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Helton's pinch-hit homer gives Rockies sweep vs. Padres

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- Todd Helton arrived here hitting .095. But he left with a bang.

Helton's pinch-hit two-run homer in the seventh inning allowed the Colorado Rockies to sweep the San Diego Padres for the second weekend in a row as they earned a 2-1 victory on Sunday before an announced crowd of 21,337 at Petco Park.

Helton laughed when he was asked how much the reconfigured right-field wall at Petco, which was moved in 11 feet and lowered to eight feet before the season, figured in his game-winning home run.

"It helped out a little bit," he said with a grin.

Helton's homer, his first game-winner as a pinch hitter, provided the cushion for Jorge De La Rosa (1-1), who allowed only one runner to reach second and tossed a two-hitter in six innings before the bullpen took over and pitched hitless ball in the last three. De La Rosa struck out seven and walked two in the decision.

"We were facing a guy who was on today," said Padres third baseman Jedd Gyorko, who had one of the team's two hits and drove in the only run. "He was pretty tough and we couldn't get that big hit when we needed it. Even though we only had a couple of hits, we kept battling to try and get in a position to win the game, but fell short."

The Rockies (8-4) won their third straight and sent the reeling Padres (2-10) to their fifth loss in a row.

Helton said he used the same approach as a pinch-hitter as he does as an everyday player.

"It's the same as whenever I hit," said Helton, who has nine home runs at Petco and raised his average to .267. "See the ball and try to put a good swing on it. You don't try to do anything different. The only difference is you only have one shot (as a pinch hitter). I got the right pitch and was able to stay back and got enough barrel on it to get it over the now-shortened fence."

"It's a good win in a lot of ways," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "It's a credit to (Helton) for being ready for that (at-bat)."

Clayton Richard and De La Rosa were locked into a duel for much of the game as both pitched shutouts through six innings and allowed only two hits apiece. Richard, though, was relieved in the seventh by Dale Thayer after 104 pitches.

Thayer (0-1), who hadn't allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings this season, gave up a leadoff walk to third baseman Chris Nelson before Helton delivered his game-winner with one out. It was Helton's first home run of the season and his third as a pinch hitter. His last pinch-hit home run occurred April 29, 2012, against the Mets.

On Sunday, it was enough offense to give the Rockies and De La Rosa another victory over the woeful Padres.

"This is a tough start, no doubt about it," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "We have to fight through this, especially in the next couple of weeks and put our best foot forward here and play hard, which the guys are going to do. It will be nice if the guys can string together some pitching."

Closer Rafael Betancourt, who walked the first two batters he faced, gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Gyorko with two outs in the ninth before striking out Nick Hundley and recording his fifth save.

NOTES: No San Diego starter has pitched into the seventh inning this season. ... Infielder-outfielder Kyle Blanks, who served as a pinch-runner in the ninth, was called up by the Padres from Triple-A Tucson. To make room, the club optioned reliever Thad Weber, who was called up Friday, back to Tucson. Blanks, 26, batted .296 (8-for-27) with a home run, three doubles, four RBI and seven runs in eight games for Tucson. Blanks had a strong spring, hitting .354 (23-for-65) with three home runs, five doubles, a triple, 14 RBI and 17 runs. ... The Rockies led the majors with 15 road home runs entering Sunday. ... Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario homered Saturday and recorded four hits for the first time. Since being added to the roster on Sept. 6, 2011, Rosario has smacked 35 home runs, tops among major-league catchers.
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