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Valaika swats his way into Rockies' history

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

ST. LOUIS -- Like anyone in his role, Rockies primary pinch-hitter Pat Valaika says he's "not trying to do too much." But what he's doing is plastering his name all over the club's record book.

Valaika's two-run homer off Zach Duke in the eighth inning of Monday night's 8-2 loss to the Cardinals was his third pinch-hit homer of the season -- a Rockies rookie record. In addition, his 11 RBIs off the bench tie Jim Tatum for the club mark.

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ST. LOUIS -- Like anyone in his role, Rockies primary pinch-hitter Pat Valaika says he's "not trying to do too much." But what he's doing is plastering his name all over the club's record book.

Valaika's two-run homer off Zach Duke in the eighth inning of Monday night's 8-2 loss to the Cardinals was his third pinch-hit homer of the season -- a Rockies rookie record. In addition, his 11 RBIs off the bench tie Jim Tatum for the club mark.

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Monday's shot, following Sunday's two-run homer off the Pirates' Wade LeBlanc in Sunday's 13-3 victory, made him the second Rockies player with pinch-hit homers in consecutive plate appearances, after Mark Sweeney (Aug. 4 and Aug. 7, 2004). The only other Major Leaguer to accomplish the feat this season is the Nationals' Adam Lind (April 30 and May 9).

A starting infielder in the Minors, Valaika didn't have much preparation for his role as pinch-hitter but says he's "starting to embrace it and enjoy it."

But he has one key quality -- the ability to hit anyone's fastball.

"Throughout my career in the Minor Leagues, I prided myself on being able to hit a fastball, no matter what velocity," he said. "The more you face it, the better you're going to be."

It's an important role for the Rockies, who hold one of the National League Wild Card spots.

"I'm so happy for Pat, because it's the toughest role on the team," manager Bud Black said. "You have to pinch-hit and produce. It's impressive."

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

Colorado Rockies, Pat Valaika