DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy implored his team to pick up their play in a closed-door meeting before the game.
The message quickly sank in.
Juan Nicasio had a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings and Chris Iannetta hit a three-run homer, helping the Rockies end a three-game skid with a 6-3 win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
The usually mild-mannered Tracy didn’t need to read the Rockies the riot act to get their attention. All he had to do was turn serious.
That was more than enough.
“First big-league butt chewing,” Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon said, smiling. “We definitely responded well. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s not one win and now we can relax. It’s one win and now we have to keep the pedal down and keep it going.”
And that was the general theme of Tracy’s lecture, his second such conversation this season.
The Rockies have traditionally been a slow-starting squad. But after a fast start this season, spending 39 days in first place, the Rockies have hit a slump and trail San Francisco by six games.
Tracy doesn’t want to see his team fall too far behind, where they have to make a frenzied late-season run to climb back into the postseason picture.
“What’s very, very important for us to understand is where we’re at is not where we want to be,” Tracy said. “But we’re not at death’s door by any stretch of the imagination.”
Sure, it’s just one game, but the Rockies responded to the stern talk as they turned in a solid performance.
“That’s the way I like to see us play — just like that,” Tracy said.
Nicasio (2-1) had a rocky start, giving up a leadoff homer to Chris Denorfia, but soon settled into a groove. He gave up six hits and walked just one in his fourth start since being called up from Double-A Tulsa.
The hard-throwing righty struck out the side in the first and had at least one in every inning before being pulled with his pitch count at 108. He had nine career strikeouts entering the game.
“Feeling more confident with every start,” Nicasio said as teammate Ubaldo Jimenez served as his translator. “You don’t want to be too comfortable out there. In the big leagues, you never want to be too comfortable.”
Wade LeBlanc (0-2) was recalled from Triple-A Tucson before the game to help out a banged-up rotation. He allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings.
“Frustrating. Wasn’t a good start by any means,” he said. “Any time I can’t get through five innings, I look at it as kind of a letdown.”
Iannetta broke open a 3-2 game in the sixth by hitting a hanging slider from reliever Pat Neshek into the seats in left. It was his ninth homer of the season.
Reliever Matt Lindstrom took over for Nicasio in the seventh and worked himself into a one-out jam by loading the bases.
After Lindstrom got Ryan Ludwick to pop out, lefty Rex Brothers was brought in to face left-handed hitting rookie phenom Anthony Rizzo, who struck out on a breaking ball.
Huston Street struck out Rizzo to end the game in the ninth in a nonsave situation.
LeBlanc was cruising along until the fourth when he walked Chris Nelson to start the inning and then allowed four straight hits, including RBI singles by Todd Helton, Ty Wigginton and Blackmon.
The lefty limited the damage from there, fanning Nicasio with two on to keep it a 3-2 game.
Cameron Maybin hit a one-out double in the fourth and scored on Alberto Gonzalez’s double to the gap in right-center.
It was an inauspicious start for Nicasio as Denorfia led off the game by drilling a slider over the fence. Jason Bartlett was then plunked in the ribs by a fastball, staying on the ground for several minutes before jogging to first.
Bartlett stole second and third, but was stranded there as Nicasio wound up striking out the side.
Ludwick had quite a first inning in left field, recording all three outs with diving catches. As he made his way into the dugout after a sliding grab on Helton’s tailing liner, he tapped gloves with teammates.
Ludwick’s performance at the plate wasn’t nearly as spectacular. He struck out three times and popped out with the bases loaded.
However, Ludwick did have an RBI single in the ninth as he brought in Chase Headley, who finished with four singles.
“The Iannetta hit was the crusher,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “Offensively, we had our chances. We couldn’t break through. Held them close enough, didn’t go our way.”
LeBlanc was trying to duplicate the performance Anthony Bass turned in Monday, when he bottled up the Rockies in a 3-1 win.
Just called up from Double-A San Antonio, Bass pitched five solid innings for his first major league victory. But the 23-year-old was optioned back to San Antonio immediately after the game to make room for LeBlanc.
San Diego’s rotation is dinged up with Dustin Moseley still bothered by a slightly dislocated left shoulder and Aaron Harang going on the disabled list Monday due to a bruised right foot.
Moseley, who threw a bullpen session Monday, is expected to start Sunday in Minnesota.
NOTES: Helton scored his 1,300th career run Tuesday. … The Rockies are 3-3 on their 10-game homestand. … Padres INF Orlando Hudson (groin) will join Single-A Lake Elsinore beginning Wednesday.
– By Pat Graham, Associated Press Sports Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)