Big-inning bite leaves Rox with split

Big-inning bite leaves Rox with split

DENVER -- For the second night in a row, the Rockies saw their fortunes take a dramatic turn for the worse in a single middle inning. On Thursday the Rockies saw an early advantage erased by a four-run sixth as they fell to the Cards, 7-3.

Aaron Cook had been in a groove, giving every indication that he could make Colorado's 2-1 lead stand up. After a troublesome second inning when a walk and two singles resulted in a run for the Redbirds, Cook buckled down, retiring the next 11 batters he faced.

It unraveled quickly in the sixth, however, with a walk and a pair of two-out singles loading the bases for Juan Encarnacion, who drilled Cook's fastball offering into the right-center-field gap for a three-run double. He scored when Gary Bennett singled to center, the fourth consecutive two-out hit in the inning.

"I just got some pitches up," Cook said. "I wasn't able to get them down. We were one pitch away from getting out of that inning. Three inches down from where they were and those were ground balls to the shortstop or second baseman. That's baseball. If I make a good pitch with my sinker we're out of it. That's what happens when you get the ball up. It only takes one inning to lose a game."

Colorado couldn't muster enough offense against starter Brad Thompson (4-1) to get back in the game, scattering eight hits, three of which went for extra bases, while hitting just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Ryan Spilborghs got the Rockies rolling in the first, with a leadoff single, a steal and a run scored on a Matt Holliday single to center. Spilborghs was 2-for-4 on the night and made a highlight snare of a deep drive from Jim Edmonds in the fourth, running it down to the warning track for an over-the-shoulder catch.

"I was a little bitter from Edmonds a couple nights ago, because he took what I felt was a hit away from me," Spilborghs said of the fellow center fielder. "So any time you get a chance to take a hit away from a Gold Glover and somebody that I've grown up watching and idolizing, it [feels] pretty good.

"I saw it off the bat and took off to where I thought it was going to go. He hit it, and I ran it down. He's taken many hits away from other people."

Spilborghs has quickly made a case for himself as a productive contributor when he's in the lineup, hitting .353 (6-for-17) in his four starts since being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 19 and going 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position. It's nevertheless challenging to find playing time for him, with outfielders Holliday, Willy Taveras and Brad Hawpe hitting .345, .312 and .297, respectively.

"You just got to try and be as creative as you can," said manager Clint Hurdle. "You find spots for him and give guys a rest here and there, but he's definitely earning his way -- he's doing a good job for us." .

"We need to play better at home."
-- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle

Garrett Atkins led off the second with a double down the left-field line, just his third extra-base hit in the past 24 games. He moved to third on a Hawpe fly to the warning track in center and scored on a Troy Tulowitzki grounder to short.

Cook had one of Colorado's three extra-base hits, a leadoff double to the left-center-field gap in the third, but the Rockies were unable to bring him home, despite moving him to third on Spilborghs' single with no outs. Tulowitzki's one-out double the following inning also went for naught, with Cook unable to get a bunt down and Spilborghs grounding into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

"We had a couple shots in the third and fourth, and we left some people on base," Hurdle said. "We chipped away early, executed pretty well to get the first two runs. After the fourth inning, there wasn't a whole lot out there for us."

The Rockies managed only one hit in the next four innings -- a Hawpe single to right in the sixth. Hawpe doubled to lead off the ninth and scored on a sacrifice fly from Chris Iannetta, but the one-hit rally was short-lived.

"His sinker was getting better as the game wore on," Spilborghs said of Thompson. "It looked like he wasn't trying to throw it as hard, so his ball was moving a lot more. He did a good job of mixing it up the second and third time around we saw him. He started throwing offspeed for strikes and moving his sinker in and out."

Colorado kept its spirits up, seeing a split with the reigning World Series champs as a situation of the glass being half-full.

"We know we're still a good baseball team," Cook said. "We just lost two in a row. At any other time in the season or any other year we'd be happy with a split, but unfortunately it came right after we'd won seven in a row. We know we got to come back out tomorrow and get going after it again and get going in the other direction again."

The Rockies were surging coming into the series, and the Cardinals hit Denver still smarting from losing two-of-three to the Nationals, coming to Colorado seven games under .500. It was a critical chance for the Rockies to win their first series at Coors Field since the opening series with the D-backs.

"We need to play better at home," Hurdle said. "We know that we let a series get away. We had two shots to close down a series. We didn't get it done. I think that will give us a little more fire going out tomorrow and getting things done."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.