Homers help Rockies increase NL WC edge

Homers help Rockies increase NL WC edge

SAN DIEGO -- Twenty-three innings is a long time for a team in playoff position to go without a run. As Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado put it, "It felt like two months."

Arenado's fifth-inning leadoff homer, plus solo shots by Ian Desmond and Trevor Story not only helped the Rockies score again, but helped them end a four-game losing skid with a 4-1 win over the Padres at Petco Park on Friday night.

Righty Jon Gray held the Padres to one run and five hits while fanning eight in six innings as the Rockies improved their handle on the second National League Wild Card spot.

Gray ties Padres in knots again

Colorado holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals, who beat the Pirates, 4-3, on Friday. St. Louis leapfrogged the Brewers, who lost to the Cubs, 5-4, and dropped to two games behind the Rockies.

NL Wild Card standings

Arenado's 35th homer of the season went the opposite way to right field against Padres starter Jordan Lyles, who was with the Rockies through late July before being released. Arenado, just 3-for-15 the previous four games, showed up at Petco Park five hours before the game to work on staying tall and powerful through his swing. It paid off.

"It's not something that I've mastered, obviously," Arenado said. "But it's good that it showed up."

Arenado's early work pays off

Desmond's homer, also the opposite way, was his sixth in a season severely limited by left hand and right calf injuries, and it ended a 141 at-bat homerless streak. Story, who opened the seventh against Lyles with his 22nd homer, showed up for early hitting with Arenado (and Pat Valaika).

Story's solo jack

Lyles pitched four perfect frames before Arenado's homer. He completed six innings for the first time since April 3, 2016, his third-to-last start before Colorado moved him to the bullpen.

"A lot of hitters in that lineup are going to make you pay more often than not on mistakes, and they made me pay on three mistakes tonight," Lyles said. "... The few mistakes I made tonight, they put it in the seats. That doesn't always happen, but they're one of the better offenses in baseball."

Lyles, however, gave Gray his only blemish with a fifth-inning, two-out RBI single. But Gray has not given up more than three runs in a game in 12 starts. Greg Holland pitched the ninth for his 41st save, which tied Jose Jimenez (2002) for the club single-season record.

Holland collects 41st save

Quick thinking: After the Rockies' homers, Erick Aybar singled to open the Padres' fifth. Gray struck out Austin Hedges, and Aybar tried to take second when the ball bounced in front of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. However, Lucroy's throw beat Aybar. The Padres would score their first run later in the frame, so Lucroy's play kept the inning from mushrooming.

Rockies turn impressive DP

Neshek's escape: The Rockies led, 4-1, in the seventh but a Hedges double and a Travis Jankowski single, both off Chris Rusin, put runners at the corners with one out. Righty Pat Neshek, however, retired pinch-hitter Carlos Villanueva on a foul ball -- one Arenado had to go deep into left-field foul ground to catch -- and then fanned Manuel Margot.

"That was huge [after] a couple soft hits off Rusin," Rockies manager Bud Black said.

Neshek gets out of jam

"Wins like this feel like you've won five in a row. It's that big." -- Arenado on ending the losing streak to bring a little relief in a tight race

"You look at the last two months he's thrown, we're not the only team that's had a hard time hitting him. He's thrown the ball very well for them." -- Padres manager Andy Green on Gray

Gray's streak of 12 consecutive starts allowing three or fewer earned runs is tied with Ubaldo Jimenez for the second-longest single-season streak in Rockies history. Jimenez holds the record with 14 to begin the 2010 season.

Rockies: Right-hander Chad Bettis (1-3, 6.23 ERA), held out of competition since giving up five runs in one-third of an inning at Arizona in a Sept. 14 loss, returns to the rotation Saturday against the Padres at Petco Park at 6:40 p.m. MT.

Padres: Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, with a National League-leading 1.91 ERA at home, faces the Rockies at 5:40 p.m. PT. The former Rockie will make his second-straight start against Colorado, the previous one being his first start at Coors Field as a visitor.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.