DENVER -- After an irritating stretch of futility on Sundays, the Colorado Rockies put the pesky streak to rest.
Kevin Millwood pitched seven strong innings for his first big league win in nearly a year and Seth Smith hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh, leading the Rockies past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 and snapping a string of 17 consecutive Sunday losses.It was their first win on a Sunday since beating the Chicago Cubs 9-5 on April 17 but the Rockies remain eight games below .500 with five weeks remaining in the regular season."The worst part was talking about it all the time," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who drove in an insurance run with an eighth inning sacrifice fly. "Then you start to think about it. Obviously, we're out there playing and it's in the back of our heads. But it's over with now, and the biggest thing we can look forward to is, we won another series and we'll keep on trying to win more. That's all we can do right now."The Rockies' Jason Giambi said the rare Sunday victory was "huge" for the Rockies"If we had just played .500 ball on Sundays, we would be right there in contention," he said. "We've just got to keep winning games now."After falling behind on Carlos Gonzalez's two-run homer in the first inning, Chad Billingsley (10-10) had kept the Rockies in check, holding them without a hit over the next five innings.But with one out in the seventh, Giambi drew a walk, and Smith, down 0-1 in the count, followed with a drive that soared into the second deck in left center above the Rockies' bullpen for his 14th homer of the season."It was a cutter that really didn't cut too much," Smith said. "He left it up and it kind of ran into the barrel of my bat."Billingsley said he sensed trouble as soon he released the pitch."That was a backup cutter, backup slider and it just kind of spun out of my hands and stayed up," he said.Billingsley went 7 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on three hits. He struck out seven and walked five.Chris Nelson helped preserve the Rockies' win by throwing out Matt Kemp after making a diving stop of his hard grounder down the third base line in the top of the eighth inning, with Justin Sellers aboard following a leadoff walk.The Rockies added a final run in the bottom of the eighth on Tulowitzki's sacrifice fly.Rafael Betancourt got three outs for his second save in five chances.Millwood, who replaced the injured Juan Nicasio in the Rockies' rotation, got his first big league win since last Sept. 29, when he beat Tampa Bay while with the Baltimore Orioles.He allowed three runs on seven hits in his third start since joining the Rockies on Aug. 10. A 14-year veteran, Millwood (1-1) had spent much of this season at Pawtucket, Boston's Triple-A club. He actually had opted out of his minor league deal with the Red Sox and was driving to his home in Georgia when he got the call from the Rockies."It's exciting just to have the opportunity to be here, but having said that, I've also got a job to do," Millwood said. "For the most part, I felt I located the ball well. I was able to keep them off balance a little bit. I just felt I was able to make my pitches when I needed to."With the score tied 2-2 starting the fourth, James Loney, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, drove an 0-2 offering from Millwood into the right field seats for his sixth home run of the season.Colorado jumped on Billingsley in the first. Mark Ellis hit a one-out single and Gonzalez followed with a drive into the right field seats for his 21st homer.
Kemp extended his hitting streak to a season-long 11 games with a single leading off the second inning. ... The Dodgers head to St. Louis, where they'll play opener of a three-game set with Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound against Chris Carpenter. The Dodgers are 2-5 so far on their 10-game road trip. ... Colorado opens a three-game series at home Monday against the Houston Astros. Jhoulys Chacin is set to take the mound against the Astros' Brett Myers.