The surging Colorado Rockies are gaining confidence and looking to build on another series sweep Thursday night when they open a four-game set against the Washington Nationals, who lost all eight meetings last season.
Colorado (48-46) is 10-4 since enduring a season-high eight-game losing streak, hitting .337 with 15 home runs in the victories.
The Rockies won 5-3 over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, completing their second three-game sweep this month. They also swept the NL East-leading New York Mets from July 2-4.
“That’s the beautiful thing about winning, that each win breeds more confidence,” said Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe, who hit a two-run home run Wednesday, “so we will just keep going after it, keep going along and hopefully in a couple months things will look real good for us.”
They hope their only trip to the nation’s capital this year can help them build on their recent success and continue their dominance of the Nationals (39-55), owners of the worst record in the NL.
Colorado went 8-0 against Washington last season, scoring 78 runs and hitting .338. The Rockies have won the last five games at Washington and six of seven there since the Nationals relocated from Montreal prior to the 2005 season.
Matt Holliday, who is among the NL leaders with a .334 batting average, was a big part of Colorado’s dominance of the Nationals last season. He led the Rockies with a .486 batting average and 16 RBIs in the eight games and added three home runs to match Garrett Atkins for the team lead.
Ubaldo Jimenez, one of the Rockies’ top pitching prospects, hopes Holliday and the rest of the lineup can come close to that production as he makes his season debut. The 23-year-old right-hander entered the rotation after Taylor Buchholz was moved to the bullpen, causing Rodrigo Lopez’s scheduled start to change to Saturday.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Jimenez told the team’s official Web site. “It should be a big challenge. I’m looking forward to (Thursday) night to show what I can do.”
Jimenez’s only two major league appearances came last season, and he failed to get a decision and had a 3.52 ERA. He allowed four runs—three earned—and three hits in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-5 loss at Chicago on Oct. 1 in his lone start.
Washington will counter Jimenez with its own rookie, Matt Chico (4-6, 4.57), as he makes his first start against Colorado.
The left-hander is looking to rebound after being roughed up Saturday in a 5-2 loss at Florida for five runs and seven hits, including three homers, in six innings.
“I’d give my performance a shady rating at best,” said Chico, who acknowledged he struggled with location. “At times it was good and at other times it was really erratic.”
Chico, though, has been better at home, going 4-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 starts. In his last outing at RFK on July 4, he scattered four hits in seven innings of a 6-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Hawpe, who has a .409 batting average in his last six road contests against the Washington/Montreal franchise, is having a tough time against left-handers. He is hitting .197 with one home run and 10 RBIs against southpaws compared to .339 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs against right-handers.
The Nationals opened this seven-game homestand by winning two of three against Houston, including a 7-6 win on Wednesday.