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Padres-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Colorado Rockies are sending two players to the All-Star game with the potential for a third through the fan vote.

Not coincidently, none of them are from the pitching staff.

Colorado hopes rookie Tyler Matzek can stop the bleeding of its reeling rotation Monday night in the opener of a three-game set against the visiting San Diego Padres.

The Rockies (37-52) have one of baseball's best offenses led by MLB batting leader Troy Tulowitzki, who is hitting .350 with 18 homers and 47 RBIs. Tulowitzki will join Charlie Blackmon on the NL All-Star team, while Justin Morneau has a chance to make the squad via the online vote.

''To be just a few months down the road - I could've easily not made the team - and here we are talking about the All-Star game,'' Blackmon said. ''It's just a blessing. I'm really amazed at what's happened, and I'm happy to represent the Rockies there.''

Colorado's main problem has been its pitching staff, which ranks last in baseball with a 5.05 ERA. It has allowed at least seven runs in three straight, including Sunday's 8-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the rotation has a 7.80 ERA in the past 18 games.

Morneau, who had two hits in the finale, is trying to remain positive.

''We've really struggled,'' Morneau said. ''It's been tough. Anything can happen and this team is still capable of going on a run.''

The Rockies have dropped 17 of 20 and hope Matzek can help them get this series off to a good start.

Matzek (1-2, 4.25 ERA) won his major league debut against Atlanta on June 11, but the Rockies have lost his four starts since despite some solid efforts. He allowed three runs and struck out six in 6 1-3 innings of Colorado's 4-3 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

The left-hander threw 95 pitches, prompting manager Walt Weiss to make a move to the bullpen.

''I think (Matzek) got stronger as the game went on, but he was in uncharted territory,'' Weiss said. ''He's a young guy that probably hasn't thrown more than 90, 95 pitches in the game.''

Matzek will be opposed by Ian Kennedy (6-9, 3.87), who is looking to build off a solid outing.

Kennedy went 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA over his previous four outings before giving up one run in six innings of Tuesday's 8-2 win over Cincinnati.

"I was throwing the fastball down for strikes," Kennedy said. "When I see it going straight, exactly where I want it and not tailing or cutting, that's when I know I'm staying through the ball and not pulling off."

The right-hander is 0-3 in his last five starts against Colorado despite a 2.61 ERA, most recently giving up three runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss April 17.

He'll look to help the Padres (39-49) avoid a third straight defeat after they fell 5-3 to San Francisco on Sunday. Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer for San Diego.

Grandal's blast was his first in 18 games. He's batting just .206 on the season.

Tulowitzki is hitting .345 over his last 23 against the Padres, who dropped two of three in Denver from May 16-18.

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