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Cuddyer’s pinch-hit single leads Rockies

April 20, 2012

MILWAUKEE — A bruised toe kept Michael Cuddyer out of the lineup Friday night, but it could not prevent him from delivering the game-winning hit in the ninth.

Pinch-hitting for Dexter Fowler with a runner on third and one out, Cuddyer drove a 1-1 curveball from Brewers closer John Axford back through the middle to put Colorado in front for a 4-3 victory at Miller Park.

Though he walked with a noticeable limp in the visitor’s clubhouse and during batting practice, Cuddyer’s bruised left big toe did not matter once he entered the game.

“It doesn’t feel good, but at the same time, it’s not going to prevent me from doing much,” Cuddyer said. “I didn’t feel it when I was running to first base.”

With the infield drawn in, Cuddyer got a pitch he could hit, and more importantly, did not try to do too much with it.

All he had to do was get the ball through the infield and Cuddyer did just that, ripping the ball back up the middle to score Eric Young Jr..

Cuddyer picked up his team-leading 18th hit of the season and his ninth RBI, tying him for the most on the team. In his first year with the club, Cuddyer has quickly become a key contributor for the Rockies.

“He is a professional,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. “If you look the word up in the dictionary, I promise you his picture will be right next to the word. That’s who he is.

“To take the type of at-bat that he took in the ninth inning, that’s just a Major League at-bat in a big situation.”

The Rockies collected 11 hits on the night, but also left 10 runners on base. Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki scored the first two runs of the game, while Todd Helton added the third for the Rockies with his second home run of the season.

Tulowitzki picking up a pair of hits, driving in the first run and scoring the second, was a good sign for the Rockies after their shortstop got off to a slow start this season.

But the real promising aspect of Friday’s victory was the performance of Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin.

After cruising through five innings, a rough sixth kept Chacin from picking up an elusive first win of the season. But Tracy was very encouraged to see the right-hander go back out for a 1-2-3 seventh.

Chacin was dominant for 3 1/3 innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. Just two of those outs were fly balls, while Chacin recorded four strikeouts on his first time through the Brewers’ order.

“I just was trying to get ahead and then mix it up with my breaking ball,” Chacin said.

Tracy pointed to that as the key to Chacin’s success: “His secondary pitches were that much better tonight because he was throwing strikes with his fastball.”

Norichika Aoki connected for the first hit off Chacin, a low line drive that got past a diving Carlos Gonzalez in left field and rolled all the way to the wall. Aoki rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run, the first home run of his Major League career.

In the sixth, Aoki sparked a rally with his one-out double to center field. Corey Hart and Mat Gamel each drove in a run with two-out singles, scoring Aoki and Ryan Braun to tie the game at 3-3.

Aside from that inning, however, the Brewers continued to struggle at the plate.

“From the top of the order down, including myself, we have to get better,” Aramis Ramirez said. “I don’t have to mention any names. Everybody knows who they are. It’s time right now, we have to get better. It’s not early anymore.”

The victory put the Rockies back over .500 for the first time since they were 1-0 after winning on Opening Day in Houston.

While it was just the first game of three in Milwaukee, and the 13th of 162 this season, the Rockies were happy to get a good team win.

“That was a great baseball game to win against a very good baseball team in a building that it’s very tough to come in here and win baseball games,” Tracy said. “They just have that going for themselves and they’ve earned that right the way they’ve created it here. So we feel awfully good about what we just did.”

Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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