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Sharp De La Rosa leads Rox to sweep

Sharp De La Rosa leads Rox to sweep

DENVER -- No one around the Rockies' clubhouse wants to say it, but the signals are brighter than a neon "Open" sign at 7-Eleven. The Rockies are finally playing like the defending National League champions.

Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (2-3) was razor sharp Thursday night, using his repertoire of pitches to strike out a career-high 10 batters, and Jeff Baker hit his third home run in as many days to lead the Rockies to a 6-3 win over the Indians at Coors Field.

The Rockies have won 11 of 15 and swept a team for the first time since April 7-9. At 31-42, the Rockies are the closest they've been to .500 since May 25 and are tied with the Giants for third place in the NL West.

"The momentum is building a little bit and so is the confidence," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's not that we never believed in ourselves, but we've started playing better. Everybody's contributing. Everybody's getting involved."

De La Rosa got off to a shaky start, giving up a two-run home run to Ben Francisco in the first inning just as the sky broke over Coors Field. However, the weather quickly improved, and so did De La Rosa's pitching. He struck out two batters in each of the first five innings and didn't give up another run until Casey Blake hit a solo home run to center field in the sixth.

"I think after the second inning I began to throw much better," De La Rosa said. "I commanded my fastball better, and that really helped."

It's been a remarkable turnaround for the 27-year-old, who worked himself out of the starting rotation earlier this season after going 1-3 in his first five starts with a 9.00 ERA. But De La Rosa, a former Royal, earned a spot start against the White Sox on Saturday and struck out what was then a career-high eight batters over five scoreless innings.

The encore turned out to be even better. De La Rosa's fastball and changeup fooled Indians hitters all game, and his first-pitch curveball helped him get ahead early in counts.

"He's always had the confidence in his ability," pitching coach Bob Apodaca said. "Now he can, at a moment's notice, make a pitch that's required. Now he's putting the precision with what he possesses."

The same could be said for the Rockies' hitters. Recognized as one of baseball's most dangerous lineups before the season, the offense is getting consistency from its big bats and timely hits from its role players.

Matt Holliday, who has hit safely in 18 of the past 20 games, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including a single in the first inning that scored Omar Quintanilla. The Rockies tied it in the fourth when Garrett Atkins scored on Yorvit Torrealba's soft grounder to third that Casey Blake couldn't handle. They took the lead on Holliday's run-scoring single in the fifth, but Blake tied it at 3 with his solo shot in the sixth.

Cleveland's lead didn't last long. Baker, who hit an inside-the-park home run Tuesday and a solo homer Wednesday, answered right back in the bottom of the sixth with another solo home run to deep center field.

"I believe in myself and trust my abilities," said Baker, who started at first base to give Todd Helton a rest. "I just try to put myself in position to do well, and hopefully it helps the team win."

Indians starter Jeremy Sowers (0-2) gave up four runs (three earned) on 10 hits in six innings.

The Rockies broke the game open in the seventh inning against reliever Masa Kobayashi. Willy Taveras led off with his third infield single of the game and reached second on Quintanilla's groundout to first. Holliday intentionally walked, and Atkins hit a single up the middle to score Taveras. Two batters later, Brad Hawpe singled to bring in Holliday.

Hurdle handed the ball to struggling reliever Manuel Corpas in the seventh, and he responded by retiring the Indians in order. Taylor Buchholz worked a perfect eighth before Brian Fuentes worked around a one-out double in the ninth to earn his 13th save.

The Rockies are slowly regaining that familiar Rocktober confidence, but there's still plenty of work to do. Colorado remains eight games back of first-place Arizona, which defeated Oakland on Thursday.

"We got in a big hole and we still are in a big hole," Baker said. "We're just trying to win series and slowly see if we can get out of it to catch some ground."

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

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