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Helton's three-run homer helps Rockies sweep Astros

DENVER (AP) -- Aaron Cook was ready to take his turn in
Colorado's surging starting rotation.

Cook pitched into the ninth inning, Todd Helton hit a three-run
homer and the Rockies beat the Houston Astros 5-3 Sunday to
complete a three-game sweep.

Cook (3-3) allowed two runs and six hits. He walked two and
struck out two, improving to 2-0 in three career starts against the
Astros.

"We are a competitive group and after seeing what Byung-Hyun
Kim did on Friday and what Jason Jennings did last night," Cook
said, "I wanted to keep it rolling and keep the competitive spirit
alive."

Kim struck out nine in seven innings and kept the Rockies in
position to win Friday with a ninth-inning rally. Jennings tossed
the second shutout of his career on Saturday.

"It can very well be contagious," Colorado manager Clint
Hurdle said. "There is a spirit of competition where the momentum
of one guy's start is turned into the momentum of your own."

Cook attempted to get Colorado's second consecutive complete
game but Morgan Ensberg led off the ninth with a single and Jason
Lane walked to chase the right-hander from the mound. Brian Fuentes
got Brad Ausmus to hit into a double play before Adam Everett hit
an RBI triple and Eric Bruntlett added a run-scoring single to cut
the lead to 5-3.

Fuentes then struck out pinch-hitter Craig Biggio with Bruntlett
on first to finish his seventh save in eight chances.

It was Colorado's first series sweep at home this season and its
third overall. The Rockies (19-13) also improved to six games over
.500 for the first time since Sept. 14, 2000, when they were 76-70.

Helton was 1-for-3 with a walk and his first home run since
coming off the disabled list on Friday. Cory Sullivan had two hits
and an RBI for the Rockies.

Houston starter Fernando Nieve (1-1) allowed five runs and nine
hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Lane hit a solo home run for the Astros, who were swept by the
Rockies for the fifth time, all in Denver. The last time was May
29-31, 2000. Everett finished with three hits.

"We didn't play very well this weekend," Houston manager Phil
Garner said. "I thought we gave up a couple of ballgames. We
didn't play very inspiring baseball."

Colorado tied it at 1 in the fourth inning on a one-out double
by Matt Holliday, a walk to Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes' bloop
double to right. Nieve retired Danny Ardoin and Cook to get out of
the inning.

The first four Rockies reached against Nieve in the fifth as
Colorado extended its lead to 4-1. Helton followed a double by
Sullivan and an infield single by Jamey Carroll with a three-run
homer into the Colorado bullpen in right. Garret Atkins doubled
before Nieves retired the next three batters.

"I hit a hanging changeup," Helton said. "I was trying to get
the ball up into the air and out of the ballpark."

"I was behind in the count and just trying to throw a changeup
for a strike," Nieve said. "I left it up there and he got it real
good."

The Rockies added a run in the sixth when Ardoin doubled, moved
to third on a groundout and scored on Sullivan's sacrifice fly.

Game notes
Discomfort in the right shoulder of RHP Mike DeJean (right
shoulder tendinitis) will force the Rockies to shut him down for
the next five days. ... Biggio and OF Preston Wilson were out of
Houston's starting lineup. ... The Astros placed OF Chris Burke on
the DL with an injured left shoulder. They filled his roster spot
by purchasing the contract of IF Joe McEwing from Triple-A Round
Rock.