There’s no question the Colorado Rockies have had a disappointing season, stuck in third place in baseball’s worst division after making the franchise’s first World Series appearance a year ago.
Imagine where they’d be without Aaron Cook.
Cook will look to become the NL’s second 15-game winner on Saturday as the Rockies try to beat the visiting San Diego Padres for the fourth straight game.
Colorado (53-65) waited until late in the 2007 season to make a playoff run in the NL West, but a similar surge in 2008 seems unlikely. The Rockies are just 5-7 since a stretch where they won nine of 10, and they are seven games behind 16-game winner Brandon Webb and the first-place Diamondbacks.
If Colorado is to make a push, though, it’s a good bet that Cook will be leading the way. The 29-year-old right-hander surpassed his previous career-high win total of nine on June 15, and also made his first All-Star team.
He had won three straight starts before Monday, when he had a rare rough outing. Cook gave up seven runs—five earned—and 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings in a 9-4 loss to Washington.
“I knew I was going to have to get through the game without my best stuff,” Cook said after he failed to go at least six innings for just the third time in 24 starts.
Cook has had his best stuff both times he’s faced San Diego (44-72) this season. He’s 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA, and pitched a five-hitter in a 4-0 win on July 1 at Coors Field.
The Rockies stretched their streak against the Padres to three in a row on Friday in the series opener. They were outhit 10-7, but got three RBIs from Garrett Atkins and a two-run homer from Ian Stewart in a 6-3 win over Padres ace Jake Peavy.
“I was trying to be aggressive,” Stewart said. “I had never faced Peavy before, so that’s all I was trying to do and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
After going 4-for-27 (.148) with no RBIs in his last seven games, Atkins began to break out of his slump in the second game of a doubleheader against the Nationals on Thursday. He’s now 6-for-8 with a homer and six RBIs in his last two games, and is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with a homer and 11 RBIs this season against the Padres.
Atkins has also had plenty of success against the pitcher he’ll be facing on Saturday. Greg Maddux (5-8, 4.17) has won back-to-back starts for the first time since mid-April, but the Rockies first baseman is hitting .464 (13-for-28) with two homers in his career versus the future Hall of Famer.
Maddux beat the Rockies on May 10, then went 14 straight starts without a victory before his last two outings. He had one of his better starts of the season on Sunday, allowing a run and two hits over six innings in a 4-1 win over San Francisco.
“He threw well. Today I saw the good movement on the fastball, maybe a little more movement,” manager Bud Black told the Padres’ official Web site. “I thought the command was very good.”
Maddux is 1-1 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts at Coors Field with the Padres.