Rockies stay hot behind Friedrich in Phoenix

Rockies stay hot behind Friedrich in Phoenix

Rockies stay hot behind Friedrich in Phoenix
PHOENIX -- The Rockies are on a serious roll, and they continued their winning ways with a 4-0 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field to open a three-game series on Monday night.

The win was their second in a row and seventh in their last eight games. They are now a half-game behind the third-place D-backs and 9 1/2 games in arrears of National League West-leading Los Angeles. When the stretch began, the Rockies were 14 1/2 games behind the Dodgers, who won in Philadelphia on Monday night.

"Adversity punched us in the face about as hard as you can be hit," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose club was 12 games under .500 after losing on May 27. "But the beauty about this group is that they kept playing, they kept playing hard, and they kept playing for one another. We didn't point fingers. We're not going to do things like that.

"It's a tribute to those guys out there in that clubhouse. It's just a wonderful group."

Veteran first baseman Todd Helton made a bit of history with his leadoff double in the Rockies' two-run second. It was 952nd extra-base hit, tying him with Mickey Mantle for 47th all-time.

The Rockies reaped the fruits of their offense and their young pitching again on Monday night. It was their first shutout of the season, coming in game No. 54.

Offensively, the big blows came off D-backs starter Joe Saunders, who allowed a game-opening triple by Dexter Fowler and a fourth-inning homer off the bat of Wilin Rosario, his ninth of the season.

Fowler came home almost immediately on a Marco Scutaro sacrifice fly, giving the Rockies a lead after two batters that they never relinquished.

On the mound, despite a shaky beginning, left-hander Christian Friedrich (4-1) pitched seven innings of four-hit ball. He walked two and struck out four, making his fifth start since he was called up from the Minors and debuted on May 9.

Friedrich's four wins are a team high.

"I guess that's just the way it works," Friedrich said. "I don't put too much emphasis [on personal wins]. It's just the outcome of the game that matters. I've had worse records with better stuff than I'm throwing right now. Wins are nice, but as long as the team gets the win, that's the most important part."

Both of Friedrich's walks came in the first inning, as the D-backs loaded the bases with two outs. Jason Kubel flied out to end the threat. Aaron Hill doubled to open the Arizona half of the sixth, but wound up stranded on third as Friedrich struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young.

It was clear that Friedrich started finding the strike zone after his early problems.

"He was teetering a little bit in the first couple of innings," Tracy said. "His command wasn't quite where you wanted it to be, evidenced by the two walks in the first inning. But he made some pitches when he had to to get himself through. Not a lot of first-pitch strikes in the early going, but from the third to the seventh it all showed up."

Friedrich clearly took advantage of Arizona's sudden offensive malaise. Young is 6-for-46 in the 13 games since he came off the disabled list after nursing a bruised right shoulder. Justin Upton has four hits in his last 28 at-bats. It was the first time all season, the D-backs have been shut out and the first time they've been blanked at home since Sept. 6, 2010. They are 10-16 at home this season after a 51-30 mark last year.

"Whenever you get shut out, it's going to be frustrating," Goldschmidt said. "[Friedrich] had four different pitches working, and he was getting ahead. We had a few [opportunities], but we weren't able to capitalize and that's obviously going to hurt you."

Friedrich's outing came a day after another rookie, Alex White, shut down the Dodgers on two hits during his 6 2/3 innings of work at Coors Field in a 3-2 victory. The Rockies took two out of three from L.A. after a four-game home sweep of the Astros. They are 3-0 in the last three games White has started.

It should be noted that the five starters who broke camp at the end of Spring Training are no longer with the team.

"The competitiveness of our starting pitching has improved immensely. It's much better," Tracy said. "Over the course of two days that's 13 2/3 innings from two young kids and two great efforts from both White and Friedrich."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.