SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Padres brought in the right-field fences in an attempt to make Petco Park play a little fairer, knowing that opponents would benefit, too.
Todd Helton is glad they did.
Helton’s pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh inning hit the top of the new right-field fence, which was moved in 11 feet, bounced over the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Deck and into the seats to break a scoreless tie. Coupled with a combined two-hitter by Jorge De La Rosa and three relievers, it carried the Colorado Rockies to a 2-1 victory Sunday against San Diego, their second three-game sweep of the Padres this season.
“It helped a little bit in that situation. So, yes, I do,” Helton said when asked if he likes the new fences, which were also lowered by several inches.
Last year, Helton’s fly ball would have been just another long out.
Instead, it was his first homer this season and his third career pinch homer. It was his ninth shot at Petco Park, tying him with Justin Upton and Andruw Jones for the most by a visiting player.
The 39-year-old Helton is still the Rockies’ starting first baseman, but is getting more days off.
“He’s going to have some at-bats in those types of situations late in games,” manager Walt Weiss said. “It’s a credit to him being ready mentally and focused for that at-bat on a day he had off.”
Helton was pinch-hitting for De La Rosa when he drove a 2-1 pitch from Dale Thayer. He said his approach was “the same as whenever I hit: sit back, see the ball and try to put a good swing on it. You don’t try to do anything different. The only difference is, you only get one shot. That’s what makes it so difficult. I’m not good at it. But I got the right pitch and was able to stay back and had enough barrel on it to get it over the shorter fence.”
The Rockies have hit 11 homers in six games against the Padres this season. Colorado also swept San Diego at Coors Field last weekend.
Lefty Clayton Richard shut out the Rockies on two hits in six innings before making way for Thayer (0-1) starting the seventh. Thayer issued a leadoff walk to Chris Nelson, who moved up on a sacrifice by Yorvit Torrealba. Helton homered on a 2-1 pitch.
De La Rosa (1-1) held the Padres scoreless on two hits in six innings, struck out seven and walked two. He threw 92 pitches, extending the Rockies’ streak of consecutive games without a 100-pitch start to 114.
“That’s a good day for Jorge,” Weiss said. “He’s pitched well enough to have at least one win already this year. I felt good for him that he ended up getting the W. I told him when I took him out that we’re going to try to get you a W right here. Todd hits a two-run homer.”
It was De La Rosa’s first victory since 2011. He made three starts at the end of 2012, going 0-2, after missing more than a year following reconstructive elbow surgery.
“It was real special,” said De La Rosa, who won 16 games in 2009. “It was a very hard time last year and the year before. I have to keep focus in every game I pitch and try to be the same guy as I was before.”
Rafael Betancourt pitched the ninth for his fifth save in as many chances. He walked the first two batters and allowed a sacrifice fly by rookie Jedd Gyorko. Betancourt struck out Nick Hundley with a runner on second to end it.
“We were facing a guy who was on today,” Gyorko said. “He was pretty tough and we couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it. Even though we only had a couple of hits, we kept battling to try and get in position to win the game, but it fell short.”
After Gyorko drew a walk from De La Rosa with one out in the fourth, Rockies pitchers retired 14 straight Padres batters until Everth Cabrera walked leading off the ninth.
Richard got out of a jam in the sixth, when he retired Josh Rutledge with runners on second and third. But it was his 104th pitch and he didn’t get the chance to become the first Padres starter to pitch into the seventh this season. Richard struck out four and walked four.
“We didn’t get the offense,” manager Bud Black said. “We talked about when we pitch well, you’d like to be able to support it with a couple of runs. That’s how it goes when things aren’t going your way. You’d like to see a well-pitched game with enough runs. Today, that didn’t happen. They got the big blow. We didn’t.”
NOTES: Padres slugger Carlos Quentin dropped his appeal and began serving an eight-game suspension for rushing the mound and inciting a brawl in which Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke broke his left collarbone. That means Quentin will miss the Padres’ three-game series at Dodger Stadium beginning Monday night. Quentin also was fined $3,000. … With the need for an outfielder, the Padres recalled Kyle Blanks and optioned RHP Thad Weber to Triple-A Tucson. … The Rockies have won each of De La Rosa’s last eight starts against the Padres, dating to Sept 11, 2009, at Petco Park. … De La Rosa recorded his 700th career strikeout when he fanned Chris Denorfia to end the fifth. … Going into Helton’s at-bat, Thayer had not allowed a hit in 19 at-bats dating to his final appearance of 2012.
– By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
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