Rockies on a roll since losing All-Star Tulowitzki
Troy Tulowitzki was right. The Colorado Rockies went on a roll instead of rolling over after he was injured.
They're an NL-best 16-7 since Tulowitzki was hit by a fastball June 17, breaking his left wrist. They've climbed back into the thick of the NL West and entered the All-Star break two games behind surprising San Diego.
Tulowitzki was in the midst of his first All-Star season when he went down last month. He emerged from his solitude after several days of silence to make it clear he was only disappointed, not discouraged.
He said he had an inkling Colorado wasn't going to fizzle in his absence.
The Rockies had lost three-fifths of their starting rotation plus closer Huston Street to injuries. Todd Helton had a power outage at the plate and would soon join Tulowitzki on the DL. The Rockies also sent speedy, but slumping, center fielder Dexter Fowler to Triple-A Colorado Springs, where Chris Iannetta had also been banished, to work on his swing.
Ian Stewart, Clint Barmes, Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, were all mired in offensive funks. The bullpen, overworked. The starting rotation a mix-and-match mess other than ace Ubaldo Jimenez (15-1, 2.20), who will start for the National League in the All-Star game.
Yet, the Rockies are the hottest team in the National League heading into the All-Star break. Colorado has gone 8-2 on their homestand that included a nine-run ninth-inning comeback to beat St. Louis a day after beating San Francisco in 15 innings.
''The circumstances that we were dealt,'' manager Jim Tracy said, looking back, ''we were not going to sit around and pout about it or make excuses as to see this is the reason we can't be as good as we think we are capable of being; the mettle of the organization will be tested and we'll try to figure some things out.
''I think we've done a pretty good job of it.''
After a first half filled with adversity, the Rockies have high hopes for a strong second half.
They have Jeff Francis, Jason Hammel and, perhaps most importantly, Jorge De La Rosa, back in the rotation. Of course they also have Jimenez, who has already tied his career high in wins and is the first pitcher since David Wells in 2000 to win 15 games by the break.
The Rockies have come around offensively and are pounding out hits and homers in bunches.
''I just sit back and say, 'Wow,''' hitting coach Don Baylor said. ''Hitters will hit. It might take them a longer time but hitters will hit.''
The Rockies are making up for three months' worth of struggles.
Even without Tulowitzki, their infield defense is superb, anchored by Barmes, who moved over to short with Jonathan Herrera (.319) filling in at second.
''We replaced one of the best-fielding shortstops in the National League with one of the best-fielding shortstops in the National League,'' Tracy marveled.
With Fowler back in the bigs - he went 10-for-16 with four triples, seven runs and seven walks in a four-game series with the Giants this month - the outfield has been outstanding.
And with Hammel going 6-0 with a 2.17 over his last nine starts, Jimenez doesn't have to bear all the burden of Colorado's creaking rotation by himself.
Street is back in stride after missing three months, easing the burden on the rest of the bullpen. With De La Rosa rejoining the rotation last week, the Rockies actually have an abundance of starters and had to put Jhoulys Chacin in long relief.
They'll reconvene after the break with the roster they figured to break camp with three months ago, minus Helton, who landed on the DL with a stiff back. His replacements are Jason Giambi, 11-for-22 this month, and journeyman Brad Eldred, who provides much more pop at the plate than Helton had.
''It's not how you start, it's how you finish. The important part is coming up,'' Tracy said. ''Both halves are very important. What we've accomplished through the first 88 games is putting ourselves in a position to make the second half of the season very exciting.''
Which is something the Rockies know all about.
''Look what happened with us a year ago. We never quit,'' Tracy said. ''I think we were as far back as 14 1/2.''
And they won the wild-card.
This year, they're starting to put together momentum-gathering comebacks like they did a year ago. They won three straight games in their final at-bat last week.
''This us a team that can come back,'' Miguel Olivo said. ''There is no reason to give up. We are playing well and playing better. We had some injuries and now we are getting the players back.''
One night they were down 9-3 in the ninth and won. The next night, they were losing 7-4 in the eighth and won.
''If this is the way our offense is going to be,'' Tracy said, ''we are never out of a baseball game.''
Or a pennant race.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Anaheim, Calif., contributed to this report.