DENVER -- Efficiency-driven Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook would trade a strikeout, which takes three pitches, for a one-pitch groundout any day. But the strikeout worked for him on Sunday afternoon.
With two on and one out in the seventh, Cook ended the rally with two of his three strikeouts and went on to throw the Rockies' first complete game of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Mets at Coors Field in front of 42,123.
"I don't say I'm ever looking for a strikeout," said Cook (7-3), who fanned Brian Schneider and pinch-hitter Ryan Church to end the Mets' last threat and gave up just four singles and a walk for the game. "But in that situation, you pitch guys tougher."
To finish their longest homestand of the season thus far with a winning record, 5-4, the Rockies (20-30) needed toughness from their most dependable pitcher.
They placed power-hitting threat Matt Holliday on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain before the game. Garrett Atkins, tied with Holliday for the team lead in homers with eight, missed his second straight day with a stiff neck. Clint Barmes, this season's hottest hitter, and Brad Hawpe, instrumental last September during the playoff run, hit the DL on Saturday.
But Cook was up to the task of lifting the club. After all, when the Rockies had most of their firepower but weren't producing offensively, Cook won a club-record six straight starts and fashioned a 1.90 ERA from April 13 to May 9.
Cook lost his previous last two starts, but ended his skid on Sunday despite the Rockies managing just three hits. The biggest hit was the first -- Seth Smith's first Major League home run for three runs in the fourth against John Maine (5-4), who struck out eight in six innings.
Cook forced 16 groundouts, two on a double play that he started and others thanks to fine work by shortstop Omar Quintanilla and second baseman Jonathan Herrera. Cook also picked off Jose Reyes right after he drove in the Mets' run on a third-inning single.
"He's had a couple of outings he wasn't pleased with," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose team will meet the Phillies on Monday night to open a 10-game road trip. "About midway through his last start, he felt he got back on a rhythm. He got his mechanics back in line.
"And he just rolled from first pitch today right on through."
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Third baseman Ian Stewart bobbled Maine's grounder for an error to lead off the sixth. Herrera made a standout play on Reyes' grounder to retire Maine at second, then Cook fielded a bouncer and fired to Quintanilla, who avoided Reyes and relayed for a double play.
Cook came up with his strikeouts after giving up a Carlos Beltran single and issuing his only walk, to Carlos Delgado.
But Cook mostly relied on fielders such as recent callups Herrera and Quintanilla, who have been strong with the glove throughout their Minor League careers.
"The guys that got called up are guys who have been stuck behind some players who've had more success in the big leagues," said Cook, whose seven complete games are second in club history to Pedro Astacio's 14. "We've all got a lot of confidence in each other in here and we trust each other to get the job done every day."
Smith, replacing Hawpe, hopes to make the most of that trust.
Smith went 5-for-8 as a pinch-hitter late last year, plus 3-for-6 in the postseason. But Smith, who hit .321 with six home runs and 30 RBIs at Colorado Springs before his promotion, had never started a Major League game until Saturday.
"Yesterday was kind of emotional," said Smith, who homered after Todd Helton walked and Ryan Spilborghs reached on a Reyes fielding error at short. "You're all hyped up, and you do things a little different.
"Today, I was able to calm down a little bit and play baseball. Things work out a good bit of the time when you do what you're supposed to do."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.