DENVER -- Let's face it: baseball at 20th and Blake just hasn't been very much fun over the last three months. Since completing a 3-2 home stand against the Padres and Giants in mid-May, the Rockies have stumbled to a 13-24 record at Coors Field, not to mention their atrocious performance on the road.
Apparently, it took only one thing to turn the tides: Todd Helton.
"I think No. 17 must have worked his magic today," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said after Colorado finished off a doubleheader sweep of the Reds with a 10-5 victory in the nightcap. "We could use it. It’s been tough times, but having Todd here was a great moment before the first game and to win two games like this … it was a big day for us."
The biggest day of all -- aside from Helton's, of course -- belonged to Michael Cuddyer. The 35-year-old outfielder returned from a 2½-month absence in grand fashion by hitting for the cycle in Game 2. Cuddyer completed the feat with a two-run double off of Reds reliever Manny Parra in the eighth inning, becoming just the third player in Major League Baseball history to hit for the cycle in both leagues. It was also the second time he completed a cycle by getting a hit against Parra.
"You don’t set out to hit for the cycle, that’s for sure," Cuddyer said after the game. It helped that he was able to get the most difficult leg -- the triple -- out of the way early.
"The right fielder (Jay Bruce) had to run 150 feet," quipped Cuddyer. Billy Hamilton was actually the one who ended up with the ball, but not before running "for 300 feet," joked the reigning National League batting champion. Hamilton aired out a decent throw, but it wasn't in time to nab Cuddyer at third.
After striking out in his next at-bat, Cuddyer hit a moon shot in the sixth that nearly reached the concourse in left-center field. Cuddy got the single out of the way in the seventh and later scored the tying run on a throwing error by Reds third baseman Ramon Santiago, erasing the 5-2 lead with which Cincinnati entered the bottom half of the inning.
Cuddyer and the Rockies weren't done. After Corey Dickerson extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games with a tiebreaking two-run double, Cuddy knocked in a couple runs of his own while becoming the seventh Rockies player to complete a cycle.
One of those players was, of course, Helton, who accomplished the feat in four plate appearances on June 19, 1999. Helton's No. 17 was stamped on the ball that the Rockies retrieved for Cuddyer after his cycle-clinching double.
"That's pretty cool," Cuddyer remarked. "I'll have to get him to sign it."
Though the Rockies offense is largely responsible for the victory, the performance of the team's relievers in this series -- particularly, in the second and fourth games -- should not be overlooked, especially when considering Cincinnati's bullpen allowed 15 runs to score on Sunday alone. Adam Ottavino stood out in the nightcap, striking out two batters and inducing a weak comebacker in as dominant of an inning as we've seen from a Rockies pitcher in quite some time.
"Otto's in a good spot right now," Weiss said. "His velocity is up; we've seen him get to 97 [mph] a few times this year, and he's doing it again."
"His slider is dominant as usual. When he's got his fastball [working], he's almost unhittable with those two pitches."
LaTroy Hawkins also continued his dominance, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning to lower his ERA to 2.79. Ottavino and Hawkins have been two of the best stories in a downtrodden year for Colorado, but it was nice to see a couple more emerge on Sunday.
"No matter what your record is or where you are in the standings, it’s always more fun to smile after a game than it is to frown," Cuddyer said. "And we were able to smile after two games today."
"Today was a fun day; a day that -- with Todd’s number being retired -- if you’re a Rockies fan, you should be able to smile. That’s a good thing."
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