Al Behrman/Associated Press
CINCINNATI – Given how badly he’s been swinging, Todd Helton was just trying to advance a runner. He got him all the way home, and joined him there, too.
Helton hit his first homer in nearly a month and drove in three runs Friday night, leading the Colorado Rockies to a 6-3 victory that ended the Cincinnati Reds’ longest winning streak of the season at six games.
Helton had a two-run homer – his first since April 29 – and a run-scoring single off Johnny Cueto (5-2), who gave up a career-high 11 hits in only 4 2/3 innings. When he came to bat in the second with Troy Tulowitzki on second base, he had a minimalist approach.
“At that point with the way I’ve been swinging it, I was just trying to get the guy over,” Helton said.
He wasn’t the only Rockies hitter who came away pleased. Tulowitzki had three hits, including an RBI single in the ninth. And every Rockies starter, including pitcher Christian Friedrich (2-1), had a hit.
“Coming out of spring training, that’s the kind of offense we thought we had,” Helton said.
For Colorado, it’s been more about the starting pitching. This time, it was just enough.
Friedrich, a rookie left-hander, went five innings against an offense that had been on a home-run tear – 10 in the last four games.
Joey Votto had four hits for the Reds, including a pair of doubles.
The biggest downside: Colorado’s rotation ranks last in the NL with a 5.55 ERA and has thrown the fewest innings in the league, putting a lot of strain on the bullpen.
“I definitely need to get into the later innings,” Friedrich said. “We’ve been wearing out our bullpen. They did a (great) job (Friday) coming in for the final four innings.”
Five relievers blanked the Reds on a pair of hits. The Reds failed to hit a homer and stranded six runners in scoring position overall.
Rafael Betancourt pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save in nine chances, closing out only the Rockies’ fifth win in their last 20 games.
“We got hits up and down the lineup,” manager Jim Tracy said. “We’ve just got to get further into the games with our starting pitching.”
Votto had three of his hits off Friedrich, who gave up seven hits and three runs while fanning six. Todd Frazier doubled home a pair of runs.
Cueto’s uncharacteristically sloppy outing ended the Reds’ surge into first place in the NL Central. The rotation had been solid, putting together six consecutive quality starts on the homestand.
“I didn’t feel good,” said Cueto, who was out of whack with his delivery. “Every time I threw my breaking ball, I opened up, and I wasn’t landing right.”
The beat-up Rockies opened the series with more injuries. Catcher Ramon Hernandez went on the 15-day disabled list before the game with a sprained left hand that has bothered him for several days. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer – one of Colorado’s hottest hitters – was a late scratch from the lineup because of a stiff neck.
The mix-and-match lineup held its own against Cueto, who came in with a 1.97 ERA but gave up five runs.
Even Friedrich got a single off Cueto.
“My first professional hit,” said Friedrich, who went to Eastern Kentucky University and had former teammates in in the stands. “I’d been 0-since-I-signed. The last hit I got might have been in high school.”
Helton hit a two-run homer in the second, and Eric Young singled home another run in the third for a 3-0 lead.
After the Reds put together four hits to tie it in the third, Helton’s RBI single helped the Rockies pull back ahead 5-3 in the fifth.