Brewers 3, Rockies 2
Shaun Marcum was ecstatic he learned he was coming to Milwaukee from Toronto because he knew the Brewers had a chance to make the playoffs. His early season dominance has kept the Brewers afloat.
Marcum won a career-best sixth straight decision with eight effective innings and Jonathan Lucroy homered, lifting Milwaukee to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night as the Brewers got back to .500.
''He's one of those rare guys that really gets it, doesn't have electric stuff - he has good stuff - but his good stuff is just because he knows how to locate it,'' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ''He has a great feel for the game.''
Milwaukee has won nine of 12 overall and has the NL's best winning percentage at home at .714 (15-6) after John Axford survived an adventure in the ninth for his 11th save.
Marcum (6-1) allowed his only run on a two-out homer to Carlos Gonzalez in the first and is 6-0 in his last nine starts with a 2.10 ERA since losing his first outing at Cincinnati.
Milwaukee scored twice in the bottom of the first and Lucroy homered off Clayton Mortensen (1-1) in the fifth. The Rockies have lost 11 of 16 and didn't have Todd Helton for a third straight game because of back spasms.
''I ran into one tonight and was able to help the team win,'' Lucroy said. ''I was glad I got the hit right there, and it made all the difference.''
Axford allowed a run when Troy Tulowitzki tripled with one out after right fielder Corey Hart made an ill-advised diving attempt at a catch and Tulowitzki scored on a groundout by Seth Smith.
Pinch hitter Jason Giambi singled, but Ty Wigginton struck out to end it.
''A little bit of an adventure, you just have to keep going after them and battling away and make pitches,'' Axford said. ''Whether I give up a hit here, a hit there, they know I'm coming after them.''
Milwaukee came in as the best hitting team at home in the majors, and while the Brewers didn't rack up a bunch of base hits, they made most of them count to get back to .500 at 23-23.
They hope it's a launching pad for bigger things to come.
''Yeah, it's hard to make the playoffs if we're below .500,'' Marcum said. ''We've been playing good ball lately.''
Marcum, acquired from the Blue Jays for Milwaukee's best hitting prospect, Brett Lawrie, continued his consistent string of performances, too.
He pitched better as the game went on, needing seven pitches to get out of the seventh and eight to finish the eighth while scattering four hits and striking out a season-high eight.
''Early on I felt really good and I think I did too much, I wasn't myself, overthrowing a little bit, pitches were getting away from me,'' Marcum said. ''As the game went on, I kind of settled down and I was able to locate a lot better.''
After Gonzalez homered by hitting an awkward breaking pitch just over the right-field wall in his return from a strained groin in the first, Milwaukee answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Rickie Weeks led off with a double and scored on Prince Fielder's double. Fielder came around to score himself when Jose Lopez couldn't cleanly field a grounder, giving the Rockies third baseman three errors in his last two games.
''You look back at the mistake we made in the first inning. When you're not scoring a lot of runs those things have a tendency to magnify themselves,'' Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. ''In the case of this game tonight, when you look at the final score, it did.''
Lucroy's shot in the bottom of the fifth made it 3-1, while Tulowitzki made a pair of sharp defensive plays to keep Milwaukee from adding on any additional runs.
First, the shortstop threw out Weeks with an off-balance, cross-diamond throw to Wigginton at first in the third inning, then he stretched to the limit while running down Hart's chopper in the fifth, getting the inning-ending force play at second.
Mortensen pitched well into the seventh, but Colorado never figured out Marcum a night after losing a 7-6, 14-inning thriller. The Rockies will try to avoid a three-game sweep on Sunday when struggling ace Ubaldo Jimenez (0-3, 6.14 ERA) takes the mound, but it's unclear if Helton will be back in the lineup.
''Is he a possibility for tomorrow? Yes,'' Tracy said. ''Is he etched in stone for tomorrow? Not just yet.''
NOTES: Rockies third base coach Rich Dauer was tossed in the sixth inning for arguing balls and strikes. ... Brewers LHP Manny Parra (elbow sprain) will get a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on his ailing arm. Parra was told to rest after an initial doctor's exam, but the pain remained when he tried throwing on Friday. ... Brewers LHP Zach Braddock (sleep disorder) will either pitch a simulated game at Miller Park on Monday or at Class A Wisconsin, depending on the weather in Appleton. ... Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan is expected to make two rehab starts next week before returning to Milwaukee.
Colin Fly can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/cfly