Rockies 5, Braves 4

That’s the Todd Helton of old.

Usually that term’s been used in front of his name during his
summer of struggles at the plate.

Helton capped his first four-hit game in more than a year with a
tiebreaking RBI single off lefty Jonny Venters in the eighth inning
Monday night that lifted the Colorado Rockies to a 5-4 win over the
Atlanta Braves.

”I don’t know if it’s satisfaction or surprise,” Helton said
of his first four-hit night since July 16, 2009, against San
Diego.

Helton dribbled a single over second base to score Carlos
Gonzalez from second and make a winner of reliever Rafael
Betancourt (4-1), who gave up the tying run in the top of the
eighth.

Huston Street got the final three outs for his 11th save in 15
chances.

Venters fell to 4-1.

Helton is starting to break out of a season-long slump this
month – he’s hitting .308 (16-for-52) since coming off the DL on
Aug. 3, and Monday night he raised his season batting average 10
points to .257.

Two pitches before his game-winner, he was knocked down by a
wayward 97 mph fastball from Venters that glanced off his bat.
Venters then buckled Helton’s knees with an inside curveball before
leaving another heater out over the plate.

”It woke me up a little bit, right at my head, sinking in,”
Helton said of the fastball that whizzed by his face. ”It was
almost a career changer.”

And the fastball he hit up the middle was just as nasty.

”The guy’s throwing 97 and it’s sinking all over the place,”
Helton said. ”I knew he was going to throw me a fastball. It was
just a matter if I could hit it or not. There wasn’t much I could
do with that, just put it in play and hopefully find a hole. Not a
comfortable at-bat, no.”

Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who won his 700th career game, lauded
Helton for his nerve to stay in there after getting dirtied.

Pshaw, said Helton.

”Yeah, I was pulling off a little bit. You saw the breaking
ball before that. If he’d have thrown that for a strike, I’d have
been out,” Helton said. ”But I knew he was going to throw a
fastball because his fastball’s that good.”

Braves catcher Brian McCann was thoroughly impressed by
Helton.

”We were calling a sinker in but he kept his hands in nice and
did the only thing you could do with it and drive it up the
middle,” McCann said. ”A 96-mph sinker, going for a double play
there. Tip your hat.”

McCann said the Braves’ scouting report on Helton certainly
doesn’t dismiss the 37-year-old first baseman as washed up.

”Todd Helton, check his numbers,” McCann said. ”He puts
together great at-bats all the time. We knew coming in that he’s a
guy that can swing a bat and on any given night do what he did
tonight.”

”He’s swinging better than he was, that’s for sure,” Braves
manager Bobby Cox concurred. ”His back’s gotten better, I
guess.

”Yeah, it reminds me of what he used to be.”

The Rockies, too.

Helton’s teammates insist they haven’t ever lost faith in their
veteran leader like so many of their fans have.

”He’s Todd Helton,” Rockies starter Jason Hammel said. ”You
don’t have to say anything. He’ll find a way to get it done,
whether he’s not feeling comfortable or he’s hurting, you’re not
going to see it and he’ll come up there and give you quality
at-bats.”

Hammel was in line for his first win at Coors Field since July
10 and Tim Hudson was on the hook for his first loss since July 17
until Betancourt gave up a two-out RBI single to Alex Gonzalez at
tied it at 4.

Colorado jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Gonzalez’s RBI double in
the third and Ian Stewart’s 18th homer following a double by Helton
in the fourth.

Martin Prado trimmed it to 3-2 with his own two-run shot an
inning later, putting a tomahawk swing on a high, 1-2 fastball and
sending it into the rock pile in center field.

”The ball that Prado hit, he’s got to be the greatest hitter
ever,” Hammel said. ”It was a great pitch. I don’t know how you
hit 95 at the eyes, especially when I just went there. You’ve got
to be expecting curveball there, so I tip my cap. I was
shocked.”

Many of the 34,172 in the crowd at Coors Field might be saying
the same thing about Helton’s night.

Helton’s third hit was an RBI single in the sixth that made it
4-2 before Rick Ankiel made it a one-run game again when he led off
the seventh with his first homer since Atlanta acquired him from
Kansas City on July 31.

NOTES: Helton’s double leading off the fourth was the 523rd of
his career, tying him with Willie Mays for 37th all-time. …
Hudson has not lost in his last seven starts.