Rockies win seventh in a row
Sweep caps 9-1 homestand, draws Dodgers closer
DENVER -- The most successful 10-game homestand in Rockies history finished with third baseman Garrett Atkins finally having a chance to feel at home.
Atkins' two-run homer in the third inning Thursday afternoon was his first at Coors Field in nearly five months. It was part of a five-run inning that helped the National League Wild Card-leading Rockies to their seventh consecutive victory, 5-1 over the Reds.
Before facing the Mets, D-backs and Reds at Coors, the Rockies had been swept in three road games against the Giants to extend their losing streak to five games. But they won 9-of-10 against their lower-division visitors, and finished by sweeping the D-backs in three and the Reds in four. Now they own a 4 1/2-game Wild Card lead over the Giants and are two back of the NL West-leading Dodgers.
"We needed to play good baseball, beat some of the teams we should be able to beat and took care of business at home," Atkins said.
Atkins, who homered at Coors for the first time since April 25 against the Dodgers' James McDonald, typified a key aspect of the recent success. The Rockies are doing it while dealing with injuries. Atkins was in because Ian Stewart missed the final three games of the series with back tightness.
"I didn't realize it had been that long, but it felt good to put some swings like that together in a game and have some quality at-bats," said Atkins, who singled in a run in Wednesday night's 4-3 victory over the Reds.
Colorado was also playing without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, out with similar back issues to what Stewart is experiencing. Whether it's been late-season trade acquisitions, veteran pickups last winter and during the year, or products of the Minor League system, the Rockies have plugged them all in and kept winning.
"It speaks volumes as to the depth and the strength of this organization," said manager Jim Tracy, whose team meets the Padres on Friday night in the opener of a nine-game, 10-day road trip that also includes sets with the Giants and the D-backs.
Add to the list of the injured right-handed starter Jose Contreras, who left after three innings with a right quadriceps strain. Contreras, who gave up four hits and one run in three innings, was trying to beat out an infield grounder.
Jhoulys Chacin replaced Contreras and pitched a scoreless fourth, with a strikeout and a walk. Juan Rincon (3-2 with the Rockies, 4-2 overall) struck out five and held the Reds to two hits in three innings. Fellow reliever Matt Belisle struck out two and held the Reds to one hit in two innings.
"In the case of Juan Rincon and Matt Belisle, that's as good as we've seen them," Tracy said.
The Rockies trailed, 1-0, before Seth Smith singled in a run, Jason Giambi doubled in two more runs and Atkins hit his ninth homer of the season, all off Reds starter Kip Wells (1-4).
Giambi is 3-for-8 with six RBIs since joining the Rockies on Sept. 1. He was released in August by the Athletics and spent the interim regaining his swing at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Giambi was starting because first baseman Todd Helton was a day removed from the birth of he and wife Christy's second daughter.
"I feel great, excited to be here," Giambi said. "I've just kind of slid right in and joined the parade."
The spark for that inning, however, was Eric Young Jr., who was in the lineup at second base because Tulowitzki's injury required Clint Barmes to move to shortstop.
Young had singled solidly on Wells' first pitch of the first inning. With two down in the first, Young bunted toward the left side. Wells couldn't field it cleanly, and Young took first. Young also stole second, and a rally had begun.
"That's what they need me to do, try to get on base any way I can, and the bunt sort of presented itself," said Young, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, his first two Major League steals and two runs, and is 6-for-11 in his past four games, which include three starts.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.