Rockies 5, Marlins 4

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DENVER (AP)—When Todd Helton uses the whole field, he’s one of baseball’s toughest outs.

Helton led off the ninth inning with a home run to the opposite field off Braden Looper, giving the Colorado Rockies a 5-4 win over the Florida Marlins on Thursday night and a three-game sweep.

Florida rallied for two runs in the eighth and tied it in the ninth on Alex Gonzalez’s homer before Helton hit the fourth game-ending homer of his career.

Helton hit a 1-0 pitch from Looper (4-3) for his 27th homer of the year.

“I was looking away,” Helton said. “In my previous two at-bats I had hit fastballs in and hit them pretty well to first base. I was looking away there. Plus, he has a really good sinker so I’m not going to try to pull that kind of pitch.”

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said Helton, whose .361 average is second in the majors to St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (.371), “is as good as there is at crunch time. The best hitters in baseball use the opposite field. Look at the guys who hit for high averages, they use the entire field. This guy just knows what to do in the box with a piece of wood in his hand.”

Looper knows how good a hitter Helton is, too.

“He’s made a living at doing that,” Looper said. “It was a fastball away. I didn’t think it was going to go out when he hit it. He kept his hands inside the ball, got behind the ball and it just kept going. Any time you see a ball go straight down the opposite-field line like that, it’s not normal. That’s Todd Helton.”

Preston Wilson and Chris Stynes also connected for Colorado, and Jose Jimenez pitched six impressive innings in his first start since 1999.

The Marlins remained a half-game behind Philadelphia in the NL wild-card race.

Wilson increased his major league-leading RBI total to 121 as Colorado beat Florida for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings at Coors Field.

Ivan Rodriguez had three hits for the Marlins.

Justin Speier (3-1) got the win despite serving up Gonzalez’s homer.

Luis Castillo singled in the eighth for Florida and went to third on Rodriguez’s single, both off Adam Bernero. Steve Reed entered and balked in a run. Rodriguez went to third on a groundout and scored on Juan Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly.

Gonzalez led off the ninth with his 14th homer.

Jimenez limited the Marlins to five hits and one run with three walks and no strikeouts. Jimenez, thrust into a starting role after Shawn Chacon went on the disabled list, had been the Rockies’ closer since 2000 before losing that job earlier this season.

“I feel great, it’s like a new experience for me,” Jimenez said. “I can throw six innings. I’m a little tired, but I’m fine. When you throw the sinker, you get a lot of groundballs.”

Jimenez got 15 groundball outs.

Marlins starter Brad Penny also went six innings, allowing six hits and four runs.

Florida manager Jack McKeon called Helton’s shot “a Coors Field home run. We had our chances. Our pitching wasn’t bad except we gave up too many home runs. But in this park it is expected.”

Referring to the wild-card race, McKeon said, “You always feel frustrated that you have opportunities and can’t cash in.”

Florida pushed across a run in the first. Castillo walked, went to third on Rodriguez’s single and scored on Mike Lowell’s groundout.

The Rockies countered with three runs in their half. With one out, Stynes doubled and scored on Helton’s double. Wilson followed with a two-run, opposite-field homer, his 31st.

Jimenez worked out of a jam in the fifth after Penny and Juan Pierre singled with no outs. Jimenez induced Castillo to hit into a double play, then retired Rodriguez on a liner to short.

Stynes led off the sixth with his 10th homer. Helton followed with a single,but Penny got Wilson on a fly ball and Larry Walker on a double-play grounder.


Helton’s homer was the 22nd game-ending shot in Rockies history and the first this season. … Walker returned to the lineup after missing one game with a sore right knee. … Penny had won three of his previous four starts. … Wilson matched his career highs for homers (31) and RBIs (121) set in 2000with Florida. … All 10 of Stynes’ homers this season have come at home.

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