DENVER (AP)—Rodrigo Lopez was a little jittery when he arrived at Coors Field.
It was Lopez’s first start in more than a month and the team was riding a winning streak. Lopez didn’t want to mess it up.
It’s the first time the Rockies have won seven in a row since Sept. 6-12, 1998.
Lopez, who was activated from the disabled list before the game, had been out since April 19 with right elbow inflammation. Lopez (2-0) allowed three runs and six hits.
“It’s not like when I made my debut, but I was nervous,” Lopez said. “I was trying to get the win.”
Yorvit Torrealba helped Lopez’s cause with a grand slam in the fourth inning. He hit a 2-2 fastball over the left-center field fence for his third career grand slam, and first by Colorado this season. His first homer of the season came after Braden Looper (6-4) walked the bases loaded to start the inning.
“First one was a long time coming and, obviously, it was well-timed,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Hurdle said his team is playing the best stretch of baseball he’s seen since taking over the Rockies in 2002. But he doesn’t think his players are doing anything out of the ordinary.
“We’ve just put together a consistent approach,” Hurdle said. “It hasn’t been a bunch of walk-off wins. I think it goes back to this club growing and relying upon one another.”
The Rockies have been relying on solid starting pitching during the streak. Over the last seven games, the starters have gone an average of seven innings and have a 2.40 ERA.
Hawpe knew a winning streak like this was on its way.
“We had a tough stretch so you know at some point we’re going to have a good one,” Hawpe said. “You knew it was going to happen.”
The Rockies want to ride the momentum.
“We’re going to try to run it up for the next few weeks,” Hawpe said. “I’m not saying we’re going to win every game, but try to stay hot.”
The Cardinals have lost seven straight road games and are just 9-16 away from Busch Stadium this season.
“In the end, they pitched better, they hit better and managed better,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We were completely outplayed.”
Looper lasted 5 2-3 innings, giving up six runs and seven hits. He finished with a season-high five walks.
“I felt terribly (mechanically) today,” he said. “I kept battling and tried to get the ball down. But I couldn’t make the adjustment.”
Looper said he left a pitch over the middle of the plate to Torrealba.
“You can’t do that here or anywhere,” he said.
Lopez gave up just one hit until the fifth when Scott Rolen hit his third homer of the season and So Taguchi and Gary Bennett followed with singles. But Adam Kennedy hit into a double play and Looper struck out.
Lopez also gave up a solo homer to Jim Edmonds.
Lopez said his main goal was to not feel any discomfort in his elbow, which he didn’t.
“My arm feels pretty good,” he said.
Not bad for a cold night. The game looked like it might be postponed after the city was hit by grape-sized hail that covered the field with an inch of ice four hours before the first pitch. The ice melted in time, and the game was played in 48-degree weather.
Hurdle said before the game that the winning streak wasn’t a measure of vindication for him and the team. Hurdle and Co. were criticized after the Rockies fell to 18-27 just before the streak started with a 3-1 win at Arizona on May 22.
“Vindication has never entered the picture,” Hurdle said. “Never has, never will. We want to play consistent ball.”
Yet this is exactly the way he envisioned the team playing at the beginning of the season. The team moved out of the basement in the NL West with the win Tuesday.
“We want to give our fans a reason to cheer, a team to support, a team to root for,” he said. “It’s been a long climb for everybody involved.”
St. Louis C Yadier Molina left the game in the fourth inning with a bruised left wrist after being hit by a foul ball an inning earlier. La Russa said he was taken to the hospital, but didn’t have any further information. … Cardinals OF Scott Spiezio left in the fourth after complaining of dizziness.