The Colorado Rockies had their two best power hitters out of the lineup with stiff backs.
So Eric Young Jr. took it upon himself to provide a little pop, hitting his first career homer in a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
With Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart both out with back ailments, the Rockies went with a makeshift infield. Part of that included Young stepping in at second base.
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He certainly stepped up at the plate, not only hitting a solo homer, but also scoring after a leadoff double in the first.
“That’s why they put me at the top of the lineup, to get something going and hopefully ignite the rest of the lineup,” said Young, whose father, Eric, hit the franchise’s first home run at old Mile High Stadium. “After the double the team was excited, and after the home run everyone was excited for me. It made it even more special for me.”
The win was the fifth straight by the Rockies, and moved them 19 games above .500 (79-60) for the first time in franchise history.
It also ensured the NL wild-card leaders of remaining at least two games in front of San Francisco, which hosted San Diego later Tuesday.
Mixing up his sinker and slider, Jason Marquis (15-10) kept the Reds off-balance all night. He allowed one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings. Marquis struck out a season-high seven – mostly with his slider – and got 12 groundball outs with his trademark sinker.
“This was quite a step-up performance by Jason tonight,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. “He had a terrific slider.”
And kept using it, waiting for the Reds to adjust.
“I’m a guy that’s going to let the game dictate how I pitch,” said Marquis, who matched his career-high in wins. “Until they made the adjustment, I wasn’t going to make the adjustment.”
When they didn’t, he stayed with the slider.
“He usually throws a lot more sinkers, but he had his slider working and he’d throw it at any time,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Marquis threw an excellent game and that’s why he’s a 15-game winner, especially in this ballpark.”
Marquis ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up leadoff singles to Drew Sutton and Drew Stubbs. After Paul Janish moved the runners up with a dribbler, Marquis was replaced by Randy Flores, who got Joey Votto to hit into a run-scoring groundout for the second out.
Rafael Betancourt entered the game and enticed Brandon Phillips to hit an inning-ending flyout. Franklin Morales then made it five straight saves filling in for the injured Huston Street by closing out the ninth.
Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez each drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, while Yorvit Torrealba‘s single in the second extended his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games.
Clint Barmes moved from second over to short to fill in for Tulowitzki, while Garrett Atkins played third in Stewart’s absence.
Atkins made a diving stop in the fourth, snaring a grounder in the hole and throwing out Craig Tatum by a half-step at first.
Barmes saved the Rockies a run with his glove in the sixth. With a runner on third, Barmes stopped a grounder up the middle, pirouetted and threw to first to just get Phillips.
Matt Maloney (0-4) was recalled from Double-A Carolina before the game, joining the team for a third stint this season. The left-hander lasted five innings, giving up one run and four hits before leaving with a blister on his middle finger.
“Just decided to come out before it would rip off,” Maloney explained. “The most frustrating part is it’s probably the best I’ve thrown since I’ve been up here.”
Pedro Viola made his major league debut in relief of Maloney in the sixth, giving up Young’s homer – a solo shot to left.
“As soon as it hit the bat I knew it had the distance,” Young said. “When I came into the dugout and saw my teammates excited for me, Yorvit was at the top step and gave me a hug, moments like that, when teammates embrace you, it’s a special moment.”
NOTES: The Rockies are 24-10 against the NL Central. … Rockies RHP Ubaldo Jimenez tweaked his hamstring running the bases Monday, but he said it was feeling better and doesn’t expect to miss a start. … The Reds announced after the game that RHP Kip Wells will start Thursday against Colorado. … Reds RF Wladimir Balentien was ejected in the ninth after striking out.