Fuentes saves 100th against Bucs

Fuentes saves 100th against Bucs

DENVER -- For the past four seasons, the Rockies' brass has dangled closer Brian Fuentes as trade bait for an ocean of teams starving for relief help.

No deal was ever sweet enough, though, and Fuentes remained in purple pinstripes. He blocked the doubt clouding his future and posted three straight seasons of at least 20 saves.

The trade winds have only blown stronger this season, with Fuentes in the final year of his contract and the Rockies floundering in the weak National League West, but that hasn't fazed the closer.

On Thursday, Fuentes notched his 100th career save -- all with the Rockies -- by striking out the side to preserve Colorado's 5-3 win over the Pirates at Coors Field.

"It's definitely nice to get it all with Colorado," said Fuentes, who earned his 15th save of the season and has retired the past 18 batters he's faced. "The organization's always been great to me, and we've always had a good relationship. So to get 100 with Colorado is very nice."

After such a miserable first half of the season, the Rockies (40-57) couldn't have asked for a better way to kick-start the second half.

The dormant offense, which scored just two runs during the team's four-game losing streak, finally came out of hibernation by scoring five runs against the Bucs. Jeff Baker hit two doubles and scored twice, and Chris Iannetta broke a 3-all tie with a two-run home run in sixth.

And he did it with a broken bat.

"The contact didn't feel real different, because I hit it on the barrel," said Iannetta, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. "But then I felt the bat pieces go flying, so I was a little confused."

Iannetta has been one of Colorado's biggest bats in 2008 after a disappointing season last year in which he hit just .218 in 67 games and spent most of the season in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

He's had a remarkable turnaround this season. Through 53 games Iannetta is hitting .281 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. Thursday's homer marked his third in his past seven games.

"He has been very consistent all season," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "All facets of his game have improved. He's finding the barrel with a lot more regularity."

Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9) has also been a case study on quick improvement.

Jimenez couldn't get out of his own way early against the Bucs, fueling their three-run third inning after walking two batters, hitting another and throwing a wild pitch.

But unlike the beginning of the season, when a rough start would have snowballed into a disaster, Jimenez kept his composure, telling himself between innings to slow down and focus on his mechanics. He did just that, retiring the final 13 batters he faced before exiting after the seventh inning.

"It's always a good sign that when a pitcher gets out of sync that he's able to recover quickly," Hurdle said. "That's one of the traits he's shown more often than not since the middle of May."

Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm (6-6) had won four straight decisions but gave up five runs in six innings to take the loss. Maholm was sharp before Iannetta hit the two-run homer to cap a three-run sixth inning.

"I don't know what to say," Maholm said. "I throw a first pitch changeup away and he breaks his bat and hits it 10 rows deep. I guess there's nothing really I can do about that one."

At this point, with Colorado trailing Arizona by eight games in the West, the Rockies will take runs any way they can.

"Offensively tonight we had some hangups, some things we could have done better," Hurdle said. "But we got guys to pick other guys up when they didn't come through, and that's not been a consistent trait of our club."

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