'Exciting' young players deliver for Rockies
Gonzalez leads group helping keep Wild Card in sights
DENVER -- As crunch time nears, the Rockies continue to do more this season with a bevy of young players.
Four of the club's position players in Sunday's starting lineup spent time with Triple-A Colorado Springs this year. They've received key contributions lately at the top of the order from Eric Young Jr. and Dexter Fowler. Infielder Jonathan Herrera filled in admirably when Troy Tulowitzki went down with injury.
Rookie pitchers Matt Reynolds, Jhoulys Chacin and Esmil Rogers have been called upon to fill the shoes of injured veterans. These efforts, as Rockies manager Jim Tracy said, have helped keep the Rockies afloat in the National League Wild Card race.
"There's a dynamic skill set here to some of our young players," Tracy said. "It's not good, it's exciting. You know where they're at right now. But you know there are mountains to climb with them."
None has been more impressive this season than outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who leads the team in homers, RBIs, runs, stolen bases and batting average.
"If this guy makes them throw it over the plate, the majority of the time he's standing up there, wow," Tracy said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another name that hits the ball harder on a line than some of the ones we've seen."
Entering Sunday, Gonzalez has at least one extra-base hit in each of his last five games and is batting .449 with 12 homers and 31 RBIs in his last 24 games at Coors Field. Fowler leads the big leagues in triples while Young has stolen seven bases in his 13 games since being called up.
Chacin has struck out 109 batters in 102 innings this season, allowing just one run in his last 14 2/3 innings.
Tulo sets example for situational hitting
DENVER -- One thing that has plagued the Rockies during their dismal stretches away from Coors Field has been poor situational hitting. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is hoping such efforts at home will jump-start the team ahead of time.
In Saturday's 5-3 win over the Dodgers, Tulowitzki drove one seeing-eye ground ball into right field for an RBI single. Later in the game, he unexpectedly nearly laid down a bunt single.
"It's the type of baseball where if we play the game that way, we're a real good team," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He's a thinking-man's player. When you combine that with what he can do physically on the field, he's a very special young player."
After Sunday's series finale, the Rockies will play six of their next seven games -- three against the Giants and three against the Padres, both ahead of Colorado in the National League West standings -- away from home.
Entering Sunday, the club was 42-21 at home while 25-40 on the road. The Rockies have been shut out in four of their last six road losses.
"I don't think I need to deliver a message to these guys," Tulowitzki said. "It's just me playing the game, doing the small things to win games. Just because I'm the four-hole hitter doesn't mean the team expects me to hit home runs. I can get things done in a lot of different ways."
In dog days, Helton heating up for Rox
DENVER -- Todd Helton has been a key part of the Rockies' last two postseason runs. They know they'll need him to keep up his current pace if they want to see another this year.
The first baseman, as he's been accustomed to doing in August, has started to heat up for the Rockies after returning from the disabled list on Aug. 3. On Saturday, he hit a solo homer to mark the first time he's gone yard in back-to-back games since Aug. 30-Sept. 1 last year.
"I feel healthy and I feel like I'm contributing a little bit," Helton said. "I've got to drive in some runs. Those guys are going to be on base in front of me. I've got to be ready to hit."
Entering Sunday, Helton was hitting .313 with hits in 13 of his 19 games since coming off the DL with a sore lower back. His career hits (443), doubles (107), RBIs (231), batting average (.364) and slugging percentage (.619) in August are his best numbers of any month.
"He looks an awful lot like the Todd Helton we had last year, offensively," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
Troy Tulowitzki came out of Sunday's game in the eighth because manager Jim Tracy said the team wanted to take a precautionary approach with the shortstop, who had experienced some tightness in his groin earlier in the day. "We just felt like if we pushed any further, for him to take another at-bat or stretch out in the field, [trainer Keith Dugger] told me that would not be a very good thing to have happen. We'd be putting ourselves in danger there." Tracy said he hoped the injury would not keep Tulowitzki out of the lineup. ... Tracy said that after Aaron Cook's two strong rehab outings with Double-A Tulsa this week, the right-hander remains in line for the spot start on Thursday against the Phillies. ... Third baseman Ian Stewart did not start Sunday for the third straight game after apparently injuring his side while swinging in the cage on Friday. ... Jeff Francis and Matt Daley will throw simulated games on Tuesday in San Francisco before hopefully embarking on short rehab stints with Triple-A Colorado Springs before the team's season ends on Sept. 6. ... The Sky Sox set a single-season attendance record on Saturday night when the 5,426 fans in attendance set the club's season total at 305,168. It tops the previous best of 303,048 in 2008 and the club has five home games remaining.
Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.