Helton's homer lifts Rox over D-backs

Helton's homer lifts Rox over D-backs

DENVER -- The unique moment Wednesday came during the third inning, when a Coors Field crowd of 30,451 celebrated Todd Helton, just for being one of the game's best hitters.

But the moment Helton provided later touched off a bigger celebration.

Helton became the 50th player to reach 500 doubles during the third inning. But his eighth-inning solo shot off Scott Schoeneweis gave the Rockies a 4-3 victory over the D-backs and kept them atop the National League Wild Card race, leading the Giants, who will arrive at Coors on Friday to start a three-game showdown, by a half-game entering Wednesday night's games.

No doubt Helton will be presented with the ball and the base from his milestone double off D-backs starter Jon Garland on Wednesday, since Rockies personnel collected both. But he'll take the home run.

"It got us the win," said Helton, who has 11 home runs and 60 RBIs this season. "It was a big game for us. And we've got a big series coming up."

Helton's historic feat and game-winning swing weren't the only big moments in the Rockies' sixth victory in the last eight games. Helton is the Rockies' most accomplished player, but key contributions came from players much deeper on the roster as the Rockies chipped away at a 3-1 deficit.

For example:

• Carlos Gonzalez, a prospect who has lost playing time because of his hitting struggles and the emergence of outfielder Seth Smith, started in left field, doubled twice and scored twice.

• Catcher Yorvit Torrealba had an RBI single in the second inning and a key sacrifice bunt to set up the tying run in the seventh. Rockies manager Jim Tracy also credited Torrealba with ushering starter Ubaldo Jimenez through six innings, with the only runs coming on Miguel Montero's three-run homer in the third inning, even though Jimenez had no fastball command.

• The bullpen, facing calls for the Rockies to acquire help in a trade or by some other means, provided three perfect innings, with four strikeouts. Matt Daley struck out two, Juan Rincon (3-1) rebounded from a loss Tuesday night with a perfect eighth and Huston Street fanned two in the ninth for his 24th save in 25 chances.

It added up to the Rockies taking the three-game series over the D-backs, who are languishing at 40-55 but have split the 12 games with the Rockies this season.

"This is a very good win for us," Tracy said. "Obviously, we wanted to win the series. We did. Now we can take a day off and start another huge series on Friday.

Jimenez gave up four hits and walked two in the first three innings. But he didn't pay for it until Montero, whose home run off Rincon on Tuesday gave the Rockies a 6-5 loss, launched a fastball off the façade of the second deck in right.

Then Jimenez, with Torrealba's help, switched to breaking balls. The D-backs, who have seen Jimenez's best fastball in their frequent matchups, did little against him in his final three innings on the mound.

"That's why after the third inning they were out of balance, because they know I throw hard," said Jimenez, who managed five strikeouts and gave up five hits and two walks.

The Rockies didn't exactly tear up Garland, who held them to three runs in seven innings. Helton's 500th double drove in one run, but Gonzalez was his biggest problem.

Gonzalez blooped a double in the second and scored on Torrealba's single. Gonzalez doubled past first base in the seventh and scored on Garrett Atkins' fielder's choice grounder. Now Gonzalez, who played for the Athletics last season when Garland was with the White Sox, is 7-for-11 with five doubles in their matchups.

"Sometimes you break your bat and it's a hit," said Gonzalez, who is hitting .227 and looking for at-bats in and around playing time for Smith and Ryan Spilborghs. "Sometimes you're just really lucky against one guy.

"He's my guy, I guess. But I don't want to say that because he's a really good pitcher. So far, I've been really lucky."

No luck was involved in Helton's winning shot, on a 2-1 fastball, with one out in the eighth. The homer landed in the Rockies' bullpen.

"He's a good hitter," said Schoeneweis (1-2). "He got a pitch. He sat on it. He got it."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.