Saunders helps Arizona beat Colorado 5-3.

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DENVER (AP)—Arizona manager Kirk Gibson walked to the mound seemingly ready to pull his embattled starter after the first two batters reached in the sixth inning and the Diamondbacks clinging to a two-run lead.

Instead, Gibson gave Joe Saunders(notes) a quick pep talk and went back to the dugout.

“I figured he was either going to chew me out or light a spark,” Saunders said. “It was nice to see Gibby come out there and say, ‘I’ve got faith in you, let’s make some pitches and get out of this mess here.”’

Saunders rewarded Gibson’s faith in him by pitching out of the jam and Arizona held on to beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3 on Wednesday.

The Diamondbacks went 4-2 on the road trip and increased their lead in the NL West to seven games over San Francisco. The Giants lost to San Diego 3-1 on Wednesday.

“It was a great road trip,” Gibson said. “I think we left at six games and we’re coming back at seven. We’re closer to the initial finish line.”

The Diamondbacks head home with a comfortable lead and 13 of their last 19 games in Arizona, but they’re not ready to celebrate a division title yet.

“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself,” outfielder Justin Upton(notes) said. “There’s a lot of baseball to be played and crazier things have happened.”

Saunders contributed to Wednesday’s win with his arm and his bat. He tossed six solid innings and delivered an RBI single in the top of the sixth that gave Arizona the lead for good.

“It’s nice to get the go-ahead RBI,” he said. “We pride ourselves on contributing at the plate. We don’t consider ourselves and out.”

He was in danger of giving the lead up in the sixth when Troy Tulowitzki(notes) led off with a single and Ty Wigginton(notes) walked. But after Gibson’s visit to the mound he got Seth Smith(notes) on a fly out, he struck out Wilin Rosario(notes) and retired Jordan Pacheco(notes) on a fly to center.

“I knew what was going on there and that’s what we needed him to do,” Gibson said. “He’s a veteran pitcher. He showed us why we believe in him.”

Upton and Miguel Montero(notes) homered and J.J. Putz(notes) pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 37th save for Arizona.

Saunders (10-12) won for just the second time since the end of July. He gave up three runs on seven hits, walked one and struck out four to become the third Arizona starter with double-digit wins.

“It was a battle, obviously,” Saunders said. “I wasn’t too pleased with the three solo home runs.”

Arizona rallied to take the lead in the sixth. With two outs, John McDonald(notes) doubled down the left-field line to score Paul Goldschmidt(notes) from first. Saunders helped his own cause with a single to right to drive in McDonald and give the Diamondbacks a 4-3 lead.

Upton led off the seventh with his 28th homer to make it 5-3.

Colorado took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on Rosario’s first career homer—a solo shot.

“He got a big swing tonight,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Rosario.

The Diamondbacks jumped ahead 2-0 in the third on Montero’s two-run homer to dead center field, his 15th of the season. The Rockies tied it in the bottom of the inning on solo homers by Kevin Millwood(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes). It was Millwood’s third career homer and Gonzalez’s 25th of the year.

Millwood (2-2) gave up four runs on 10 hits and struck out four in 5 2-3 innings.

Notes: Millwood’s homer was his first since May 18, 2002. … Arizona 3B Ryan Roberts(notes) was out of the lineup, but manager Kirk Gibson said it was not because of the spike he took to his left leg in Tuesday’s loss. … Rockies 1B Todd Helton(notes) (back stiffness) sat out his fourth straight game. Manager Jim Tracy said Helton could play Friday. … The Diamondbacks send ace Ian Kennedy(notes) to the mound Thursday in the opener of a four-game home series against San Diego. … Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin(notes) will start for the Rockies when they open a three-game series Friday against Cincinnati.

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