ARLINGTON -- Saturday ended with rare smiles and music in the Rockies' clubhouse. Yet starting pitcher Josh Outman's day ended much earlier, with him leaving the mound muttering something he didn't care to repeat after the game.The Rockies knocked 17 hits, a season high for a road game, en route to their third victory in the last 16 games -- 11-7 over the Rangers in front of 42,516. Chris Nelson had three hits, including two doubles. Wil Nieves and Dexter Fowler (three hits) belted consecutive home runs in the fifth inning. By improving to 2-12 in Interleague Play, the Rockies (27-43) avoided becoming the first team since the leagues began facing off in regular-season games in 1997 to finish with just one Interleague victory.
Yet any smile from Outman had to be forced.The Rockies gave Outman an 11-1 lead through four innings. The Rockies, in an attempt to help starting pitchers become more aggressive and presumably more effective, this week announced a four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit. Outman had thrown 69 through four innings, with the only run a Nelson Cruz homer in the fourth, and he needed to complete the fifth for a win -- which would have been his first of the season. Manager Jim Tracy told Outman the fifth was his. But he yielded a Brandon Snyder leadoff single and a one-out walk to Elvis Andrus before striking out Josh Hamilton for the second out. Tracy let him have two more batters, but Adrian Beltre and Michael Young knocked RBI singles. Tracy could wait no longer. A frustrated Outman muttered "nothing that I'm going to repeat," handed the ball to Tracy and strode angrily off the mound, not out of disrespect for the manager but plain disgust at his performance. To compound matters, reliever Adam Ottavino gave up a three-run homer to Cruz, so Outman left the game charged with five runs in 4 2/3 innings. "At the end of the day, the team won, that's the big picture," Outman said. "Besides one inning, we played a great game against the best team in baseball. I spent the last three years playing against this team [while with the Athletics] and I know what they're capable of. Obviously, it showed in the fifth inning. "I threw a not-very-smart pitch to the leadoff man and walked Andrus, then the wheels came off the wagon." Outman finished with 92 pitches, and he is scheduled to pitch again Wednesday at home against the Nationals, although Tracy said he might have to tweak the rotation. Tracy said he could bend only so far with him. "If I give him Nelson Cruz and he hits the ball into the bullpen off that kid, then personally I've done it wrong," Tracy said. "But I tried to get him the fifth inning really, really hard." Nieves, catching to spell rookie Wilin Rosario, said he suffered with Outman. "I was pulling for him, because just one out was what he needed," Nieves said. "He threw the balls to the corners, but they were up and they hit them through the holes good enough. I think he was really excited. He wanted it so badly that he forgot to keep pitching like he was." Cruz said, "It was a wild game. They came out strong swinging the bat, and at least we attempted to come back. It's part of the game." Left-handed reliever Rex Brothers (3-2) gave up leadoff doubles in the sixth and seventh innings and saw each runner reach third with one out, but he escaped without yielding a run and finished with three strikeouts. Without the face-saving work of Brothers, who was followed by effective work from Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt, the Rockies were teetering close to history. Never in their 20 seasons have they lost a game after leading by 10 runs. "It was never said, but everybody knows it," Brothers said. "Everybody sitting in the stands with Rockies apparel knew it, too. It was kind of self-explanatory." The pitching staff's woes have overshadowed strong offensive efforts more times than the Rockies care to remember. Saturday's woes were certainly a juicy subject, but the victory put that one on the backburner. "Every starting pitcher that goes out there is pitching his heart out, and we want to get him a win," said Nelson, whose two-run single in the third inning gave him eight RBIs in his last eight games. "But we want to get wins as a team, period." Jonathan Herrera doubled in a run and Michael Cuddyer doubled in two during a three-run fourth, which upped the damage against Rangers starter Colby Lewis (6-6) to eight runs -- seven earned -- on 12 hits. Younger role players such as Nelson, Herrera, Jordan Pacheco (two hits Saturday) and Rosario are quietly developing offensive consistency. The streaky Fowler had one of those days that make him a true weapon. Nieves' first homer of the season, for two runs, and Fowler's ninth came against Michael Kirkman. It marked the first time Rockies Nos. 8 and 9 hitters went deep consecutively since April 8, 2009, when Yorvit Torrealba (the Rangers' catcher Saturday) and Ian Stewart did it at Arizona. Stewart was pinch-hitting. The Rockies are 3-5 on a road trip that ends Sunday, when they have a chance to win a road series for just the second time this season. Twice on the trip they've reached a season high for hits on the road. They knocked 16 in a 12-4, 10-inning victory at Detroit on June 15. "You look around the lineup and we're definitely capable of it, but it's not happening on a consistent basis," Fowler said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.