Jhoulys Chacin was off to one of the best starts of his career while helping the Colorado Rockies begin the season on a roll, but the team hasn't won back-to-back games since an injury forced him to miss multiple outings.
Chacin hopes to change that trend Sunday when he returns from a stint on the disabled list as the Rockies host the Tampa Bay Rays in the conclusion of a three-game interleague series.
Colorado began the season 13-4, with Chacin (3-0, 1.46 ERA) allowing four runs in 24 2-3 innings over four starts. The right-hander, though, left his last outing April 19 with a strained back after giving up three hits in 6 1-3 scoreless innings of a 3-1 win over Arizona.
Chacin threw 60 pitches in a simulated game against minor leaguers Tuesday before throwing a bullpen session Wednesday, and he said he's feeling much better.
"Everything is good," Chacin told the team's official website. "I have no problems. I just missed two starts, so I'll do the same thing I was doing - throw strikes, get hitters out, let the defense help me."
The Rockies (18-12) have gone 5-8 since an eight-game win streak, which ended two days after Chacin got hurt, though he's confident the team will get back on track.
"I know the talent that we have, and we're showing it," Chacin said. "We're playing together. Some days we don't hit, but we pitch. Some days we don't pitch well, but we hit. That's how good teams put things together."
The right-hander has never faced Tampa Bay, though Kelly Johnson is 5 for 14 with two homers in his career off Chacin.
Johnson had a two-run single Saturday, giving him eight RBIs in the last six games, but the Rays fell 9-3 for their third loss in four games.
Nolan Arenado hit a grand slam, giving him two homers and seven RBIs in six games since making his major league debut last Sunday.
"It's a good feeling," Arenado said. "But the main thing is we got the win. So, that was nice."
The Rays (13-16) are 3-5 on their road trip that ends Sunday. James Loney , though, went 3 for 4 with a double Saturday and is 15 for 31 on the trip.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar , hitting only .174, was hit with a pitch on the left wrist in the second inning and was forced to leave the game. He likely won't play Sunday.
"I thought I broke it. I'm happy and grateful it's not broke," Escobar said. "I'll try hard to get back on the field in a couple of days."
Alex Cobb (3-2, 2.55) will take the mound for the Rays looking to bounce back from his worst start of the season.
Six days after going 8 1-3 innings in a 3-0 win over the New York Yankees , Cobb allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-2 loss at Kansas City on Tuesday.
"When I walked off the mound, I think that was the most angry I've ever been after a game," said Cobb, who had pitched into the seventh inning in each of his previous four starts.
The right-hander has never faced the Rockies, though he's 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four interleague starts.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|May 04, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|March 31, 2013||Juan Carlos Oviedo||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 28, 2013||Jeff Niemann||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|March 24, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|May 03, 2013||Troy Tulowitzki||Day-to-Day||Leg soreness|
|April 29, 2013||Troy Tulowitzki||Day-to-Day||Strained left shoulder|
|April 20, 2013||Todd Helton||15-Day DL||Left forearm inflammation|
|April 20, 2013||Jhoulys Chacin||15-Day DL||Left lower back strain|
|February 14, 2013||Edwar Cabrera||60-Day DL||Left shoulder impingement|
DENVER (AP) -- Giving up three home runs was both humbling and a relief for Alex Cobb .
As much as it stung to get dinged like that, Cobb limited the damage by yielding only solo shots, allowing him to pitch effectively into the seventh inning as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 Sunday.
"Obviously, I'm upset that I gave up three home runs, but the fact that they were all solo shots means I was keeping guys off base for the most part," Cobb said. "I feel good. I'm happy I gave the team a chance to win. I probably couldn't ask for better situations for those home runs to be hit in."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said it takes a different mindset to pitch in Denver's mile-high elevation and and that means shrugging off the occasional homer.
"When you're playing in zero gravity, man, you've got to understand that's going to happen and you can not let that bother you," Maddon said. "It's going to happen. Accept it and move on."
Cobb battled the elements with a stoic outlook and something as simple as running his pitching hand frequently through his hair, wet with sweat, to help get a firm grip on the ball in the dry, thin air.
"I kind of just started wiping my hair a little bit," Cobb said. "By going to my hair and grabbing some moisture there, that helped out a lot."
His teammates also pitched in on the offensive end, more-so with timely hitting than a power display.
Jose Lobaton , Ryan Roberts and Kelly Johnson each drove in two runs for the Rays. Tampa Bay took two of three and won a series at Coors Field for the first time in four visits.
Cobb (4-2) went 6 2-3 innings and allowed eight hits. Nolan Arenado hit a two-out homer in the seventh that pulled the Rockies within 6-3, a day after the rookie had a grand slam.
The Rockies, however, went 0-9 with runners in scoring position.
"Other than the middle game of the series, we struggled with runners in scoring position," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We hit some home runs, but if nobody hits with runners in scoring position, it's tough."
Coming into the game, Cobb had only given up two home runs in his five previous starts. But he wriggled out of trouble in key spots, getting two of his six strikeouts in the sixth after a throwing error put a Rockies baserunner on second with one out.
"That's what good pitchers do," Roberts said. "You're going to give up hits. You're going to give up homers but minimizing the damage is the best thing and that's what he did. He controlled the game."
Lobaton stretched Tampa Bay's lead in the eighth with a two-run single after a second passed ball by catcher Wilin Rosario allowed baserunners Evan Longoria and James Loney to advance to third and second, respectively.
Tampa Bay jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first off Jhoulys Chacin , who was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. He suffered a lower back strain April 19 against the Arizona Diamondbacks , though he pitched 6 1-3 scoreless innings for the victory before being forced exit.
Matt Joyce came home from third on a wild pitch around RBI singles by Loney and Johnson as the Rays broke on top against Chacin (3-1). He gave up a season-high six runs - five earned - on eight hits in seven innings.
"Overall I felt good," Chacin said. "No issues. My back felt fine. I had a rough start, but after that I kept us in the game. There were a couple of bloopers and some bad luck in the sixth inning. But you just want to go out and get the outs."
Michael Cuddyer connected for his seventh home run leading off the second, driving a 2-2 pitch from Cobb into the left field bleachers. Troy Tulowitzki pulled the Rockies to within a run when he hit a solo shot leading off the fourth for his seventh of the season.
Tampa Bay added three more runs in the sixth. Joyce drew a leadoff walk and went to third when Loney's line shot glanced off leaping second baseman Josh Rutledge 's glove for a single. Johnson followed with an RBI single and Loney and Johnson both moved up on a passed ball before Roberts doubled to drive them both home for a 6-2 lead.
Rockies first baseman Todd Helton also came off the disabled list after missing the past two weeks because of a left forearm strain.
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 4-8 all-time at Colorado. ... To make room on the roster for Helton and Chacin, the Rockies optioned infielder Ryan Wheeler and right-hander Tyler Chatwood to their Triple A affiliate in Colorado Springs. ... The Rays' Ben Zobrist has left the team to attend funeral services for his grandfather. ... Tampa Bay has scored 27 runs in the first inning, more than the Rays have had in any other inning. ... The Rockies are off Monday before opening a three game-set against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. It's the Yankees' first trip to Colorado since 2007, when the Rockies swept a three-game set from New York. ... With two errors, the Rays had their first multi-error game of the season. ... Tampa Bay returns to begin a 10-game homestand on Monday against Toronto with Jeremy Hellickson (1-2) pitching against the Blue Jays' Mark Buehrle (1-2).