Rockies 9, Tigers 6

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DENVER (AP)—One desperation dive by Todd Helton and one mighty swing by Preston Wilson seized the momentum for the Colorado Rockies, who were in danger of losing their second straight game to baseball’s worst team.

Helton started a scintillating double play in the top of the fifth, and Wilson hit a three-run homer in the Rockies’ half as Colorado rallied for a 9-6 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.

Wilson, who entered the game as the NL’s RBI leader, also had a solo homer to increase his RBI total to 66.

Helton and Juan Uribe also had solo homers for Colorado, which turned four double plays.

With the Rockies trailing 3-2, Helton started a 3-6-1 double play in the fifth, making a diving stop of Bobby Higginson’s hard grounder and throwing to second base from his knees. Helton then hit the dirt, giving shortstop Uribe an unimpeded throw to pitcher Jason Jennings covering first.

“That’s as good a double play as you’ll ever see turned,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “That gave us spark and momentum. You could feel it when the guys came in off the field. It gave everybody a real big boost.”

Helton added: “I can’t remember ever throwing from my knees like that. Not that you practice it. I guess it was reaction.”

Three batters later, after walks to Mark Bellhorn and Helton, Wilson hit a 405-foot homer to right-center, his 16th, off Steve Sparks (0-4).

Colorado boosted its lead to 9-3 before Warren Morris hit a three-run homer off Jose Jimenez in the ninth.

Wilson’s homer came on a knuckleball from Sparks.

“I tried to get a pitch belt-high or higher,” Wilson said. “Something that is down low is really going to die with the knuckleball. It’s like the old saying: If it’s high, let it fly; if it’s low, let it go.”

Jennings (7-5) won his fourth straight start, going seven innings and allowing 10 hits and three runs. He walked two and struck out seven.

Detroit starter Matt Roney, a former Rockies prospect who pitched 4 1-3 innings of scoreless relief against his former team last Sunday, made his first major league start. He went 3 2-3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs and departing with a 3-2 lead.

Roney, limited to a pitch count of 60 to 70, was removed in favor of Sparks in the fourth.

“If it was still 3-1 and he hadn’t thrown a wild pitch, I probably would have let him go out for the fifth,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “He did pretty well. We’ll let him go again and add a few pitches.

“You hope somebody will hold them down to keep you in the game. That didn’t happen. Sparks needs to step it up.”

The Tigers went up 2-0 with single runs in the first and second.

Alex Sanchez led off the game with a double and scored on Higginson’s single to right-center. In the second, Shane Halter hit a two-out homer, his fifth.

Detroit added another run in fourth, but Jennings avoided a potentially big inning.

Higginson led off with a single and went to third on Dmitri Young’s double. Jennings struck out Eric Munson and retired Kevin Witt on an infield grounder, with the runners holding. Halter walked to load the bases, and A.J. Hinch also walked, forcing in a run. Jennings then struck out Roney.

The Rockies, who put two runners aboard in both the second and third without scoring, got two runs in the fourth. Larry Walker and Greg Vaughn walked and advanced on a groundout. Walker scored on Greg Norton’s groundout, and Vaughn scored on Roney’s wild pitch.

After Wilson’s three-run shot in the fifth, Uribe added a solo homer off Sparks in the sixth.

Helton and Wilson hit back-to-back solo shots off Gary Knotts in the seventh.

Hinch, while catching, was ejected by plate umpire Larry Young in the eighth.

“The pitch to Helton (on a 1-2 count) was a close pitch,” Trammell said. “There are a lot of times when the catcher will hold the ball. Larry thoughthe held it too long. He thought A.J. showed him up.”

Notes

Roney, a first-round draft pick of the Rockies in 1998, was not protected on Colorado’s 40-man roster last December and was claimed in the winter meeting draft by Pittsburgh, then was traded to Detroit for cash on Dec. 16. … Roney singled in the third for his first major league hit in his first major league at-bat. … Jennings is 4-0 with a 4.91 ERA at home this year, and the Rockies have won each of his six home starts. … The crowd of 35,660 was the second-largest at Coors Field this season, topped only by the home opener(48,087).

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