Matt Holliday powers Rockies to 10-5 win over Nationals to finish 3-game sweep

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DENVER (AP)—The Colorado Rockies may be playing meaningful games in September for the first time in more than a decade.

Matt Holliday homered, doubled and drove in three runs, and the Colorado Rockies finished off a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a 10-5 win on Sunday, clinching at least a .500 mark on Sept. 1 for the second time since 1996.

“Right now we’re playing pretty well,” Holliday said. “If our pitching continues to give us a chance, our offense is going to be strong down the stretch.”

The Rockies finished off a seven game homestand against Pittsburgh and Washington, two teams well under .500, at 4-3. Things looked bleak after losing three of four to the Pirates, especially when they trailed the Nationals 5-1 in the ninth inning in the series opener Friday night.

But then Holliday hit a two-run homer, sparking a five-run fally in the ninth inning that gave the Rockies a 6-5 win.

Colorado heads out for a six-game road trip to San Francisco and NL West-leading Arizona on Monday.

The Rockies (67-63) have four more games before Sept. 1. They’ve been at or above .500 just once since 1996, when they were 69-65 in 2000. But that year, they were already 8 1/2 back in the NL West and 9 1/2 games off the pace in the wild-card race.

After Sunday’s win, Colorado was 3 1/2 games behind San Diego for the wild card, and 6 1/2 games behind Arizona in the NL West.

“We’re just trying to find a way to be one run better than the other from here on out,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

Elmer Dessens (2-1) gave up a run and three hits in six innings for his first Colorado win.

Holliday and Todd Helton had three hits each, and Troy Tulowitzki drove in three runs for the Rockies. Chris Iannetta, called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs late Saturday night, went 2-for-5 with an RBI in his return.

Dessens helped himself at the plate, walking twice and scoring on Kaz Matsui’s two-run double in the third inning to go along with his best start with Colorado. In his previous two starts for the Rockies, he lasted 4 2/3 innings.

After giving up a run in the first inning, Dessens found a groove, retiring 15 of the next 17 batters, including the last 10 he faced. It was Dessens’ first win as a starter since April 25, 2004, with Arizona against San Diego.

“I felt pretty good after the first inning, and then we came out and got some runs,” Dessens said. “I relaxed and kept my pitching count down. When you have a big lead, you focus and throw down in the zone.”

The Rockies sent 11 batters to the plate in the third inning and scored six runs, highlighted by Holliday’s 24th homer of the season, a two-run shot that made it 9-1 and chased starter Joel Hanrahan.

All 10 Colorado runs were scored with two outs.

Hanrahan (3-2) struggled to find the strike zone in the second inning, leading to two Rockies runs. Hanrahan walked the bases loaded, and Tulowitzki singled home Ryan Spilborghs. Hanrahan walked Holliday to make it 3-1, but he escaped further damage when he got Todd Helton to foul out on a 3-2 count.

“He just had a very rough outing. He couldn’t throw strikes,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “He couldn’t even throw strikes to the pitcher, which really hurt him.”

Ryan Church and Austin Kearns tried to rally the Nationals after Ramon Ortiz relieved Dessens. Church hit a two-run homer in the seventh and Kearns had a two-run double in the eighth that made it 9-5. Kearns was stranded at second when reliever Matt Herges got Church to fly out to right field to end the eighth.

Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead with a two-out, solo home run in the first inning. The Rockies tied it in the bottom of the inning on Helton’s two-out single that scored Holliday from second base.

“Zim got it started and I think we all thought that we were going to have a better day,” Kearns said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”

Notes

Zimmerman’s 21 home runs are a career high. … Holliday extended his hit streak to 16 games—a career best—with a double in the first inning. His is the longest current hitting streak in the majors. … Tulowitzki’s single in the second inning gives him a career-high 11-game hitting streak. … Helton has a .394 career average against the Nationals/Montreal Expos organization.

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