Rockies topple another ace to take top spot in National League

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Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana came into this game with a 6-1 record and an ERA you'd need a magnifying glass to see at 1.50. Santana has been not just one of the best pitchers this season, but one of the best in all of baseball going back to last July. But the Rockies couldn't care less about all that, hanging five runs on the Minnesota ace over the first four innings to power their way to yet another road series win.

Once again, Nolan Arenado did the all-important job of scoring the first run of the game, launching a double-deck home run in the first inning after working into a 3-2 count. Arenado is hitting .561 with five doubles, four home runs, and 13 RBI in the first inning this season. Talk about setting a tone for the offense.

The big offensive output came in the third inning, though. Tony Wolters started things with a walk and Charlie Blackmon stayed hot with a line drive single. DJ LeMahieu bunted them over (an interesting decision but avoiding the double play) and it paid off when Rockies MVP Mark Reynolds drove in a pair after Arenado was intentionally walked. Ian Desmond followed that up with an RBI single of his own, but Reynolds was thrown out at home to end the frame with the Rockies up 4-0. Blackmon added another RBI single in the fifth, scoring Alexi Amarista who hit a bloop double, his specialty.

Rockies starter German Marquez got into some early trouble, giving up a pair of infield singles in the first and lead-off double in the second but was mostly excellent in the Thursday morning game. He worked out of the early jams beautifully, pounding the edges of the strike zone with his moving fastball and making smart use of the curve.

He had retired 11 straight until Eddie Rosario put together a fantastic at-bat, coming back from down 0-2 to bring the count full and finally getting a fastball in the zone to hit, and he did, driving it into the right-center field gap for a triple. Rosario scored on a Brian Dozier sac fly, giving Marquez his only blemish on the day. Minnesota did manage to get a pair on for Miguel Sano -- their most dangerous hitter -- but Marquez powered through, eclipsing the 100-pitch mark to finish his strong outing with one of his best pitches of the afternoon:

His final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. He threw 62 of his 101 pitches for strikes and induced five groundouts to two pop outs. Not bad for a 22-year-old who, when the pitching is fully healthy, slots in at the 7th spot in the Rockies starting rotation.

The Colorado bullpen did what it does, getting through the final four innings with little drama. The combined efforts from Chris Rusin, Adam Ottavino, and Mike Dunn, and Greg Holland allowed four hits and zero runs to preserve and secure the 5-1 win.

Holland, for the second straight game, got an odd opportunity for a save with a four-run lead with two runners on in the ninth. After throwing just four pitches to get save 17 two nights ago, it took Holland just four pitches once again to record his 18th consecutive. Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox is second in that category with 12.

This win secured the fifth road-series victory for the Rockies in 2017. They've won all five of the full-length series they've played away from Coors Field. Only a two-game split with the Los Angeles Dodgers could possibly be qualified as Colorado failing to win a road set, and two-game sets are silly.

The Rockies are 11 games above .500 for the first time since September 26, 2010.

The Rockies added Santana's name to a list that includes Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, and Zack Greinke; all pitchers who started games that Colorado ended up winning this season.

Colorado moves to 26-15 on the season. They will get a chance to improve upon that with the second game of this double-header this evening. With the Washington Nationals losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, the Rockies now have the best record in all of the National League.


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