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Rockies' offence comes alive in win over Cubs

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The Canadian Press
7/21/2013 12:11:19 AM
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DENVER -- Todd Helton has conceded some things to age. He knows he still has a lot of baseball left in his near 40-year-old body.

The Colorado Rockies first baseman takes more days off but when he's in the lineup he wants to contribute. He did just that Saturday, getting three hits and reaching base four times to help lead the Rockies past the Chicago Cubs 9-3.

Carlos Gonzalez homered and Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario had two hits each for a Colorado offence that had scored eight runs in its previous five games.

Luis Valbuena homered and had two RBIs for the Cubs.

The younger players are getting more attention now but Helton showed he can still hit. He held a .320 career average coming into the season but he was hitting 65 points below that entering Saturday.

He is showing signs of his old self of late with 10 hits in his last 20 at-bats. The 2000 NL batting champion hopes his work in the cage will pay off in what is likely his last season.

"It feels good. I feel good at the plate, I feel comfortable, I feel in control," said Helton, who turns 40 in a month. "It doesn't always translate into success. I've tinkered and messed with it and hopefully it works. Hopefully I found something and I can ride it for a while."

Helton's 191st career three-hit game helped the Rockies break out of their slump, at least for one night. They were held to a single run by Jeff Samardzija on Friday night but found their rhythm against Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva for the second time this season.

"It's a team that has given me trouble throughout my career for some reason," Villanueva said. "I don't really look that much into it but today it was strange. I didn't really feel like myself out there."

The Rockies' offence woke up in the bottom of the fourth. Helton started it with a one-out single and scored on a groundout. Juan Nicasio walked to put runners on the corners and Fowler followed with a two-run triple to make it 3-1.

"That was a big hit by Dex," manager Walt Weiss said. "I have a lot of confidence in our offence. I know we've struggled but it's a good offensive club and I stick by that."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the walk to Nicasio was the key to the Rockies' fourth inning.

"That kind of changed the game around, walking him on a 3-2 slider," he said. "Then throwing Fowler a 3-2 fastball. It was a little backwards."

Colorado blew it open in the fifth. Gonzalez led off with his NL-leading 26th home run into the second deck above the Rockies' bullpen, and three straight singles made it 5-1 and chased Villanueva.

"That was a good swing," Gonzalez said of his 433-foot homer. "As soon as I hit the ball I knew it was out of the ballpark. I didn't know where it was going to land but I knew I hit it pretty far."

Michael Bowden came on and surrendered an RBI single to Rosario. Charlie Blackmon walked and Fowler hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Helton to make it 7-1.

Helton scored twice and is now needs 26 hits before the end of the season to reach 2,500 for his career.

"When he's healthy he's going to give you good at-bats," Weiss said.

Villanueva (2-6) allowed seven runs on nine hits in four-plus innings. He is winless in his last eight starts and his last victory came in relief against Seattle on June 29.

Nicasio (6-4) allowed one run on three hits in five innings, striking out three and walking two to get his second straight win since being recalled from Triple-A on July 12. He beat Clayton Kershaw last week.

A warm night turned blustery as wind speeds reached 35 mph in the fourth inning. A strong gust coming in from right field helped keep Nate Schierholtz's drive to the wall from going out in the top of the frame, and food wrappers and plastic bags from the stands littered the field in the bottom of the inning.

"It seemed like it got caught in a little jet stream there, no doubt about it," Sveum said of Schierholtz's out.

The wind wasn't strong enough to hold Valbuena's drive in the third. He crushed a 92 mph fastball into the Rockies bullpen to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. It was his ninth homer of the season.

The Cubs got within 7-3 with single runs in the sixth and seventh, but Tulowitzki added to Colorado's cushion with a two-run double in the eighth.

NOTES: The Rockies placed RHP Rafael Betancourt (appendectomy) on the 15-day DL and recalled RHP Mitchell Boggs from Double-A Tulsa. ... Helton's double was the 578th of his career and ties him with Wade Boggs for 18th on the career list. ... Cubs rookie Junior Lake followed Friday's 3-for-4 debut with a single and a walk Saturday. ... The Rockies will send RHP Tyler Chatwood (5-3) against Chicago's Edwin Jackson (6-10) in Sunday's series finale.

Todd Helton (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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