As rotation wild card, Chacin shines for Rox

As rotation wild card, Chacin shines for Rox

DENVER -- If Jhoulys Chacin can continue to handle the Dodgers the way he did on Saturday night, the Rockies may not have a choice but to keep him in the rotation for the impending National League Wild Card race.

The rookie was stellar against Los Angeles -- a team that has gotten under the Rockies' skin the last two seasons -- striking out seven and allowing just one run while scattering four hits over seven innings in the Rockies' 5-3 win on Saturday evening at Coors Field.

Called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Aug. 17 to help fill the holes in Colorado's bruised starting rotation, Chacin has been practically untouchable by NL West foes in his last two outings. In wins against the Dodgers and the D-backs, he has struck out 16 and allowed just one earned run in 14 2/3 combined innings.

"He's special," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "He's got good stuff. He's pitched great games against the Dodgers. Their guy is [Clayton Kershaw], who has our number a little bit, and I think Chacin has their number. We've got seven more games against those guys, so maybe that matchup will keep happening."

They're the kinds of outings the Rockies will need to keep up in the NL Wild Card race, in which they trail Philadelphia by 4 1/2 games.

"He's really beginning to arrive," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He is definitely a huge bright spot for our club with what's taken place this season."

Chacin is 2-2 against the Dodgers this year, while Colorado's record against the division rivals improved to 4-7. Los Angeles, which entered the night tied with Rockies in the standings, is the only team in the NL West with a winning record against Colorado.

The Rockies are 8-21 against the Dodgers in the last two seasons, with a chance to win the weekend series in Sunday's finale.

Chacin's lone blemish came in the second, when the Dodgers scratched across a run on back-to-back hits from James Loney and Casey Blake. From there, a well-balanced Rockies offense took over.

Todd Helton homered in the sixth, marking the first time since Aug. 30-Sept. 1 of last year that he homered in back-to-back games. Carlos Gonzalez, who tripled and scored in the fourth, also hit a two-run shot in the seventh.

"I had a good fastball, but my off-speed wasn't there," said Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, who gave up three runs and walked five in six innings. "You have days like that. I just battled, located with my fastball."

Chacin loaded the bases in the fourth, but induced a ground ball to third to end the frame. With a man on first and pinch-hitter Manny Ramirez representing the tying run in the seventh, the Rockies hurler struck out Ramirez to end the inning.

"Last time in L.A., I lost my focus for one inning," said Chacin, who has struck out 109 in 102 innings this year. "But tonight, I kept my focus like I did [against the D-backs on Sunday] and that's what helped me. I was in control the whole game."

Former Dodger reliever Joe Beimel and Rafael Betancourt -- in his first appearance since Monday -- combined for a shutout eighth. Closer Huston Street surrendered a two-run homer to Rod Barajas before finishing the ninth.

With starters Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis on the disabled list, Chacin is effectively battling for more than just decisions every time he takes the mound. The 22-year-old has the potential to be a top starter for the Rockies -- or many other clubs, for that matter -- in the future.

After bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation, from Colorado Springs to Denver, the crafty right-hander is becoming impossible to ignore.

"I just want to be healthy and try to finish the year and next year, hopefully I can command my fastball better," Chacin said. "If I can throw my fastball for strikes and mix my pitches, I'll be better."

Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.