Colorado was well out of the NL West race when it began a series against the first-place San Diego Padres earlier this month.
Extending the NL’s longest winning streak this season could push the Rockies to the top of the division during this three-game set.
Colorado tries to match a franchise-record 11-game winning streak Monday night at Coors Field against a Padres team that’s dropped 13 of 17.
The Rockies (79-64) were 7 1/2 games behind the Padres (80-62) when they met in San Diego on Sept. 3, but Colorado swept the three-game set and extended San Diego’s skid to a season-high 10.
Colorado lengthened its own winning streak to 10, and moved within 1 1/2 games of San Diego on Sunday when Jason Giambi(notes) delivered a pinch-hit, two-run walkoff homer in a 4-2 victory over Arizona.
“Streaks likes this, you win in all kinds of different ways,” said manager Jim Tracy, whose team has won seven straight and 19 of 23 in Denver.
A Rockies victory in the opener would not only tie the Chicago White Sox and Texas for the longest streak in the majors this season, it would match a franchise-record last accomplished from June 4-14, 2009.
It would also put pressure on San Francisco, which won three of four at San Diego over the weekend to move into a virtual tie atop the West.
Despite their recent struggles, the Padres are confident they can maintain the top spot.
“Whether we’re sharing it or not, we lost 10 games and we’re still in first place,” ace Mat Latos(notes) said following Sunday’s 6-1 loss. “Obviously that right there can make a statement. If we keep taking series like we’ve always tried to do, we still should have no problem with winning it.”
The Padres, who have lost three straight and five of seven on the road, open with rookie Cory Luebke(notes) (1-1, 3.27 ERA) on the mound. Making his second career start, the left-hander struck out seven and allowed two hits over six innings of Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was a big improvement from his major league debut - a 4-3 loss to Colorado on Sept. 3 when he was tagged for two-run homers by Tulowitzki and Giambi.
“I think the last time, I wasn’t too nervous, but I think I let the adrenaline get to me a little bit,” Luebke said. “It’s only two starts, but I did feel better tonight.”
Jeff Francis(notes) (4-4, 4.56), who has been dealing with soreness in his surgically-repaired left shoulder, is scheduled to start for Colorado. Francis will be held to a pitch count around 60 or 70 as he makes his first start since Aug. 11.
He is 0-1 with a 12.38 ERA in two starts against the Padres this year, and 2-5 with a 6.11 ERA over nine career starts in Colorado versus San Diego.
Center fielder Carlos Gonzalez(notes), who leads the NL in batting (.337), is tied for fourth in homers (32) and ranks third in RBIs (100), is hitting .333 with four home runs and 14 RBIs for Colorado.
The Rockies have won 11 of 15 from the Padres this season.