Series preview: Mets at Rockies

METS (2-4, fifth place/NL East) at ROCKIES (3-3, third place/NL West)

Tuesday: RHP John Maine (0-0, 7.20) vs. LHP Greg Smith (0-1, 9.00), 8:40 p.m. EDT

Wednesday: LHP Jon Niese (0-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Aaron Cook (0-1, 6.75), 8:40 p.m. EDT

Thursday: RHP Mike Pelfrey (1-0, 3.00) vs. LHP Jorge De La Rosa (1-0, 0.00), 3:10 p.m., EDT

Rockies short hops:

Acquired from Oakland as an extra piece in the Matt Holliday trade, left-hander Greg Smith replaced injured Jeff Francis in the rotation to open this season. Francis, who missed the ’09 season because of shoulder surgery, had a solid spring-training finale, but awoke the next morning with pain underneath his armpit. The issue is unrelated to last year’s woes. Still, he will miss at least a month. Smith had his own issues last year and was limited to 11 minor-league starts all season. He became sick during spring training in ’09 and lost 10 pounds. When he returned, his shoulder began bothering him and his fastball velocity was only 82 mph. Then he got sick again. Similar in style to Francis, Smith isn’t a hard thrower, but his velocity has returned to its customary 87-88 mph. His modus operandi is to throw the fastball in and his signature changeup away and rely on solid command. He’s technically second in Colorado’s rotation, but that’s only because reigning National League Manager of the Year Jim Tracy prefers Smith following hard-throwing ace Ubaldo Jimenez, whom the Mets miss this series. With Oakland in ’08, Smith logged 190 1/3 innings and had a respectable 4.16 ERA, although he went 7-16. … Aaron Cook, who starts Wednesday opposite Jon Niese, is a straight sinkerball pitcher, throwing it 95 percent of the time, with an occasional curveball or changeup. The Rockies’ version of Brandon Webb, he’s reasonably economical with his pitches and forces ground balls. … Jorge De La Rosa tossed seven scoreless innings against the Padres in his season debut, with his only trouble that day being his car getting towed and incurring a $200 fine. He’s 17-3 since last June -- the best record in the majors during that span. De La Rosa is second only to CC Sabathia in terms of fastball velocity among lefties in the majors -- at least until Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman gets a chance. The Rockies’ southpaw flamethrower consistently registers 95 mph. De La Rosa, who throws a devastating backdoor slider to right-handed hitters, has stepped up his dedication to preparation in the past year, which coincides with his wife giving birth to twins. He reported to camp at 213 pounds, down 18 pounds from last year. … Catcher Yorvit Torrealba signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres and received a standing ovation when he returned to Coors Field during the opening week. Colorado now has a pair of longball threats behind the plate in holdover Chris Iannetta and Miguel Olivo, although neither should hit for much average. Whoever is performing well should get the majority of the playing time, similar to how Mets manager Jerry Manuel is approaching his center-field situation with Gary Matthews Jr. and Angel Pagan in Carlos Beltran’s absence. Iannetta is 1-for-12 to open the season, although his lone hit was a homer off San Diego’s Mat Latos. Olivo is 5-for-11 with two homers. Olivo had 23 homers last season with the Kansas City Royals, while Iannetta had 16 in 289 at-bats as a Rockie. … First baseman Todd Helton wore down late last season while playing in 151 games, so Tracy will try to more liberally rest the slugger this year. Helton, who hit .325 with 15 homers and 86 RBI in ’09, sat Sunday after an extra-inning game the previous day. Ex-Yankee Jason Giambi filled in at first base. … Second baseman Clint Barmes is employing an open stance at the plate in an attempt to become more selective and limit his strikeout totals. He fanned 121 times in 550 at-bats in ’09. Barmes, who homered 23 times last season, is a longball threat. However, he becomes susceptible to breaking balls away when he gets pull-happy. In a six-week span after the All-Star break last season, Barmes actually had more homers than singles. … Melvin Mora is serving in a utility role. … A notorious slow starter in March/April, with a career .198 average in that month-plus, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is off to a good start by those standards. Tulowitzki, who finished fifth in National League MVP balloting last season, is hitting .231 with four RBI through 26 at-bats. … Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who is off to a quick start with a .393 average, departed Sunday’s game with left hamstring tightness and is day-to-day. … Switch-hitting Dexter Fowler has struggled from the left side of the plate (1-for-9), leading to a platoon-type arrangement with Seth Smith. When Smith starts, he’s in left field and Gonzalez mans center field. When Fowler starts, he’s in center field and Gonzalez is in left field. … Left-handed reliever Joe Beimel, who signed March 23, has risen to Triple-A Colorado Springs as he nears readiness for major-league competition. Beimel, who spurned a superior offer from the Mets to sign a minor-league deal with the Rockies, should be activated after the series against the Mets. … Closer Huston Street is sidelined at least into next month by shoulder stiffness and inflammation. Left-hander Franklin Morales is handling the closing duties, leaving only Randy Flores as a situational southpaw in the bullpen. … Rafael Betancourt and Matt Daley, who hails from Garden City, Long Island, share the set-up duties.


