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Clutch Cuevas powers Rox to 5th straight win

Rookie hits tiebreaking HR in 7th; Rockies' stellar pitching continues
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SEATTLE -- Rockies rookie Noel Cuevas tried in vain to trick the Mariners with a squeeze bunt in the seventh inning on Saturday. On the next pitch, he treated the Rockies to a three-run homer and, ultimately, their fifth straight win in Colorado's 5-1 victory at Safeco Field.

"I wasn't happy at that moment that I missed it [the bunt] -- we were trying to get that run in," said Cuevas, whose homer broke a 1-1 tie. "But after that, it was short memory. I missed it. So what? Next pitch, I can't remember that I just missed the bunt. I need to be ready for that pitch. That was it."

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SEATTLE -- Rockies rookie Noel Cuevas tried in vain to trick the Mariners with a squeeze bunt in the seventh inning on Saturday. On the next pitch, he treated the Rockies to a three-run homer and, ultimately, their fifth straight win in Colorado's 5-1 victory at Safeco Field.

"I wasn't happy at that moment that I missed it [the bunt] -- we were trying to get that run in," said Cuevas, whose homer broke a 1-1 tie. "But after that, it was short memory. I missed it. So what? Next pitch, I can't remember that I just missed the bunt. I need to be ready for that pitch. That was it."

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It was just the second Major League homer for Cuevas, who had two of the Rockies' seven hits in seven innings against Mariners standout lefty James Paxton (8-3). Interestingly, five of the hits off Paxton (who struck out nine, including a career-high four for Charlie Blackmon and two against Nolan Arenado) and seven total hits came from the bottom three hitters in the order.

Video: COL@SEA: Desmond reaches into dugout for the catch

The performance is symbolic of the type of full-roster contributions that are surfacing as the Rockies, who have won eight of nine, show that they are not intending to be bystanders in a tight National League West race. The Rockies needed the help from lesser-known guys, considering that the top three hitters in the order -- DJ LeMahieu, Blackmon and Arenado -- went a combined 0-for-14 with seven strikeouts.

"It's a team sport; definitely today was the example," Cuevas said. "The top of the order didn't have the day that it wanted. We were able to get out with a 'W,' because the bottom of the order did their job."

Video: COL@SEA: Parra skies a sacrifice fly to left field

Cuevas, whose homer gave him a career-best three RBIs, has been a solid pinch-hitter and spot starter since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on April 22, with several of his contributions coming in clutch moments. His homer on May 14 gave the Rockies a lead in an eventual 6-4 victory at San Diego, and he tripled off the bench May 25 for a lead in 5-4 victory over the Reds at Coors.

"You want your bench players, your younger players, to contribute -- and they want to contribute in a big way," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "We talk about the young guys contributing to a win. Today was a big swing for us with Cuevas."

Video: COL@SEA: Black on lineup's approach, win in Seattle

Saturday also included two hits and a walk from No. 7 hitter Pat Valaika, who has been sent down to Albuquerque twice this season. Valaika, however, has had a home run, a key hit off the Giants' Madison Bumgarner and Saturday's contribution -- all in wins since his latest call-up on June 23.

Valaika started at shortstop, as Trevor Story's games-played streak ended at 139 because of a sore right foot.

The No. 8 hitter has been one of the more consistent contributors this season. Veteran Gerardo Parra, who is hitting .303, filled that role Saturday, finishing with two hits and a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Since a four-hit game on May 11, Parra -- who bats up and down the order but often is lower in the lower part -- has hit .340 (51-for-150).

"All those guys, from pitch one, they were ready to hit," Black said.

Rockies starter Kyle Freeland's streak of innings-heavy excellence ended when he lasted just five on Saturday, but his only mistake was to Jean Segura, who homered in the fifth. Freeland, who had worked at least seven innings in three of his previous four games, gave up five hits and walked four. But he finished with four strikeouts and never gave up the big hit despite facing runners in scoring position in four of his innings.

Video: COL@SEA: Freeland retires Freitas to strand a pair

"A little bit of maturity, I guess, not to let anything snowball on me or let them scratch across a couple of runs," Freeland said.

Scott Oberg (2-0) fanned two in a clean sixth, and primary setup man Adam Ottavino struck out three and pitched around two hits while being extended to two innings. Ottavino had not pitched since last Sunday.

SOUND SMART
Carlos Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a double, but his RBI single off Paxton in the fourth was significant. It was his first RBI against a lefty hitter since June 16, and he is 6-for-27 against lefties since June 7. Gonzalez was scheduled to have Saturday off, but the chain reaction from Story missing the game forced Gonzalez into the lineup as designated hitter.

Video: COL@SEA: Gonzalez lines an RBI single to right-center

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Valaika was a shortstop at UCLA and for much of his time in the Minors before gravitating toward utility work. But Valaika, forced in at short, ended the game by making a diving stop on Chris Herrmann's hard grounder and throwing to first to seal the win. It kept Wade Davis' ninth inning scoreless.

Video: COL@SEA: Valaika throws out Herrmann to end ballgame

"Pat had a good game -- how about that last play of the game?" Black said. "That was a great play. A couple hits, a walk that preceded Cuevas' home run."

HE SAID IT
"I think [Ottavino] is All-Star worthy. I think Trevor Story is All-Star worthy. I think Kyle Freeland should be considered heavily, as well. I think Wade Davis should be considered. I think Charlie [Blackmon] should be in the mix. Specifically to 'Otto,' you look at what he's done for us from Day 1. He had a little stint on the disabled list, and we saw the result of that." -- Black, who will be a coach on National League All-Star manager Dave Roberts' staff, stumping for his players

UP NEXT
Rockies righty Antonio Senzatela (3-1, 4.44 ERA) will face the Mariners and lefty Wade LeBlanc (4-0, 3.19) at Safeco Field on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. MT. Senzatela began the year in the Rockies' bullpen, but returned to the Majors on Tuesday and held the Giants scoreless on three hits, with four strikeouts and no walks, over seven innings in the Rockies' 8-1 victory.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Noel Cuevas