It will take a monumental effort in the second half of the season for the Colorado Rockies to take over the top spot in the NL West.
The NL wild-card leaders, though, still have serious playoff aspirations.
The Rockies try to extend their one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the wild card race on Friday night when they open a three-game set at Coors Field.
Despite winning 32 of 43, the Rockies (52-43) trail the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers by nine games. Colorado, however, has not given up on winning its second division crown in three seasons.
“Right now our concern is not with the wild card,” Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe(notes) said following Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Arizona. “We feel we’re a division championship-type team. We’re trying to play to that caliber.”
Helton, batting .324 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs, became the 50th player in major league history to reach the 500-double plateau Wednesday when he hit one off Diamondbacks right-hander Jon Garland(notes) in the third inning. Helton added a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning as the Rockies won for the 18th time in their last 25 games at Coors Field.
Hammel (5-4, 4.26 ERA) struck out a season-high seven in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at San Diego, but he also hit three batters, including second baseman Edgar Gonzalez, who was hospitalized after getting beaned by the 26-year-old right-hander.
“I was effectively wild and, unfortunately, effectively wild was dangerous,” said Hammel, who is 0-1 in four July starts after going 5-0 from May 24-June 26.
The Giants (51-44), meanwhile, look to get back on track after left-hander Barry Zito(notes) helped them snap a three-game slide Thursday. Zito yielded three hits over seven innings in San Francisco’s 5-1 win over Atlanta in the finale of the four-game set.
“(Zito) saved us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It would have been tough to come in here and get swept.”
San Francisco, which hasn’t homered in its last seven games, is batting .220 while losing six of eight. The Giants, though, are batting .306 and averaging 6.2 runs in 124 all-time games in Colorado.
The way All-Star Matt Cain(notes) (11-2, 2.32) has been pitching, that would be plenty of support. Making his first start since getting hit in the right elbow by a line drive July 11 against San Diego, the right-hander struck out eight and allowed one run in Sunday’s 4-3 victory at Pittsburgh.
Cain is 9-1 with a 2.05 ERA in his last 14 starts.
In an 8-3 win at Coors Field on May 7, he scattered five walks and one hit over six scoreless innings.
With right-hander Manuel Corpas(notes) possibly out for the season with right elbow surgery scheduled for Friday, Colorado acquired right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt(notes) from Cleveland on Thursday. Betancourt, 34, was 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA for the Indians.
The Rockies will also call up right-hander Jhoulys Chacin from Double-A Tulsa prior to the series opener.
Colorado has won 11 of 17 versus San Francisco.