Maine vs. Rockies (career: 2-1, 2.66 ERA)

Seth Smith .500, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 AB

Todd Helton .375, 8 AB

Ian Stewart .333, 3 AB

Brad Hawpe .250, 4 AB

Miguel Olivo .125, 1 RBI, 8 AB

Clint Barmes .000, 3 AB

Ryan Spilborghs .000, 3 AB

Troy Tulowitzki .000, 3 AB

Jason Giambi .000, 1 AB

Niese vs. Rockies (career: 0-1, 5.68 ERA)

Seth Smith .500, 4 AB

Clint Barmes .333, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 AB

Ryan Spilborghs .333, 1 RBI, 3 AB

Todd Helton .250, 4 AB

Brad Hawpe .000, 2 AB

Troy Tulowitzki .000, 2 AB

Pelfrey vs. Rockies (career: 3-2, 4.00 ERA)

Jason Giambi 1.000, 1 RBI, 1 AB

Todd Helton .857, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 AB

Chris Iannetta .667, 3 AB

Seth Smith .500, 6 AB

Carlos Gonzalez .500, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 AB

Ian Stewart .500, 2 AB

Troy Tulowitzki .333, 9 AB

Dexter Fowler .250, 4 AB

Miguel Olivo .167, 6 AB

Brad Hawpe .100, 10 AB

Clint Barmes .000, 10 AB

Melvin Mora .000, 3 AB

Greg Reynolds .000, 2 AB

Ryan Spilborghs .000, 1 AB

Smith vs. Mets (career: never faced)

Gary Matthews Jr. .333, 2 RBI 15 AB

Rod Barajas .167, 6 AB

Cook vs. Mets (career: 3-1, 2.78 ERA)

Henry Blanco .600, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 AB

Luis Castillo .429, 7 AB

Rod Barajas .400, 1 RBI, 5 AB

Jeff Francoeur .375, 5 RBI, 24 AB

Jason Bay .364, 4 RBI, 11 AB

Gary Matthews Jr. .333, 3 AB

Jose Reyes .292, 24 AB

Angel Pagan .250, 4 AB

David Wright .150, 2 RBI, 20 AB

Alex Cora .125, 1 RBI, 16 AB

Fernando Tatis .000, 6 AB

De La Rosa vs. Mets (career: 3-0, 3.71 ERA)

Fernando Tatis .333, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6 AB

Angel Pagan .333, 6 AB

David Wright .286, 7 AB

Jeff Francoeur .200, 3 RBI, 5 AB

Luis Castillo .200, 1 RBI, 10 AB

Henry Blanco .200, 1 RBI, 5 AB

Gary Matthews Jr. .125, 8 AB

Jason Bay .000, 5 AB

Jose Reyes .000, 2 AB

Last series results:

Rockies won 2-1 at Coors Field, Sept. 1-3, 2009 (AP game recaps)

