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Utility man Valaika plays key role in win

MLB.com

DENVER -- On Wednesday, Pat Valaika started for just the 18th time in the Rockies' 87th game, but he made the most of the rare opportunity.

Valaika, 24, notched a career-high three hits in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Reds, including a two-run homer that proved to be the decisive runs and an insurance RBI in the eighth. Valaika has filled roles ranging from defensive replacement to designated hitter in American League parks, and he said he's more than happy to be that type of player.

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DENVER -- On Wednesday, Pat Valaika started for just the 18th time in the Rockies' 87th game, but he made the most of the rare opportunity.

Valaika, 24, notched a career-high three hits in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Reds, including a two-run homer that proved to be the decisive runs and an insurance RBI in the eighth. Valaika has filled roles ranging from defensive replacement to designated hitter in American League parks, and he said he's more than happy to be that type of player.

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"I don't want to be unrealistic; I'm not gonna start over Nolan Arenado," Valaika said. "I understand what role I'm in and try to do the best at that, be it pinch-hitting, defensive replacement, whatever they ask of me."

Tweet from @Rockies: Two-run shot for PV! pic.twitter.com/YKGzMSIX6f

Valaika's crucial RBIs came with the Rockies scuffling at the plate. Those struggles were overshadowed Wednesday, as aside from Valaika's three knocks and Jon Gray's first career home run, the Rockies managed only two singles, by Charlie Blackmon and Mark Reynolds.

Regular starting shortstop Trevor Story is also mired in an extended slump. His pinch-hit strikeout Wednesday sunk him to seven hits in his last 46 at-bats, with 21 whiffs. But manager Bud Black said getting caught up in the "what-ifs" isn't helpful for anyone.

"Had Story started, who knows what he would've done," Black said. "But Pat had a good game. I've been saying it all year, I'm a Valaika fan."

Video: CIN@COL: Valaika's line-drive single plates Gonzalez

Valaika credited his preparation for facing Reds starter Scott Feldman for his big night, saying with Feldman's sinker, he was able to focus on going the opposite way in batting practice.

Black has already announced that Valaika will be in the lineup for Thursday's finale. Though it may prove beneficial for Valaika personally to get in a string of consecutive starts, Valaika says he's still going to take it one day at a time.

"It's nice to get in a groove, but baseball's a game of failure," Valaika said. "Just because I got three hits today doesn't mean I'll get three hits tomorrow. It's more of a day-by-day thing."

Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver.

Colorado Rockies, Pat Valaika