Helton finally feeling playoff rush

Helton finally feeling playoff rush

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton dreamed of every pitch counting, the way it will this week as the Rockies try to make up a one-game gap and make the playoffs as the National League Wild Card. But as long as it was a dream, he had no idea how he or his team would react.

But the Rockies have won eight straight, including sweeps of four games over the Dodgers and three over the Padres. With the Rockies a game behind the Padres and Phillies, who are tied for the Wild Card lead, Helton knows.

"If we were any more relaxed, we'd need diapers and a bib, if that makes any sense," Helton said.

But Helton and the Rockies are able to function just fine, as evidenced by their recent play. Now they must continue it with three-game sets on the road against the Dodgers and at home against the West-leading Diamondbacks.

The injury losses of three members of the original starting rotation -- right-handers Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Hirsh -- and of starting center fielder Willy Taveras (who is holding slim hope of his strained right quadriceps healing to the point he can return this week) haven't fazed the Rockies.

The club also has won the last two games over the Padres without NL Most Valuable Player candidate Matt Holliday, who hopes to return from a strained left oblique muscle for Tuesday's opener with the Dodgers.

Helton has turned hot at the right time, going 13-for-34 (.382) during the eight-game win streak and hitting 38-for-82 (.390) in September.

"I've waited 10 years, and this is pretty cool," Helton said. "It's what I always thought. Every pitch counts. Every pitch matters. The focus is that much higher. It's a lot of fun out there.

"And I always feel like I'm going to go out and do something good."

Upcoming series vs. Dodgers: History hasn't mattered a lot to the Rockies this season, in which they've set a club record for victories. They have to hope it doesn't matter Monday to Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, where they haven't won a series since taking two of three from Sept. 12-14, 2005. The last time the Rockies visited Chavez Ravine, in mid-August, they lost two of three in a series in which all the games were close.

Tuesday: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.14 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Penny (16-4, 2.93 ERA)
Fogg vs. Dodgers: 0-1, 6.94 in two starts
Penny vs. Rockies: 2-0, 2.70 in four starts
Rockies vs. right-handed starters: 64-48
Keep an eye on ... Garrett Atkins, who has a .414 career average against Penny with a homer.

Wednesday: RHP Josh Fogg (9-9, 4.99 ERA) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (12-13, 3.93 ERA)
Jimenez vs. Dodgers: 2-0, 3.65 in two starts
Lowe vs. Rockies: 0-2, 11.74 in two starts
Keep an eye on ... Brad Hawpe, who is 11-for-22 against Lowe with three homers and nine RBIs.

Thursday: LHP Franklin Morales (2-2, 3.15 ERA) vs. Dodgers TBA
Morales vs. Dodgers: 0-0, 1.69 in one start
Keep an eye on ... Hawpe, who has a .358 career average with a homer, six doubles and 14 RBIs at Dodger Stadium.

Weekend series vs. Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks enter the week leading the NL West by 2 1/2 games over the Padres, not to mention four over the Rockies. Who knew that when the season started with the D-backs winning the opener and the Rockies taking the next two at Coors Field, the season could end with these two playing all-important games?

Friday: LHP Mark Redman (1-4, 8.67 ERA) vs. RHP Micah Owings (7-8, 4.49 ERA)
Redman hasn't faced Diamondbacks this season.
Owings has never faced Rockies.
Keep an eye on ... Matt Holliday (if his strained left oblique muscle has healed), who has hit .374 with 25 homers, 26 doubles and 77 RBIs at home this season.

Saturday: LHP Jeff Francis (17-8, 4.17 ERA) vs. RHP Edgar Gonzalez (8-2, 4.61 ERA)
Francis vs. Diamondbacks: 1-0, 1.38 in two starts
Gonzalez vs. Rockies: 1-0, 0.00 in relief appearance
Keep an eye on ... Todd Helton, whose two career hits against Gonzalez are both homers.

Sunday: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.14 ERA) vs. LHP Doug Davis (13-12, 4.27 ERA)
Jimenez vs. Diamondbacks: no record, 4.05 ERA in one start
Davis vs. Rockies: 1-2, 3.18 in three starts
Rockies vs. left-handed starters: 20-24
Keep an eye on ... Helton, who is 5-for-9 with a homer against Davis.

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