Rockies ride Rutledge, youth to victory

Rockies ride Rutledge, youth to victory

Rockies ride Rutledge, youth to victory
DENVER -- Josh Rutledge became the first Rockies rookie to homer in four straight games. But Thursday night's two-run shot was the first of those that proved meaningful.

With encouraging starting pitching from Alex White in his return from Triple-A, Rutledge's seventh-inning tally helped the Rockies pull away in their 8-2 victory over the Cardinals, which ended a losing streak at five games and snapped a Coors Field skid at seven.

Rutledge victimized Fernando Salas (1-4) with his fifth homer since being called up from Double-A Tulsa on July 13, giving the Rockies a 5-2 lead. The streak not only made Rockies history but was unique for Rutledge, as well.

"That's the first time I've ever done that in my life," said Rutledge, who is hitting .375 in 18 games as the shortstop, and will have a shot to establish himself at second base when Troy Tulowitzki returns from a left groin injury, possibly by the end of the month.

Rutledge's homer was much different from Wednesday night, when his oh-by-the-way homer in the eighth inning was a footnote in a 9-6 loss.

The key to breaking in players trying to establish themselves -- not only Rutledge, but Tyler Colvin (two doubles, after two triples Wednesday), rookie Jordan Pacheco (two doubles among three hits, two RBIs) and rookie Wilin Rosario (17th homer of the season, a two-run, pinch-hit shot in the eighth) is having them make the big and little plays when necessary to not only add to the stat sheet but to the win column.

The pitching issues that plagued the team all season were chief culprits in the losses in the first two games with the Cardinals. However, Wednesday's game was close most of the way, and the offense had enough impatient at-bats, double-play grounders and baserunning mistakes to share the blame in the loss.

On Thursday, Colvin's RBI double and Rutledge's homer in the seventh, and Ramon Hernandez's RBI double and Rosario's homer in the eighth against Brian Fuentes were winning at-bats when the team needed them most.

"Some of the time, guys put added pressure on themselves to do too much," Rutledge said. "Tonight, everybody stayed within themselves and did what they could."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose team went 3-3 against the Cubs and Rockies -- teams they needed to wax to gain ground on the National League Central-leading Reds and second-place Pirates -- said of Rutledge, "The kid's been hot."

Of course, good Rockies at-bats mean nothing without solid pitching, as the Rockies (38-65) know all too well this season. White, in his return after being optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs in late June, provided that for most of his 5 1/3 innings.

White forced 12 ground-ball outs in the first five innings and held the Cardinals (56-49) scoreless. St. Louis finally touched him the third time through the order, with Skip Schumacher's single, Jon Jay's RBI triple and Carlos Beltran's RBI double providing a lead for starter Lance Lynn (two runs in six innings).

Still, it was a step forward for White, who received the call after giving up one run in 17 innings over his final two Triple-A starts. Before Thursday's game, manager Jim Tracy called White into his office and told him he didn't want to ever have to send him back down.

Breaking into the Majors has been tough for White, who was acquired from the Indians for former Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez last year. But if he pitches like he did Thursday, White is here to stay. He is the fifth starter for a club that is working with a four-man rotation, but by improving at Colorado Springs he seems destined to force the Rockies to accommodate him.

"It was really more trying to develop a changeup," said White, who received the call because rookie lefty Christian Friedrich had to be pushed back to Sunday against the Giants because of soreness in his back and midsection. "That's all I've really done -- get my command back, get my consistency back and develop a changeup."

Such starts have been few this season, which is why the Rockies are flirting with their first 100-loss campaign. But if guys like White turn struggles into lessons, and the offense continues to produce, the Rockies can brighten their outlook in the season's final two months.

"When we pitch, from a starting standpoint, the whole atmosphere of the club, the perception of it, changes," Tracy said.

Second-year left-handed reliever Rex Brothers (6-2) also stepped forward, a day after his struggles cost the club. Brothers' seventh-inning leadoff walk to Schumacher, with the Rockies leading, 5-3, on Wednesday, set in motion events that led to Matt Holliday's game-turning three-run homer.

This time, Brothers entered in the sixth after White hit David Freese to load the bases and worked Lance Berkman into a double-play grounder that kept the deficit at one run and gave the offense a chance to turn the game.

"Everybody knew it was a big moment, but I controlled what I could, and it worked out for the best," Brothers said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for 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.