Back-to-back homers lift Astros

Jack Etkin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Until Thursday, Colorado Rockies reliever Wilton Lopez had given up more than one home run in a game just once in his big league career. That was in his major league debut on Aug. 28, 2009, when Lopez yielded three homers while pitching for the Houston Astros.
Since then, Lopez yielded just 15 home runs in 239 appearances. He hadn't allowed any homers this year in 27 appearances and 27 1/3 innings for the Rockies, who acquired Lopez from the Astros in December.
However, Lopez gave up home runs to the first two batters he faced Thursday, part of the Astros' six-run, sixth-inning rally that led to a 7-5 win over Colorado.
Rockies starter Juan Nicasio, whom manager Walt Weiss said "was really grinding for most of the game," gave up four straight hits and two runs to start the sixth. Lopez entered and yielded a three-run homer to Chris Carter, the 10th homer of the season for the Astros first baseman. Matt Dominguez followed with his eighth homer to put the Astros ahead 7-3.
Weiss turned to Lopez rather than Adam Ottavino in the sixth with the game tied at 3 and runners on first and second.
"The best way to minimize damage in that situation is with ground balls, and I felt like he was our best option," Weiss said.
Instead, Carter belted a 3-2 sinker into the left field stands on the sixth pitch and sixth sinker of the at-bat.
"In that situation, they want you to hit a ground ball to third or short," Carter said. "I was looking for a pitch in, probably a sinker because he threw me six straight. I hit the last one."
The Astros made four errors in the first three innings, two in the third on throws by shortstop Ronny Cedeno. However, the Rockies managed just one run in each of those innings.
"Normally when you make four errors, especially in a ballpark like this, you're probably looking at a bunch of crooked numbers," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We did a good job of minimizing the damage and them only getting one run with the three errors in one inning."
The Rockies scored a two-out run in the sixth on Carlos Gonzalez's single, which came on Lucas Harrell's 119th and last pitch. Brad Peacock relieved Harrell and got Troy Tulowitzki to ground into a fielder's choice. Peacock pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Harrell.
Porter did not want to use closer Jose Veras, who pitched in each of the previous three games. Instead, left-hander Wesley Wright began the ninth, just to face Gonzalez, who led off with a single. Hector Ambriz entered, and with Tulowitzki batting, Gonzalez set a career high with his third stolen base and 12th in as many attempts this season. Tulowitzki singled just beyond the diving Cedeno, with Gonzalez stopping at third, before Ambriz struck out Michael Cuddyer.
Todd Helton drove in Gonzalez with a sacrifice fly, but Ambriz struck out Nolan Arenado looking to earn his first save of the season.
The Astros won three of four games from the Rockies this week, including both games at Coors Field. Houston (17-37) has split its past 14 games. Ten of those 14 games have been decided by two or fewer runs, and the Astros are 6-4 in those contests.
The Rockies lost for the fifth time in six games. They left 11 runners on base, including seven in the first three innings. Colorado stranded runners on second and third in the first, left the bases loaded in the second and left men on second and third in the third.
"I felt like we had an opportunity to put the game away early," Weiss said. "We didn't do it. It cost us. It's happened a few times this year. When you have a starter in trouble, you need to put him away and win the game."
J.D. Martinez led the Astros with four hits. Yorvit Torrealba had a three-hit game for Colorado.
NOTES: Rockies LHP Jeff Francis is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday followed by rehab starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday at Salt Lake City (70-75 pitches) and on June 8 at Reno (90-100 pitches). Francis is on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain, which he said is "not perfect yet, but it's a lot better." Francis had to adjust his rehab schedule after he took a hard grounder off the front of his left ankle Tuesday in an extended spring training game. ... RHP Roy Oswalt made his second start Wednesday for Tulsa, the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, and allowed three hits and one run in six innings. Weiss said Oswalt's fastball was up to 93 mph and his secondary stuff was good. Oswalt is scheduled to make three more starts for Tulsa and then be re-evaluated by the Rockies. ... Porter said RHP Edgar Gonzalez was unavailable due to shoulder soreness. ... Astros SS Marwin Gonzalez sat out due to tenderness in his right hamstring. ... The Rockies stole five bases in a game for the first time since July 25, 2008, at Cincinnati. ... Carlos Gonzalez became the first Rockies player to steal three bases in a game since Eric Young Jr. did so on Sept. 11, 2011, against the Reds.

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