09/17/08 1:11 AM ET
Rockies win, all but officially eliminated
Jimenez strong for seven innings, gets plenty of support
By Jeff Birnbaum / MLB.com
One more Dodgers win or one more Rockies loss the rest of the way will end Colorado's season.
Not much has gone as planned this season for the Rockies. Coming off their first World Series appearance, the Rockies were expected to make another Rocktober run with an explosive offense, record-setting defense and a good, young pitching staff.
Instead, the Rockies got off to a slow start and tumbled in the standings after injuries decimated them. That vaunted offense struggled with runners in scoring position, the defense was stellar but not perfect and the pitching staff never lived up to its billing.
So what was clearly painted in big purple letters for a while became nearly a certainty when the Dodgers beat the Pirates earlier Tuesday. "We knew the whole year what kind of team we had potentially," Chris Iannetta said. "But injuries hurt us and we didn't play as well as we'd like."
On Tuesday, they played like they were expected to all season.
Featuring a lineup without slugger Matt Holliday, who got a day off, Colorado scored its most runs since putting up a 13-spot against the Nationals on Aug. 16.
The Rockies battered Padres starter Shawn Estes for six runs on 13 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Colorado scored a run in the third on Garrett Atkins' groundout and added two more in the fourth on Clint Barmes' double to deep left.
Jeff Baker, who started at third in place of Ian Stewart, finished a triple short of the cycle and hit a three-run home run in the fifth to give the Rockies a 6-2 lead. It was his first home run since July 27, a span of 46 games.
Baker was an integral member of the team earlier this season and was even named Player of the Week in June. But he cooled down considerably, and with the emergence of Stewart at third and the consistent play of Barmes at second, Baker became the odd man out.
"He showed up with that barrel tonight," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's good to see. He's done it for us before. He's still working on things, trying to become more consistent, and that's a challenge when you're not getting everyday playing time."
Padres knuckleballer Charlie Haeger wasn't much better in relief of Estes. He walked three straight to start the sixth, and Iannetta crushed a 1-1 knuckleball into the left-field bleachers for his first career grand slam.
"That's the first one I've ever hit in Major League Baseball, so it was fun for me," he said. "I knew I got it when I made contact."
The Rockies got a strong start from Ubaldo Jimenez, who was dominant after giving up a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the first. Jimenez (11-12) didn't surrender another run and gave up just three hits, striking out nine in seven innings.
He had trouble locating his pitches in the first, but he relaxed after that and had much better control of his fastball and breaking pitches.
"He's capable of games like tonight," Padres manager Bud Black said. "When you combine the velocity and the assortment of offspeed pitches, he can be devastating. He's got as good of stuff as anyone in the league."
The Rockies are capable of games like Tuesday, too. They just couldn't prove it as often as they needed to this season.
Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.