Huffpost Denver

Seth Smith The Hero Again As Rockies Extend Wild Card Lead

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DENVER — Garrett Atkins hit a two-run homer and Jason Giambi had a two-run double in a five-run third inning, sending the Colorado Rockies to their seventh straight win, 5-1 over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.

The NL wild card leaders increased their cushion to 4 1/2 games over idle San Francisco and crept within two games of first-place Los Angeles in the NL West. The Dodgers also had the day off.

Seth Smith kept up his torrid hitting with an RBI single in the third. He had a game-winning, two-run single in the ninth the night before.

By sweeping four games from the Reds, the Rockies wrapped up a 9-1 homestand – one of their best in franchise history. Next, Colorado embarks on a nine-game road trip that includes three in San Francisco.

Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Stewart both sat out a third straight game with back stiffness. In their absence, the Rockies again went with Clint Barmes at shortstop, Atkins at third and rookie Eric Young Jr. at second.

Giambi, spelling regular first baseman Todd Helton, hit a key double that ticked off the top of Drew Stubbs' glove in deep center. The slugger that manager Jim Tracy has taken to calling "Giambino" has six RBIs in six games with Colorado.

Giambi nearly had another, too, but Stubbs reached over the wall to take away a solo homer in the eighth.

Young finished 2 for 3 and stole the first two bases of his career. Atkins hit his first homer since Aug. 16 at Florida.

Rockies starter Jose Contreras strained his right quadriceps while trying to beat out a grounder in the third and was taken out of the game. Contreras pitched three innings, allowing one run and four hits.

In his absence, Colorado strung together three relievers who allowed just three hits the rest of the way. Juan Rincon (3-2) pitched three effective frames, striking out five to earn the win.

Kip Wells (1-4) didn't fare that well against his former team, giving up five runs and six hits in five innings for the Reds. Wells pitched for Colorado last season.

Joey Votto celebrated his 26th birthday with a 2-for-4 afternoon at the plate, while Brandon Phillips had three singles and a stolen base for Cincinnati. Phillips' run-scoring single in the first was his 86th RBI.

The Reds had a chance to pounce on the Rockies in the first inning, but Contreras struck out Wladimir Balentien and Adam Rosales to wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam.

NOTES: Contreras was making his second start with the Rockies after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 31 for a minor league pitcher. ... Rosales filled in at third as Scott Rolen was rested. ... Rockies RHP Ubaldo Jimenez was scheduled to throw a bullpen session to test a hamstring he tweaked running the bases in his last start. He's scheduled to pitch again Saturday in San Diego.