PHILADELPHIA -- The popular belief last month in Colorado was that the absence of starting pitcher Aaron Cook, stuck on the disabled list at the time, might end up costing the Rockies a shot at the playoffs.
As strange as it sounds, that time away might actually help the Rockies dig deeper into the postseason, especially if Cook continues to pitch like he has in the three starts that he's made since coming off the DL in late September.
"I feel fresh," Cook proclaimed Thursday.
Cook held the Phillies without a run over the first five innings in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park before he ran into trouble in the sixth inning, though the Rockies held on for a 5-4 victory Thursday to earn a split on the road.
"He definitely was on," Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "His sinker, like we know whenever his sinker is downhill, it's going to be a lot of ground-ball outs. He definitely was on it."
Cook, who got eight ground-ball outs and was helped immensely by two double plays that were turned behind him, allowed three runs on seven hits over five-plus innings to help the Rockies win and head to Denver for Saturday's Game 3 with some momentum.
"Definitely it's a big game," Cook said. "Anytime you can go back to your home field, series tied or possibly in the lead, it's always huge."
The Rockies got a big two-run home run by Torrealba in the fourth inning and the bullpen picked up Cook, with five relief pitchers combining to allow one run over the last four innings.
But it was Cook who set the tone early by the way he attacked what is considered one of the most feared lineups in baseball, and one that was playing in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.
THAT SINKING FEELING
Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook is at his best when his fastball is sinking. A look at how Cook fared getting ground-ball outs in his 11 regular-season victories and his start Thursday:
"I stuck with a pretty simple game plan," Cook said. "I wanted to attack the zone down. ... They were taking a lot of pitches early. I was able to throw my four-seamer [fastball] early in the count and then come back with the sinker."
The ability to get ahead in the count became even more important when Cook noticed the Phillies weren't exactly swinging from their heels early in the count.
Up until Cook's last inning of work, he allowed one leadoff batter to reach base -- Ryan Howard in the fourth inning -- and he was erased on a double play started by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Cook was sharp, especially when it came to neutralizing the Phillies' speed. The Phillies stole three bases in their 5-1 victory in Game 1, but had none Thursday, as Cook, who threw over to first base five times alone in the third inning to keep Shane Victorino near the bag, worked fast and kept runners close.
"I knew they were going to be aggressive," Cook said. "The guys at the top, they want to cause havoc."
Cook might not have been as sharp as he was the day he was activated from the disabled list on Sept. 25, when he threw five shutout innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals, or when he followed that up with one run over eight innings on Oct. 1 in a win over the Brewers to clinch the NL Wild Card.
But it was clear Cook's start was just what the Rockies desperately needed, especially on the heels of Wednesday's loss.
"He threw the ball very well, he's looked good his last three times out," Colorado second baseman Clint Barmes said. "He's always been big for us."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.