The Colorado Rockies keep losing players and winning games.
Starting pitcher Jose Contreras came out in the third inning with a strained quadriceps Thursday, his second start for injured Aaron Cook.
No matter, the bullpen and a makeshift lineup that was missing its top two sluggers led the Rockies to their seventh straight win, 5-1 over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
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“Got to keep the train going,” Eric Young Jr. said.
It’s chugging along at full steam these days.
The NL wild card leaders increased their cushion to 4 1/2 games over idle San Francisco and crept within two games of first-place Los Angeles in the NL West. The Dodgers also had the day off.
“We are playing great baseball,” Jason Giambi said. “I’m excited that we are doing the little things, moving runners, getting big hits when we need it and getting great pitching. That’s what you want to do down the stretch.”
All this despite losing pivotal players.
With Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart sitting out a third straight game with back stiffness, the team again had to rely on a patchwork lineup.
With their top two sluggers out, the Rockies went with Clint Barmes at shortstop, Garrett Atkins at third and Young at second. The team even gave first baseman Todd Helton the day off, starting Giambi instead.
Still, the lineup produced.
“It speaks volumes as to the depth and strength of this organization,” said manager Jim Tracy, whose team is 63-32 since he took over.
Young was just trying to jump-start a listless offense when he put down a two-out bunt in the third inning.
His bunt, though, slipped through the fingers of pitcher Kip Wells as he tried to field it, and the speedy Young easily beat it out.
That got the Rockies going.
Seth Smith had an RBI single, Giambi laced a two-run double to deep center and Atkins added a two-run homer.
Just like that, the Rockies had a 5-1 lead. It was more than enough.
“You never know how a small thing like my bunt can get something like that going,” said Young, who added two stolen bases. “I just wanted to try to get everybody excited and pumped up and ready for their at-bats.”
“The kid lays down a bunt for a base hit?” Tracy said. “Speed kills. … Things happened from there.”
The Rockies lost Contreras in the third when he strained his right quadriceps trying to beat out a grounder. He was taken out of the game and is day to day.
In his absence, Colorado strung together three relievers who allowed just three hits the rest of the way. Juan Rincon (3-2) pitched three effective frames, striking out five to earn the win.
“What a job by our bullpen,” Tracy said.
Giambi has been dialed in since joining the Rockies on Sept. 1. The slugger that Tracy has taken to calling “Giambino” now has six RBIs in six games with Colorado.
“I have a lot of confidence right now and I’m swinging the bat well,” said Giambi, who nearly hit a solo homer in the eighth, only to have Drew Stubbs reach over the wall to bring it back. “I’ve come in, fit right in right away and have gotten results.”
Wells (1-4) didn’t fare well against his former team, giving up five runs and six hits in five innings.
“I made mistakes with sliders that cost me,” said Wells, who pitched for Colorado last season. “The slider cost me – soft pitches over the plate. Atkins really jumped on a bad pitch.”
Joey Votto celebrated his 26th birthday with a 2-for-4 afternoon at the plate, while Brandon Phillips had three singles and a stolen base for Cincinnati. Phillips’ run-scoring single in the first was his 86th RBI.
The Reds had a chance to pounce on the Rockies in the first inning, but Contreras struck out Wladimir Balentien and Adam Rosales to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam.
“That’s been a problem for us all year, and it was today,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We get runners in scoring position and we can’t make contact or put the ball in play.”
Contreras was making his second start with the Rockies after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 31 for a minor league pitcher. … Rosales filled in at third as Scott Rolen was rested. … Rockies RHP Ubaldo Jimenez was scheduled to throw a bullpen session to test a hamstring he tweaked running the bases in his last start. He’s scheduled to pitch again Saturday in San Diego.