DENVER -- A few weeks after back spasms and a stiff neck cost him three games and a 1-for-18 slump led to a one-day benching, Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins is officially back. Atkins made several diving stops and punctuated a five-game hitting streak by belting a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers Tuesday night to help the Rockies beat San Francisco, 10-5, in the opener of a three-game series. The Rockies' win was their 600th at Coors Field. They have won five of their past six games and they ended the Giants' four-game winning streak.
Atkins has come a long way from the last day of May, when he dejectedly sat in the dugout and watched the Rockies lose to the Cubs in Wrigley Field -- a day that manager Clint Hurdle thought would clear his mind. "It was fun to have a game like that," said Atkins, who has a team-leading nine home runs. "I've always been kind of a line-drive hitter, and home runs seem to come in bunches, so hopefully that's the case now." Right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook wasn't as dominant as he has been in recent starts, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits and striking out three, but he got enough key outs to earn his ninth win of the season, tying a career high. "Aaron gave us a good start," Hurdle said. "He's found a way to win now without his good stuff and compete. He still made pitches and stayed away from the big inning." All-Star candidate Matt Holliday went 0-for-3 in his first game since suffering a strained left hamstring on May 24. But the Rockies knocked 12 hits and scored in bunches. The offense provided a knockout blow early to Giants starter Pat Misch (0-3) by tagging him for four runs in the second. The first three Rockies reached base, and Omar Quintanilla and Cook hit consecutive singles. Willy Taveras and Jeff Baker followed with sacrifice flies. The Rockies have struggled all season to knock in runs when they have a chance, hitting .238 with runners in scoring position before the game. On Tuesday, they left just four runners stranded. "It was one of those nights where we got those clutch hits with runners on," said Quintanilla, who went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. "That's what we need. We relaxed, took normal at-bats, didn't press with runners on, and good things happened." Todd Helton had three hits, including a three-run opposite-field homer in the seventh. "It was fun to watch," Holliday said. "Those are the guys who swung the bats well. We got guys in. [Jeff] Baker got a sac fly, Willy got a sac fly -- that's good offensive execution." Hurdle was particularly complimentary of Atkins, comparing the way he dove for ground balls to a kid dirty from playing in a sandbox. For Atkins, the view from the sandbox is certainly better than the view from the bench. "It's been nice the last five or six games," Atkins said. "We started playing good baseball, and we've proven that when we play good baseball, we got a chance to put together good stretches, and that's what we're doing now."
Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.