Stewart hits grand slam, solo shot in Rockies’ win

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Colorado Rockies' Ian Stewart gestures as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Denver on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER ” Ian Stewart was offered the same piece of hitting advice over and over: Quit being so picky and patient. Start hacking.

The message clicked. A more aggressive Stewart hit a grand slam and a solo shot in the Colorado Rockies’ 12-1 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

“We saw more swings tonight in one game than we’d seen in a lot of at-bats,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “That’s what we’ve talked about. A swinging bat is a dangerous bat.”

Stewart was taking too many pitches as he waited for the perfect one. Instead, he was looking at his fair share of called third strikes.

So he adopted a more assertive approach.

“But it’s something I’m working on and need to work on,” said Stewart, who was hitless in his last 10 at-bats before his homer in the fourth. “I’m trying to put the ball in play.”

Stewart’s second career grand slam came on a fastball from reliever Tim Byrdak in the fifth inning. His five RBIs tied a career high.

Even more, he’s looking like the hitter Hurdle remembers from spring training. The one who wasn’t so selective.

“I don’t know exactly what he was looking for at times, but if you gear up to hit the ball, you’ve got a chance,” Hurdle said. “I just felt sometimes he was trying to figure too much out when the ball’s in flight. The game’s too quick up for here for that to happen.”

Brad Hawpe finished with four hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in a career-high five runs. Todd Helton added a two-run homer in the third.

Ubaldo Jimenez (3-4) turned in his third straight solid start, scattering seven hits and giving up one run over seven innings. He’s now allowed just five runs over his last 21 innings.

The hard-throwing Jimenez struck out four as his fastball hit 98 mph at times. He also had pinpoint command, walking none.

“Finally, a game without a walk,” he said, smiling.

Jimenez did have two pitches get away from him, sending Carlos Lee diving for the dirt on two balls near his head.

Nothing personal, he insisted.

“Wanted to go inside, got away,” Jimenez admitted. “But everything is getting better, especially my fastball.”

Lance Berkman will vouch for that.

“I don’t think people realize the movement he has,” said Berkman, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games with a sore left wrist. “It makes it tough when you’re facing a guy like that. I know his ERA isn’t great, but he’s the kind of guy that can absolutely dominate and he did tonight.”

Astros starter Felipe Paulino (1-3) was roughed up in his first appearance against Colorado, giving up eight runs ” seven earned ” and seven hits in four innings.

Paulino was taking Russ Ortiz’s spot in the rotation after Ortiz was moved into the bullpen.

“I thought Paulino threw the ball OK, he just wasn’t quite as crisp and sharp as he had been in the past,” Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. “I thought he got squeezed a little bit as well. He just didn’t make enough quality pitches.”

Colorado pushed across a run in the first when Hawpe blooped a double to left that scored Troy Tulowitzki, who showed no lingering issues from a tweaked left quadriceps muscle that led to him being replaced late in a win over Florida on Sunday.

The smooth-fielding shortstop said leaving the game Sunday was simply precautionary.

Tulowitzki missed 46 games last season when he tore the quadriceps tendon in the same leg.

“The extent of the injury is not even close,” said Tulowitzki, who finished 2 for 4 on Tuesday.