Rockies 8, Mets 3: Todd Helton hit a three-run homer into the smoky sky and the Colorado Rockies snapped a five-game losing streak. The NL wild-card leaders moved a game ahead of San Francisco. Jason Giambi made his Rockies and National League debut in the seventh when he batted for the pitcher with the bases loaded and drew a four-pitch walk from Sean Green. All-Star third baseman David Wright was activated from the 15-day disabled list and played his first game for the Mets since getting hit in the head by a pitch from San Francisco's Matt Cain on Aug. 15. Wright went 1-for-3. Wearing his bulky, new protective batting helmet, Wright helped New York take a 2-0 lead in a wild first inning when he singled and scored. Jorge De La Rosa (13-9) settled down from his shaky start, though, and the Rockies took out Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey (9-10) early, tagging him for seven runs, six earned, on six hits in four innings. De La Rosa allowed just one earned run and four hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out six despite throwing exactly 50 balls and 50 strikes. Carlos Gonzalez also homered for Colorado, his high drive slicing through the haze that meteorologists blamed on the California wildfires more than 800 miles away and landing in the second deck in right field. Gonzalez's two-run shot off Pelfrey in the second gave Colorado a 3-2 lead. Helton sent his 14th homer into the right-field seats in the fourth, making it 7-2. Back-to-back triples off Rockies reliever Matt Daley by Cory Sullivan and Angel Pagan in the seventh cut it to 7-3. Pagan's baserunning gaffe cost the Mets an even bigger first inning. After a leadoff single, Pagan advanced to second on Luis Castillo's one-hopper to center field but he thought Gonzalez had caught the ball on the fly and started sprinting back to first. After a few steps he realized his mistake but was thrown out, his blunder taking away Castillo's single on a play that was ruled a fielder's choice.

Rockies 5, Mets 2: Jason Giambi's pinch-hit two-run single off Brian Stokes broke an eighth-inning tie. Giambi's first hit for the Rockies made a winner of Ubaldo Jimenez, who outdueled right-hander Tim Redding and kept Colorado atop the NL wild-card race by a game over San Francisco. With the bases full and the crowd on its feet waving white giveaway T-shirts, Giambi, pinch-hitting for Clint Barmes, lined Stokes' first offering into center field just over the outstretched glove of a leaping shortstop Anderson Hernandez, making it 4-2. Giambi, who was jettisoned by Oakland this summer, signed with Colorado last week and was called up from the minor leagues Tuesday for just these circumstances. Yorvit Torrealba followed Giambi's electrifying moment with a run-scoring single off Stokes (2-4), extending his career-best hitting streak to 12 games. Jimenez (13-10), who went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA in August, allowed two earned runs on five hits in eight spectacular innings as he worked at least into the sixth for the 24th straight time. His only mistake was a hanging curve that Jeff Francoeur deposited over the left-field wall in the second inning, his 12th homer tying the game at 2. Left-handed setup man Franklin Morales pitched a perfect ninth for his first save in the majors. Tim Redding matched Jimenez inning for inning in his third strong start since rejoining the Mets' rotation Aug. 22. He surrendered two earned runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Seth Smith sent his 12th homer into the rock pile in straightaway center to tie it at 1 in the first inning, and he scored on Troy Tulowitzki's single in the third. Francoeur tied it at 2 with a solo shot to left in the fourth. Jimenez walked the next batter on four pitches before retiring 11 batters in a row. The Rockies had a chance to go ahead in the fifth on Todd Helton's double to the gap in left-center with speedster Carlos Gonzalez on first and two outs, but shortstop Wilson Valdez spun on Angel Pagan's perfect throw and nailed Gonzalez at the plate to keep the game tied. All-Star third baseman David Wright didn't start but pinch-hit in the ninth, part of manager Jerry Manuel's plan to ease him back into action after he returned from the stint on the DL with a concussion.

Mets 8, Rockies 3: Pat Misch kept the Colorado Rockies guessing, chasing and cursing. Misch pitched seven solid innings for his first major-league win and David Wright drove in three runs in his second start since coming off the disabled list. Catcher Josh Thole also picked up his first big-league hit in his first major-league start, a single in the second inning, followed by his first stolen base. The Mets avoided a three-game sweep by the Rockies, who kept their one-game lead over San Francisco in the NL wild-card race. Misch (1-1), who had gone 0-8 as a starter with San Francisco in 2007 and '08 and was waived by the Giants this summer, finally won in his 13th major-league start and 55th appearance over four seasons. The left-hander was working on a shutout before Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart hit consecutive homers in the seventh to make it 6-2. Pedro Feliciano pitched the final two innings and surrendered Clint Barmes' 22nd homer, but it was another solo shot for the Rockies. The Mets responded with Daniel Murphy's two-run shot off Joe Beimel in the ninth. Misch allowed four hits, walked two and struck out three. Wright went 3-for-4 in his second start since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a concussion courtesy of a Matt Cain fastball on Aug. 15. The All-Star third baseman went back to his old batting helmet, ditching Rawlings' bulky, new S100 model that made him look like a bobblehead running the bases earlier in the series. Wright's two-run double just inside the first-base bag highlighted a four-run fifth inning off Jason Marquis (14-10).