<
>

Long ball paves the way as Rockies best Brewers to near playoff spot

DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies are on the cusp of clinching a playoff spot.

So close, in fact, that the postseason aroma hangs in the air.

"Anytime you're this close, you can smell it," Troy Tulowitzki said. "You want to get it done."

Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez each hit a two-run homer, and the Rockies moved closer to a playoff spot with a 10-6 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.

Colorado extended its advantage in the wild-card race and grabbed control of its destiny in the NL West with its third consecutive win.

The Rockies lead the wild card by four games over Atlanta with four to play after the Braves lost 5-4 to the Florida Marlins earlier in the night. They also pulled within 2 1/2 games of division-leading Los Angeles, which is off Thursday before hosting Colorado for three games to finish the season.

"Keep plowing -- we're not done with anything yet," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose team is 72-40 since he took over.

The Rockies captured their 90th win of the season, tying the franchise record. They also had that many in 2007 when they closed with an amazing surge and beat the San Diego Padres in a play-in game, igniting their Rocktober run to the World Series.

A Rocktober repeat?

The Coors Field faithful certainly hope so, holding up Rocktober-themed signs.

Even Helton showed rare emotion after his drive in the third, raising his right hand high in the air as he circled the bases. It was Helton's 15th homer of the season.

"It's exciting, but at the same time keep doing the same things that got you here," Tulowitzki said.

Yorvit Torrealba had three hits for Colorado, including an RBI single. He also sprinted home on a wild pitch, one of two from Jeff Suppan (7-12) that allowed runs to score.

Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron and Casey McGehee hit solo homers for the Brewers, and Jason Kendall drove in two runs.

Still, the night belonged to the Rockies' powerful offense that pounded out six extra-base hits.

"They've got a left-handed lineup, they've got a right-handed lineup," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "You start a left-hander and bring in a right-hander and they have one pinch hitter after another that's got 15 or 20 homers ... It's a pretty potent team."

Jason Hammel (10-8) became the fifth Colorado pitcher to reach double digits in wins this season, going five innings and giving up four runs and seven hits. He also tied a career high with eight strikeouts.

"I'm tickled to death for Jason," Tracy said. "Obviously, he was not as sharp as we've seen him for much of the second half. But I give him a lot of credit ... he hung right in there."

Hammel is making a case for a postseason rotation spot should the Rockies make it.

The right-hander worked his way out of a sticky situation in the fifth, when he had runners on first and second and Fielder coming to the plate.

As pitching coach Bob Apodaca came out to calm Hammel, the scoreboard posted the final score of the Atlanta game, bringing a loud ovation from the crowd of 41,465.

Did he hear the roar?

"I assumed that's what it was," Hammel said. "But I wasn't thinking about that, I was trying to get outs."

He responded by striking Fielder before getting some defensive help from left fielder Seth Smith. With McGehee's liner twisting in the wind, Smith ran back and hauled it in just before crashing against the wall. He then wheeled and threw a strike to Tulowitzki, who lobbed the ball over to Helton to double-up Ryan Braun and end the threat.

Suppan was hit hard for a second straight outing, giving up eight runs and 10 hits in six innings. He surrendered longballs to Helton and Gonzalez.

"It was one of those things where you try to stay out of big innings," Suppan said. "Two-run home runs are really never a good thing."

Game notes
Braun had two hits and needs just four to become the fourth player in team history to reach 200 for the year. ... Fielder now has 138 RBIs, keeping him tied with Ryan Howard for the major league lead. Fielder is attempting to become the second Brewers player to lead the majors in RBIs, joining Cecil Cooper.