Whether it’s with explosive offense, strong starting pitching or extra-inning marathons from their bullpen, the Colorado Rockies are finding ways to win games.
Above .500 for the first time this season, the Rockies hope to stay that way as they try to complete a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros and record their fifth straight win on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Colorado (9-8) lost five of its first six games and eight of its first 13 - a disappointing start for a team coming off its first World Series appearance.
The Rockies, though, are back above .500 thanks to a four-game win streak during which they’ve scored 10 or more runs twice and won two low-scoring one-run games, including a 22-inning, 2-1 victory over San Diego on Thursday night - the longest game in franchise history.
The Rockies got seven strong innings Saturday from starter Aaron Cook, and Brad Hawpe singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning of the 3-2 win as Colorado improved to 7-20 all-time at Minute Maid Park.
“(This ballpark) has been tough on us,” Cook told the Rockies’ official Web site. “But we’ve got a pretty resilient team. Guys kind of just shrug it off, knowing we’re different from teams that used to play here. We just go out and try to get the job done every night.”
While the Rockies appear to have hit their stride, the Astros (6-12) are struggling. They’ve lost three straight and are off to their worst start since 1983, when they were 5-13 through 18 games.
Some of the early problems could be due to the new-look lineup, which features new starters Miguel Tejada, Kazuo Matsui and Michael Bourn at shortstop, second base and center field, respectively. Houston has also been playing without opening-day third baseman Ty Wigginton, who has been sidelined for 12 games because of a fractured left thumb.
Outfielder Carlos Lee, though, thinks the Astros will jell soon.
“It’s going to happen,” Lee told the team’s official Web site. “We’re too good of a team not to. We haven’t clicked yet, but it’s going to happen soon.”
The Rockies will put their win streak on the line with Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 4.60 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander lasted only 4 2-3 innings in his last start, giving up six runs - two earned - in a 6-0 loss at San Diego on Tuesday. He walked three in that game, and has issued 12 free passes in 15 2-3 innings this season.
Jimenez is making his first career appearance against the Astros.
He’ll face Houston’s Shawn Chacon (0-0, 2.25), who has delivered three quality starts in his first three outings after signing with the Astros in the offseason, but hasn’t yet been rewarded with a win.
The right-hander held a powerful Philadelphia lineup to four hits in eight shutout innings on Tuesday, leaving with a 3-0 lead. Astros closer Jose Valverde, however, gave up four runs in the bottom of the ninth in the 4-3 defeat.
“We’re here to win ballgames,” Chacon said. “I could go out and throw seven innings and give up seven runs and it doesn’t matter.”
Chacon, who spent the first four-plus seasons of his career with the Rockies, hasn’t allowed a run in three career relief appearances against his former club. He’s making his first career start against Colorado.