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Power surge shorts Cards
DENVER -- He shut down one of the best lineups in baseball. He outclassed one of the top pitchers in the game. He did it at the toughest pitcher's park around.
There was no denying Jason Jennings earned his milestone the hard way Tuesday night, when he became the winningest pitcher in Coors Field history by throwing seven innings in a 2-1 victory over Mark Mulder and the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I don't think anyone will really tell you they like pitching here," Jennings said. "I embrace the challenge. It's always extra special when you get a win here, because you know you earned it."
Jennings (3-6) won his 25th game at Coors Field, passing Pedro Astacio on a very un-Coors-like night: It was only the eighth 2-1 game in the 10-year history of the park, the kind of taut, low-scoring affair that manager Clint Hurdle said was like "eating spaghetti in a white shirt."
"At the end of it, you look at it and you say, 'My goodness, I didn't get anything on me,"' Hurdle said.
Indeed, there was no margin for error -- not against the Cardinals, and especially not against Mulder (7-2), who allowed back-to-back homers to Dustan Mohr and Todd Greene in the fourth to see his seven-game winning streak snapped.
"You'd think that nine out of 10 times giving up two runs here you'd win," said Mulder, who pitched seven-plus innings. "But give Jennings credit, he pitched an outstanding game."
While Mulder is contending for the Cy Young Award, Jennings is simply trying to grind his way back to the .500 mark while pitching for the worst team in the NL. He improved to 25-16 lifetime at Coors Field. Just as significantly, this was his second straight victory, and the resurgence can be credited to a change in his routine between starts.
He also has calmed down in pressure situations, and that difference showed twice in this game -- once when he retired Jim Edmonds with the bases loaded in the fifth, then again in the seventh when he got Larry Walker to hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I think they pitched outstanding," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Our guy was really good. Their guy was better. Tip our cap to him."
While Jennings was super -- allowing only six singles over his seven innings -- the Colorado bullpen came through nicely, as well.
Jay Witasick pitched the eighth and Brian Fuentes worked the ninth to earn his third save and give the Rockies' struggling bullpen a lift.
On Monday, Colorado relievers blew their 11th save when Albert Pujols hit a three-run homer off a nasty slider from Witasick in the seventh. Pujols was the first batter Witasick faced Tuesday, and this time, Witasick threw him all sliders and got him to ground out to shortstop.
"You want another chance at a guy that's gotten you. But Pujols? You've got to be crazy," Witasick said. "The game was on the line and I have to get guys out no matter who it is. Tonight it was Pujols."
St. Louis scored its only run when Jennings hit Reggie Sanders with a pitch to lead off the sixth, then Sanders advanced to third on a stolen base and a throwing error by Greene and Mark Grudzielanek hit an RBI groundout.
Mohr hit his fourth homer of the year, a shot to dead center off a 2-1 pitch from Mulder. Greene followed by taking a 2-1 pitch barely over the fence in right-center field. It was his fifth homer. He also had a double.
"You don't wear Mulder out. Nobody wears him out," Greene said. "You take what you get. I got a ball up in the zone in a favorable count."
Mulder had two singles -- the first multihit game of his career -- and Abraham Nunez had a pair of infield singles for the Cardinals, who lost for only the second time in eight games.
The Rockies improved to 15-35 -- one game better than the record the 1993 expansion team had after 50 games, but still worst in the National League, 3 1/2 games behind Houston.
Notes: Cardinals CF Edmonds added to his long list of highlight-reel catches with a diving grab to rob Matt Holliday of a hit in the fifth. ... Rockies RHP Aaron Cook had to be pulled after three innings of a start in rehab Tuesday because of a sore shoulder. ... The Rockies pulled Todd Helton from the starting lineup. He pinch-hit in the eighth and grounded out to extend his slump to 3-for-50.