The Colorado Rockies are surging this May instead of swooning.
With Memorial Day approaching, the Rockies actually are right on the heels of the NL West leaders, especially after going 5-2 on their recent home stand.
“Back on track,” Carlos Gonzalez said.
Indeed, they are.
Gonzalez homered and drove in two runs, Jorge De La Rosa pitched effectively into the sixth, and the Rockies beat Arizona 4-1 on Wednesday to take two of three from the Diamondbacks.
Dexter Fowler had two hits in his first start in the cleanup spot as the Rockies caught Arizona in the standings.
And with a San Francisco loss later in the day, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants now all are tied for first in the division at 26-21.
Last season, the Rockies started solidly enough, only to slide in May and fade the rest of the way to finish with a franchise-worst 98 losses.
After winning series over San Francisco and Arizona, the Rockies’ swagger has returned.
“This is a good feeling and creates a lot of motivation for us,” said Gonzalez, whose team was 18-29 last season at this point and 14 games out of first.
De La Rosa (6-3) kept up his mastery against Arizona at Coors Field, improving to 8-0 with a 1.38 earned-run average. He struck out five and allowed six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Relievers Edgmer Escalona and Matt Belisle bottled up Arizona to get the ball to Rex Brothers, who closed the ninth with Rafael Betancourt sidelined by a groin injury. It was Brothers’ first save of the season, prodded by some motivational words from catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
“He came out and said, ‘Pretend like it’s the eighth. I’m tired. Hurry up,’” Brothers said.
Trevor Cahill (3-5) didn’t have his best stuff early but found his groove and made it through six innings, allowing four runs. Cahill has allowed four earned runs or fewer in 28 consecutive starts, which is the longest active streak in the majors.
“It is tough here,” Cahill said. “The ball doesn’t move as much. But I got more command as the game went on.”
Gonzalez hit Cahill hard all afternoon, giving the Rockies an early lead when he sent a fastball over the right-field wall in the first. The player nicknamed CarGo drove in another run with a triple two innings later.
“Too good of a hitter to throw pitches down the middle,” Cahill said.
Manager Walt Weiss went with a rather unorthodox lineup, moving the speedy Fowler from his usual leadoff spot to cleanup. Weiss figured he would give Fowler a chance with Troy Tulowitzki receiving a rest day.
Fowler finished 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run.
There was some drama in the sixth when Fowler sent a high fly to right that appeared to hit off the wall in fair territory. But first base umpire Doug Eddings ruled it foul, which brought Weiss out to discuss the call.
The umpires briefly huddled on the field and headed in to look at the play, even though the hit in question didn’t appear to be a home run (only home runs can be reviewed).
Television replays confirmed Eddings made the correct call as a distinctive white mark was left on the green wall where the ball hit.
Trailing 4-0 in the fourth, the Diamondbacks scored a run when Wil Nieves’ double to left-center brought in Cody Ross, who led off the inning with a single. De La Rosa got Josh Wilson to fly out to prevent any further damage.
De La Rosa also worked his way out of a jam in the third after allowing a double by Cahill and walking Didi Gregorius. Paul Goldschmidt hit a soft roller to third to end the threat.
The hard-throwing De La Rosa’s start Wednesday had some personal significance. It was nearly two years to the day when he tore a ligament in his elbow pitching against the Diamondbacks at Coors Field. He later underwent Tommy John surgery.
He said it was a long journey back, but De La Rosa appears on the right track. He lowered his ERA this season from 3.58 to 3.40.
“I think I can get a little more strength in my arm, but I can’t complain,” De La Rosa said. “My velocity’s very good. All my breaking stuff is working very good. And I’m glad to feel the way I feel right now.”
Even though Tulowitzki is hitting so well at home this season, Weiss elected to keep his shortstop out of the starting lineup.
It’s all part of the plan to keep Tulowitzki healthy for a full season. They’re agreeing on dates he will rest – and sticking to it, no matter if he went, say, 2-for-4 with a homer as he did Tuesday night.
“We both knew coming into the season we had to do it this way,” Weiss said. “I don’t want to get into a situation where we say, ‘Well, he had two hits last night; I’m going to change my mind.’ That’s a trap.
“Of course, I want Tulo out there for 162 games. Who wouldn’t? But we knew we were going to have to be smarter than that coming in. Who plays 162 games anymore?”