, has as many RBIs on surprise bunts (two) as home runs this season.
"Executing on pitching, executing on defense, executing in situations with guys on base, we needed to do it all," said Belliard, who went 3-for-5 and also had a double, and is batting .357 since returning from an ankle injury last Tuesday.
Such work helped Colorado become the first team since the 1998 Cleveland Indians to end two teams' win streaks of 10 or more games in the same season. Colorado halted a Los Angeles Dodgers streak at 10 games on May 27.
Todd Helton knocked two hits to extend his career-best hitting streak to 16 games.
But in the big picture, the Rockies (43-42) are fourth in the National League West. Arizona overtook the Rockies for third place with its hot streak, and Colorado is still eight games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants.
"We show up every day, we play hard every day," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "Some days we play better than others."
The Rockies were coming off a game when they didn't play well -- an 8-7, 12-inning loss to Arizona during which they blew scoring opportunities in four different innings, saw maligned closer Jose Jimenez give up four runs in the 12th, have its offense score three in the bottom of the inning and have Hurdle give himself a failing grade for "managing not to lose."
On Tuesday, Colorado erased a 4-0 deficit with timely home runs from Larry Walker, Preston Wilson and Jay Payton -- whose sixth-inning solo shot tied the game, 4-4 -- before Belliard's. The Rockies also benefited from clutch relief pitching, even if it did take three pitchers to get through the ninth inning.
The bullpen supported Denny Stark, who gave up a two-run Steve Finley homer and four runs in 4 2/3 innings of his debut after returning from an upper-back muscle injury, with 5 1/3 scoreless innings that included several big strikeout moments.
Reliever Nelson Cruz struck out Shea Hillenbrand with the bases loaded to end the fifth, Javier Lopez (2-0) gave up one hit in 1 1/3 innings, and Steve Reed escaped an eighth-inning jam by forcing Mark Grace to check swing at a 3-2 pitch for the final out with the bases loaded.
That set up a ninth that saw Hurdle return to his aggressive self.
Jimenez, booed upon entrance by fans that have watched him struggle all year, gave up a Finley double and an Alex Cintron single with one out. Hurdle jerked Jimenez from a save opportunity for the second time in two weeks. He went to Brian Fuentes, who struck out Luis Gonzalez, then to Justin Speier, who earned his second save of the season by striking out pinch hitter Robby Hammock.
Pulling through the nail-biting ninth meant Colorado had something to show for its game-long strong execution, which included:
Walker, criticized this year because he slumped early and has not hit for as much power as usual, cut the difference to 4-1 with a fourth-inning solo shot off Andrew Good (3-2). It was Walker's ninth homer of the season, but his third in eight games. Walker finished 2-for-4 to improve to .303.
Wilson, 0-for-9 over his previous two games, cut the difference to 4-3 with a two-run shot off good on the first pitch of a fifth-inning at-bat.
After the homers by Payton and Belliard off Good gave them the lead, the Rockies enhanced their chances with several big plays. Payton added an RBI single after Belliard's go-ahead homer. Greg Norton knocked a pinch-hit single to tie a club record with a single in his fourth straight pinch-hit at-bat, and hustled home on Belliard's bunt.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.