Hawpe's 3-run HR keeps Rockies rolling
The Colorado Rockies don't appear to need much help from their opponents these days to win. Yet, the Los Angeles Angels gift-wrapped a couple of runs with two of their club record-tying six wild pitches.
Brad Hawpe celebrated his 30th birthday with a three-run homer, Seth Smith also went deep and the Rockies beat the Angels 11-1 on Monday night for their 17th victory in 18 games and club-record ninth straight on the road.
Colorado is 19-5 since firing Clint Hurdle as manager on May 29 and replaced him with bench coach Jim Tracy.
"I don't know if it's a case of what he's told us, or what he hasn't told us that's been the biggest thing," first baseman Todd Helton said. "But we know that when we show up, in his mind and our minds, today is the most important day and we're going to do everything we can to win that game that day, and worry about the next game tomorrow."
The Rockies, who were last in the NL West and 14 games off the pace change was made, now trail second-place San Francisco by one game and the division-leading Dodgers by nine. Their sixth straight victory put them a season-best four-games over .500.
"I think we just started playing up to our potential and doing a lot of the little things it takes to win games," Helton said. "Obviously, it starts with starting pitching. Even when a guy hasn't pitched his best game - which guys have been doing a lot lately - they've stayed away from big innings and we've been able to bounce back."
Aaron Cook (7-3) allowed a run and three hits over seven innings and struck out four, helping send 30-year-old rookie Matt Palmer to his first loss in the big leagues.
Cook became the franchise's all-time leader in victories with his 59th, surpassing Jason Jennings, and also broke Pedro Astacio's team record for road wins with his 30th.
"The Rockies have shown a lot of confidence in me over the years, supported me through ups and downs, and signed me to two contracts," Cook said. "To be here and be able to accomplish this is something I am going to look back on enjoy. But I don't want it to end here."
The right-hander had only 12 big league wins to his credit when his career - and his life - were threatened because of blood clots that forced him out of a game he started at Coors Field on Aug. 7, 2004, and traveled from his pitching shoulder to both lungs. Cook made it all the way back from surgery four months into the 2005 campaign, and emerged as the Rockies' opening day starter in 2007 after Jennings was traded to Houston in the offseason.
"He's a warrior," Tracy said. "When you talk about some of the better starting pitching in either league, you have to bring his name up. Not only has he persevered, but this guy is a big-game performer. And once you get to know this guy, there isn't anybody in the world who wouldn't root for him."
All six wild pitches by the Angels came with Mike Napoli behind the plate. The Halos also had six on April 13, 1991 at Minnesota.
"It was a tough night for Mike," said manager Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. "Some balls he didn't quite get in front of, and others he blocked well and guys got good reads on the bases. The fastballs that got by him, I think he was a little open on his right side and he didn't get an angle on them."
Palmer (6-1) set the tone in the second inning, throwing two wild pitches with Troy Tulowitzki at the plate. It enabled Hawpe to advance to third, and he scored the first run on Ian Stewart's single during a three-run rally.
"It was pretty frustrating," Napoli said. "The second inning was just on me, not getting down and blocking the ball like I know how to and keep it in front of me."
The Angels have lost three straight following a season-best seven-game winning streak.
The Angels and Rockies met for the first time in the regular season since 2006 - although they won three of four meetings in spring training this year and outscored them 39-23. In the last one on March 25, Colorado's Jeff Baker had an inside-the-park homer on a ball that struck CF Torii Hunter in the face as he attempted a leaping catch. ... Angels DH Vladimir Guerrero has not homered in 25 consecutive games, five shy of his longest career drought two seasons ago. He remains seven shy of 400. ... Palmer's only other start against the Rockies was on Aug. 26 at San Francisco, when he gave up five runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 7-2 loss and was optioned by the Giants to Triple-A after that game.