DENVER -- Left-hander Alan Embree has a philosophy he and his fellow relievers should heed when the Rockies play the Braves on Thursday in the opener of their four-game series.
"I think a reliever should take -- if he's throwing from the seventh inning, eighth inning or ninth inning -- the mindset that it is your ninth inning," Embree said. "If your job is to get the outs in the seventh inning, the game is on the line for you in the seventh, because what you do there dictates what happens behind you.
"If you do your job to close that inning out, it's left up to the other two guys to do the same."
Setup man Manuel Corpas and closer Huston Street would usually be the two guys Embree was referring to. However, Corpas has been on the disabled list since June 20 with right elbow spurs, and he probably won't return until after the All-Star break. The results, in the beginning, weren't good.
In the first eight games without Corpas, the Rockies gave up eight runs in eight games in the eighth inning. In the last 10 games, eight runs have also been scored in that frame, but six of those came in one game.
Manager Jim Tracy said the Rockies have bridged the starters to Street better because of improved pitching by Embree and right-hander Juan Rincon.
On June 27 against Oakland, Embree gave up two runs in one-third of an inning and Rincon followed with four runs -- three earned -- in two-thirds of an inning. Since that outing, both pitchers have thrown 3 1/3 scoreless frames in four games.
Their improvement has allowed Tracy to mix-and-match based on matchups in order to give the team its best opportunity to hand Street the ball with a lead.
"Both of those guys are throwing the ball much better," Tracy said. "And because of the fact that one's right-handed and one's left-handed, it has opened the door for us to be able to look even further as far as matching up with just a few outs to go in order to try and get to Street."
But what has been the secret to Embree and Rincon bouncing back, which has enabled Tracy to have more options?
"I never want those guys to feel like I'm quitting on them, and I think Embree and Rincon both got that message after what we saw in that Saturday game against Oakland," Tracy said. "You're out there. They are situations that make sense for you. If you had a boo-boo, fix it.
"Do what you have to do to be the pitcher we know you're capable of, so we can continually think about utilizing you in situations -- from a matchup standpoint -- that makes sense in order for us to try to get the ball to Street."
Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.