5/26/2013 10:06 P.M. ET
Rockies vow not to take last-place Astros lightly
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- The next four games loom as opportunity for the Rockies, but that opportunity could be a trap.
The schedule calls for Interleague games at Houston on Monday and Tuesday, then games with the Astros at Coors Field on Wednesday and Thursday. The Astros enter the series at 14-36. Only the Marlins have fewer wins, with 13.
The Rockies, surprise contenders in the National League West, can't afford to assume victory.
"I've watched quite a few of Houston's games this year, and their record isn't good, but it seems to me they've lost a lot of close games," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "Plus, we're facing Bud Norris tomorrow, and if you look at his home numbers [3-1, 1.93 ERA in six starts], we've got our work cut out for us. Just because their record is what it is doesn't mean we can't take them lightly."
The Rockies fell out of a three-way tie for first place with the D-backs and Giants in the NL West with a 7-3 loss in San Francisco on Sunday, falling a game back, but just last season, they lost 98 games.
"We can't let anything go to our heads," Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "We have to play those games with the same intensity that we're playing these three games [with the Giants]. We have to keep our momentum. We can't stop pushing the pedal.
"We've been working hard since Spring Training. Not a lot of people believed in us, nobody counted on the Rockies. It's been surprising for them, not surprising for us. Obviously, nobody gets an award for being in first place now, but it's always good to be around that area."
So the attitude from a couple of the star players is appropriate, and manager Walt Weiss plans to make sure the entire team feels that way.
"It's something I certainly will touch on," Weiss said. "This is still the big leagues, and you've got to respect whoever lines up against you. Houston might be struggling now, but if we don't go down there and play the game hard, play the game right, we'll go down there and get beat twice."
Cuddyer hopes another DL trip isn't in future
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer feared his successful return from the disabled list was over already.
Cuddyer had three doubles and a home run in three games against the Giants -- his first games since returning to the lineup after missing 14 games with a bulging disc in his neck -- but left Sunday's 7-3 loss after being hit on the right forearm near the wrist with a pitch by reliever George Kontos in the sixth inning. He stayed in to run the bases, but the pain didn't improve, so he left after the inning.
X-rays revealed no break, but Cuddyer's forearm was heavily wrapped, and he doesn't know what the immediate future holds. He said it's too early to tell whether he has to go to the disabled list.
"I was worried [about a bone being broken], no question about it, but fortunately, it's not," Cuddyer said.
Asked if he could grip the bat or throw, Cuddyer said, "Not today, maybe tomorrow."
The incident reminded Cuddyer of when he returned from a back injury in 2011 with the Twins, but three days later, then-Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie drilled him on the left wrist with a pitch. Cuddyer did not have to go on the DL then.
Helton's slump continues in San Francisco finale
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies veteran first baseman Todd Helton went 0-for-3 with a walk, strikeout and run scored in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Giants and is 3-for-26 (.115) in his past 10 games.
The slump drops Helton's average to .225 and his on-base percentage to .308 on-base percentage, with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 31 games.
Helton was 2-for-4 in Friday night's 5-0 victory, but has generally struggled more often than not. With second-year man Jordan Pacheco hitting .300 in part-time duty at first base and right fielder Michael Cuddyer also able to play the position, Helton understands he'll have to improve to maintain regular playing time.
At 39 and in the last year of his contract, Helton hopes to contribute offensively while sharing time at the position. There is a drop-off defensively when Helton is not in the lineup, but the Rockies need more than Helton has given them from the No. 6 slot in the lineup.
"I'm grinding," Helton said. "If you could see me in the [batting] cage, it's really good. But it hasn't translated over into the field yet. It's a big hurdle. I'm just trying to find one thing that clicks. When it does, I'm going to be right back on track. Until then, I've got to start producing."
Blackmon relies on routine with limited opportunities
SAN FRANCISCO -- Outfielder Charlie Blackmon hit .336 with 10 doubles, two triples and three home runs with Triple-A Colorado Springs before being called up to the Rockies on May 12. But maintaining his swing with sporadic playing time in the Majors has proved a challenge.
Blackmon entered Sunday's finale hitting 4-for-20 (.200) with a homer and a walk in 21 plate appearances. He was not in the lineup against the Giants, but after having stints in the Majors the past two seasons, he believes he has a sound approach for his role.
Blackmon, who turns 27 on July 1, said veteran former teammate Jason Giambi gave him valuable pointers and he has since put together a routine that makes him comfortable.
"This isn't the first time I've done this, since I've done it the last two years," Blackmon said. "The most important thing is to embrace it and to be mentally locked in, anticipating getting in the game, getting your at-bat, playing in the field. That's what I try to do. It mostly comes down to mental toughness, which is hard for young players that don't have as much experience."
Weiss says injury didn't affect Betancourt in loss
SAN FRANCSICO -- After missing several days with a right groin issue, Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt suffered his first blown save Saturday by walking 10th-inning leadoff man Brandon Crawford, then giving up an inside-the-park homer to Angel Pagan in a 6-5 loss to the Giants. But manager Walt Weiss said he didn't think the injury affected his closer.
"I didn't see anything," Weiss said. "Raffy said he felt fine, so he was going to be there in a save situation. I've seen the replay, and it looked like a breaking ball that stayed up a little bit. But Raffy has been really, really good, but nobody's perfect in this league. Up until now, he's been about as close to perfect as he can be.
"I thought he was throwing the ball well, his velocity was about what it normally is. It was just one of those days where he gave up a walk and a hit."
CarGo becomes first Rockie to reach McCovey Cove
SAN FRANCISCO -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's homer into McCovey Cove at AT&T Park on Saturday was the 90th of what the Giants call "Splash Hits," the 27th by an opponent. It also was the first by a Rockies player.
Gonzalez came close during the Rockies' earlier trip to San Francisco this season. That home run bounced into the cove. To count as a "Splash Hit," it has to land on the fly.
"I don't know, I guess it's cool," Gonzalez said. "A homer is a homer, it doesn't matter where you hit it. It's special to contribute to the team."
Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds hit 34 into the water.
• The Rockies obtained Minor League infielder Drew Garcia from the White Sox on Sunday for a player to be named and assigned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Garcia hit .222 with 12 RBIs in 24 games at Triple-A Charlotte. Garcia is the grandson of former Major League manager Dave Garcia, who served on the Rockies' staff as a special adviser when Buddy Bell was manager.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.