Todd Helton has spent much of his career sending balls down the left-field line at spacious Coors Field. It was only fitting, then, that he reached a major milestone the same way.
Helton doubled for his 2,500th career hit, Michael Cuddyer homered among his four hits and the Colorado Rockies overcame the loss of starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood to beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-4, on Sunday.
Helton became the 96th player in major league history to reach 2,500 hits, and it came after a tough couple of days.
Helton homered twice Friday to move within one hit of the milestone but went 0 for 4 on Saturday. He flied out, struck out and walked Sunday before facing reliever Curtis Partch in the seventh inning.
”Every at-bat felt like it was getting longer and longer,” Helton said. ”I was getting a little concerned because I definitely wanted to get 2,500 here at home in front of the home crowd.”
Helton worked the count full against Partch before lacing a 96-mph fastball down the left-field line. He just beat the throw to second for his 584th career double.
”A line-hugger that barely stayed fair, on a 3-2 count. That’s what’s kept me in the league this long,” Helton said. ”That’s my bread and butter, to go the other way, especially with two strikes. To do it on the 2,500th is very fitting.”
It also was fitting he was called safe on a close play at second.
”I’ll probably remember the umpire yelling safe because he could have very easily yelled out,” Helton said.
He received a standing ovation from the crowd of 30,594 and tipped his helmet to the cheering fans. After the inning ended, the scoreboard showed a short highlight video of Helton’s career.
”As he’s been closing in on it there’s been a lot of excitement in the clubhouse,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. ”It’s great to be a part of it. I got to see Todd in his very first game and to be here for his 2,500th hit, it’s a great experience for me. He showed up with a lot of hype and he’s lived up to that hype. Every bit of it, and then some. It’s been an amazing career.”
The Rockies had the game in hand before Helton’s big moment after breaking it open in the fifth against Reds starter Mike Leake. DJ LeMahieu’s two-run double snapped a 2-all tie, Troy Tulowitzki walked and Cuddyer doubled to make it 5-2.
Cuddyer finished 4 for 4 with three RBIs.
Nolan Arenado, who homered earlier, added a sacrifice fly off reliever Alfredo Simon.
Leake (11-6) allowed six runs on eight hits and struck out four in 4 1-3 innings.
”It was a little frustrating just because I wasn’t throwing the ball exactly where I wanted today,” Leake said.
Cuddyer’s 18th home run leading off the seventh gave the Rockies a 7-2 cushion.
”We couldn’t get Cuddyer out,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Cincinnati scored single runs in the eighth and ninth to get within three before Rex Brothers got the final out.
Shin-Soo Choo homered and had three hits for the Reds. Chris Heisey was 4 for 4.
Chatwood, activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, left in the third with a bruised right thumb after he tried to catch Leake’s line drive up the middle with his bare hand. He was checked by a team trainer and initially stayed in the game.
The right-hander allowed a two-run homer to Choo, his 18th, and walked the next two batters before leaving.
”It started swelling up a little bit and I kind of lost a little bit of feeling in it,” Chatwood said. ”It’s frustrating. You wait a month to start and that happens. I had no feeling in my thumb.”
He was replaced by righty Adam Ottavino, who got out of the inning with some nifty defense.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Heisey reached on an infield single up the middle. Joey Votto tried to score from second but Helton, who took a relay from Tulowitzki, wheeled and threw out Votto standing up.
Ottavino (1-2) tossed three scoreless innings to get the win.
The Rockies staked Chatwood to an early 2-0 lead on an RBI double by Cuddyer in the first and a leadoff homer by Arenado in the second.
That helped Helton celebrate his milestone with a victory. The lifetime Rockie, who is strongly contemplating retirement at the end of this season, his 17th, wanted to reach 2,500 hits quickly so he could enjoy the final month of the year.
”It took me three days to get it, so I had a lot of time to think about it,” he said. ”I was pretty grouchy last night and this morning. I started feeling a little bit of the pressure, so it’s a relief. I can go out and play and relax and finish this year with a bang.”
NOTES: Helton moved past Robin Yount into 17th place on the career doubles list. … Plate umpire Brian O’Nora left abruptly in the top of the eighth due to illness. The game continued with three umps. … The Rockies recalled INF Josh Rutledge from Triple-A before the game. … The Reds recalled Partch, INF Henry Rodriguez and OF Derrick Robinson. … Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (0-3) will open a three-game series against the Dodgers on Monday. … Reds RHP Mat Latos (13-5) starts Monday against St. Louis.