The Rockies may not be part of a postseason race this year, but Colorado fans figure to have plenty of reason to come out to Coors Field on Monday as the club begins its final homestand of the 2013 season against the Cardinals.
Rockies legend Todd Helton will take the field in front of his hometown fans on Monday for the first time since announcing over the weekend that he plans to retire at the end of the season. Though the 17-year veteran said he preferred to stay out of the spotlight, he ultimately decided -- at the urging of others -- to make the announcement ahead of Colorado's final homestand.
"It was brought up to me last week that I couldn't look at it from my perspective, that I had to look at it from the fans'," said Helton, who spent his entire career with the Rockies. "That it would be selfish if I didn't [announce it now], and I never thought of it that way. Once I heard that, I said, 'Let's do it.' We're going into the last homestand, and I wanted to go into that homestand knowing it would be my last."
Though Helton won't have the thrill of being part of one last playoff push, the last-place Rockies will have the chance to play spoiler against the visiting Cardinals.
St. Louis comes to town for the four-game set locked in a tie with Pittsburgh atop the National League Central. Though the Cardinals appear bound for their third straight playoff appearance one way or another, they obviously would prefer to claim their first division title since 2009 and avoid playing in the Wild Card game.
Winners of seven of their last nine games and three straight series, the Cardinals will call on Lance Lynn in the series opener. The right-hander is winless in his last seven starts dating back to Aug. 9, though he is coming off a solid outing Wednesday against the Brewers.
"We haven't made it a secret all season how valuable our starting pitching is and how quality pitching translates to us in the win-loss column," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We understand that. Lance is one of our guys. We need him right, just like we need the rest of them right."
Lynn showed signs of returning to form on Wednesday when he limited Milwaukee to just one unearned run off five hits over six innings, while striking out 10, though he settled for a no-decision. Though his winless streak continued, it was a vast improvement from his previous six outings in which the righty was 0-5 with a 6.88 ERA.
"It was a very good outing and that's something that I know he was ready to see," Matheny said. "It was one that was more consistent than he's had in a while. Hopefully it's just a sign of what's to come."
Cardinals: Craig not making trip
First baseman Allen Craig is not traveling with the club for its series in Colorado, instead staying back in St. Louis as he continues to recover from a sprained left foot.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said staying behind in St. Louis will allow Craig to get in more rehab work than he would be able to on the road. The skipper also declined to gauge the impact of Craig's absence on his club's lineup.
"I don't think that's fair to these guys," Matheny said. "I don't think it's fair to Matt Adams or Carlos [Beltran] hitting in the four-spot. We've got a good enough lineup. Would we like to have Allen available and part of it? Sure. But that's not where we are."
The Cards have played well in Craig's absence, racking up a 7-3 record since the first baseman suffered the injury on Sept. 4. There remains no definitive timetable for his return, though the club hopes he can return before the end of the regular season.
Rockies: De La Rosa pushed back, McHugh to start
Southpaw Dane De La Rosa will not make his scheduled start on Monday because of a sore left thumb. Righty Collin McHugh will make a spot start in De La Rosa's place.
De La Rosa left Tuesday's start against the Giants during the second inning with discomfort in his left thumb and index finger. The thumb injury has plagued De La Rosa throughout the season, though he has still gone 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts, including 8-1 since July 10.
"We're not sure how much we'll push him back," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We haven't gotten as far as shutting him down for the season yet. Just push back his start a little at this time. We have guys down there in the 'pen, who have made a number of starts so we wouldn't have to piece it together."
McHugh made one spot start for the Rockies earlier this season after being acquired from the Mets. He allowed six runs on nine hits over five innings against the Brewers on July 27.
• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina on Sunday snapped out of an 0-for-15 slump with a 4-for-5 performance against the Mariners that included a home run and three runs scored. Molina is 5-for-11 (.455) with a home run and two RBIs lifetime against De La Rosa.