Colorado Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki hits an RBI single in the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field in Denver on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)
DENVER (AP) — Troy Tulowitzki had his third multihomer game in a little more than a week, setting a career high with seven RBIs to help the Colorado Rockies beat the NL West-leading Padres 9-6 Wednesday and avoid a series sweep.
The Padres began the day with a 1½-game division lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants, who hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
Tulowitzki has four multihomer games in his career, three in an eight-day span. He has 11 homers in his last 13 games.
With Tulowitzki hitting a pair of three-run homers and an RBI single, and Jorge De Le Rosa giving the beleaguered bullpen a break by pitching into the eighth, the Rockies climbed within 2½ games of San Diego. They also closed within 2½ games of Atlanta in the NL wild-card race.
Adrian Gonzalez nearly matching Tulowitzki's offensive production. The first baseman hit two homers, including a three-run shot in the eighth that wiped out half of a 9-3 deficit. He finished with five RBIs and increased his season total to 29 homers.
Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his 19th save in 23 chances.
De La Rosa (8-4) snapped a string of short outings by Colorado starters, giving up five runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Colorado starters have been awful of late, overtaxing the bullpen. That cost them dearly Tuesday night when Edgmer Escalona's failure to cover first base on a grounder to Todd Helton in the ninth inning led to the decisive run in a 7-6 loss.
Clayton Richard (12-8) gave up a season-high eight runs and 11 hits in three innings.
Colorado won the final game of a three-game series — not exactly what the team had in mind when the slumping Padres arrived at Coors Field on Monday. The Rockies were riding a 10-game winning streak and had designs on overtaking the Padres.
NL MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, increasing his NL leads in batting average (.341) and RBIs (106).
Tulowitzki is making a late MVP push, as well, despite missing 33 games with a broken wrist. He went 3 for 5 to raise his average to .325, second to Carlos Gonzalez. During a 10-game homestand, he batted .375 with nine homers and 21 RBIs.
In the eighth inning, though, the Padres elected to walk Carlos Gonzalez with a runner on second and pitch to Tulowitzki. It's a strategy that worked as right-hander Ernesto Frieri retired Tulowitzki on a hard lineout to left.
Richard gave up a three-run homer to Tulowitzki in the third. An inning later, Richard was pulled with the slugger stepping into the batter's box.
Reliever Edward Mujica gave up Tulowitzki's second three-run drive, almost to the same spot in left as the first.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy gave some thought to starting defensive stalwart Clint Barmes at second base, a day after Eric Young Jr. committed two errors. But Tracy elected to stick with the young player.
"I wasn't real good every single day I played, either," Tracy said.
Young rewarded his manager's faith in the opening inning, bunting his way onto first base. He later scored on a sharp single by Tulowitzki.
However, Young threw wildly to first in the fifth and was replaced an inning later by Barmes.
NOTES: The Padres claimed RHP Cesar Carrillo off waivers from the Phillies and designated RHP Craig Italiano for assignment. ... Tracy said before the game that, depending on circumstances, he wouldn't be opposed to using 18-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez on short rest down the stretch. ... The Rockies are 20-6 at home since July 29.