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Street takes it easy as Rox swing away

Street takes it easy as Rox swing away

DENVER -- Huston Street has been hot when the Rockies need him this summer, running together a string of 20 consecutive saves since June 8, the longest streak in the National League this season.

But with the Rockies on an offensive rampage since coming home last Friday, scoring 54 runs the seven-game homestand, Street has been hard-pressed to find save opportunities for the Rockies. His most recent save was Aug. 2 in Cincinnati, and Street currently enjoys the enviable position of being an underused closer in the thick of a pennant chase.

"The one thing that has made our bullpen so special is how far our starting pitching gets into games," manager Jim Tracy said after defeating the Pirates, 10-1, to cap a 5-2 homestand. "For the most part, they get into the sixth, finish seven. When you do things like that, and you can piece your bullpen together to get the outs that you need to get to Huston Street, you're in a really special place. We've been there for quite a while now."

And if he doesn't have to go to Street -- who was presented with no save opportunities the whole homestand -- so much the better. Tracy has no concerns about his closer developing rust as the pennant race heats up.

"At this time of the year, I really believe it bodes in our favor," Tracy said of Street's idle spell. "You get to a point in time in the season when you really feel like you're in a position where you don't want anything to get away. When you are a contending club, you are going to end up using your closer more than clubs that are not contending. That's the reality. That's what happens. We're chasing the Dodgers, but we're also being chased as far as the Wild Card, and you don't want anything to get away from you."

Tracy, who managed Eric Gagne on the Dodgers through his entire 84 consecutive saves streak from 2002-04, has employed Street's service in a pair of non-save situations over the past week, bringing him on to hold a four-run lead against the Cubs in the series opener last Friday and using him in a blowout win in Monday's finale to help spell the rest of the 'pen on the eve of a spot start from long reliever Jhoulys Chacin.

"What we have going on right now, in my opinion, is a luxury in that he hasn't pitched all that much," Tracy pointed out. "That's not going to hurt us. That just means that when the opportunity comes to really let go with him, we don't have to be the least bit shy. We have to be sensible, but we don't have to be shy about saying, 'Oh my God, we wore this guy's rear end out in the month of August.' That hasn't been happening."

With 28 saves in 29 opportunities, Street has anchored the back of the bullpen, giving Colorado confidence that comes with going 58-1 this year when leading after eight innings. His mopup duty in Monday's blowout with the Cubs found him taking a bullet for the team, matching a career high with four runs allowed in one-third of an inning in an unusual environment for a pitcher accustomed to performing with the game on the line.

"He's to the point where he's a smart enough guy, and he's done this job enough to say, 'Huston Street needs an inning of work,' and you're going to do that," Tracy said. "More than not, he's going to tell me he doesn't want it, and I'm fine with that. It's the same place I got to with Eric Gagne. This guy gets what he's doing. So let him prepare accordingly."

As much as possible, Tracy expects to keep Street seated until presented with a save situation, knowing he'll call on him plenty down the stretch and savoring any opportunity to keep him fresh until he's needed.

"I'll use him in a non-save [situation]," Tracy said. "If it means that we're going to pour champagne all over one another, and I'm not going to give the other side of the field a chance to even take a breath and say, 'We're giving you a little bit of chance before we get to our closer,' yeah, we could get to that. We'll be sensible about it between now and that particular time."

Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Jason Hammel (7-6, 4.66 ERA)
Hammel hasn't been sharp lately, and he knows it. In his last start, on Sunday against the Cubs, Hammel gave up 11 hits and had only one 1-2-3 frame in his five-plus innings. Yet he picked up the victory, yielding just three runs, all earned. In his his past seven starts, Hammel has a 6.48 ERA, though the Rockies have won four of those starts. Hammel's problem right now is that he can't throw his fastball on a downhill plane, thus the pitch is coming out of his hand flat. Therefore, hitters have been able to square up on him.

FLA: RHP Josh Johnson (11-2, 2.92 ERA)
It wasn't vintage Josh Johnson in his last start, but the 6-foot-7 right-hander was effective enough to collect his 11th win and 18th quality start in 23 overall outings this season. At Philadelphia, the 25-year-old ace gave up one run on four hits with six strikeouts and one walk. He was lifted after 85 pitches and 55 strikes, but he had some stressful innings. Three double plays helped Johnson get out of jams. The Marlins are 18-5 with the righty on the mound. On May 9 at Colorado, Johnson defeated the Rockies, giving up one run in eight innings. Johnson has pitched 154 innings this year; his career high is 157, which came during his 2006 season as a rookie.

Tidbits
The Rockies' 15 hits against the Pirates on Thursday marked the sixth time in seven games on the homestand that they've had double digit hits. ... Dexter Fowler's three doubles Thursday extended his lead among all Major League rookies in doubles. ... Clint Barmes has driven in a run or more in eight of his past 10 games, including five home runs. ... The three-hit finale with the Pirates was the 10th time the Rockies' pitching staff has held the opposition to four or few hits. ... After having no multi-RBI games all season, Carlos Gonzalez has now had back-to-back games with two RBIs.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• KOA 850

Up next
• Saturday: Rockies (Aaron Cook, 10-4, 3.93) at Marlins (Rick VandenHurk, 2-1, 4.15), 4:10 p.m. MT
• Sunday: Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa, 10-8, 4.78) at Marlins (Chris Volstad, 8-9, 4.71), 3:05 p.m. MT
• Monday: Off-day

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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