Elevator going up for Rockies

Aug 1, 2006 1:36 AM

Who knows what the NL West will look like next week, but for now Colorado’s stock is heading up.

The Rockies dropped from first to last in a week, but have started righting the ship after taking 3-of-4 at Coors Field against current leader San Diego. Colorado, now at 50-54 after Sunday’s play, closed to within 4½ of the Padres. That’s a gain of two games in the standings in what could have been a loss of four.

Again, it was solid starting pitching that sparked Colorado. When betting the Rockies, it’s not so much winning or losing, but projected total runs that are the preferred approach to cashing at the pay window. The ”˜under’ is 6-1 in Colorado’s last seven games — all at Coors Field.

Jason Jennings is the poster child for ”˜under’ plays in Colorado. The ace righty had been winless in his previous six starts, despite giving up more than two earned runs just one. Jennings allowed just one run over seven innings against San Diego to lower his ERA to 2.80 in his last seven outings.

To show the parity of the NL West, the Rockies were 27-24 after 51 games and stood third in the division 2½ games out of the lead. So despite the horrific 1-11 stretch from July 7-22 that included five losses in six games with Arizona, the Rocks are only two games further back in the standings from nearly two months ago.

The 50-54 team record puts Colorado is that risky betting mode of mediocrity. Wiseguys like seeing teams either succeed greatly or fail miserably, taking advantage of the sides and money lines either way. Clearly, the betting story on Colorado continues to be the amazing number of results winding up below the posted total.

The standout pitching, in particular from Jennings, Jeff Francis and closer Brian Fuentes has seen the ”˜under’ go 58-39. The last three games in the Padres series were below the posted total. In fact, the best ”˜under’ play all year has been when Jennings has been on the mound.

The Rockies scored one run or less in eight of Jennings’ first 21 starts. For his part, Jennings has two complete game shutouts and has departed two others without surrendering a run.

It’s easy to be a non-believer in the Rockies, who have put together just one above-.500 season since 1997. Last year’s 67-95 record matched Colorado’s inaugural 1993 campaign.

The upcoming schedule for Colorado, includes three games against Milwaukee to close the homestand, followed by seven in the division — three at San Francisco and four in Los Angeles. The Dodgers were first a couple of weeks ago and are now last.

And, so it goes.