The Rockies enter Sunday's series finale against the Reds facing double-digit deficits in the National League West and the race for a Wild Card spot, but that will not stop them from being excited about the return of starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood.
A month to the day since he hit the disabled list with an impingement in his throwing elbow, the 23-year-old right-hander will make his first big league start since July 31 on Sunday. Before sustaining the injury, Chatwood was arguably the best pitcher in the Colorado rotation, going 7-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 15 starts.
Chatwood got his feet wet again Tuesday, when he made a rehab start for Triple-A Colorado Springs. In 5 1/3 innings, he gave up just one earned run and five hits, giving him a boost of confidence before making his comeback.
"It had been awhile, so it was awesome to get back out there and compete again," Chatwood said. "I felt a little duster early. As the game went on, I settled in and kind of found my rhythm."
Against the Reds, Chatwood will face a team playing with the urgency expected in a tight division race. Following Saturday's 8-3 win over Colorado, Cincinnati remains in third place in the National League Central, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Pirates. Although the Cardinals hold an edge of 2 1/2 games for second place in the division and the No. 1 Wild Card in the League, the Reds still have a six-game cushion in the race for the final playoff spot.
However, they have their eyes on the division crown, and manager Dusty Baker will turn to Mike Leake to try to help the club move one step closer Sunday. Since going 10-4 with a 2.59 ERA in his first 21 starts, Leake is 1-1 with a 6.44 ERA in his last five. Most recently, he squandered a four-run lead against St. Louis on Tuesday by giving up five runs in 6 1/3 innings en route to an 8-6 loss.
The Reds hope Leake can get things turned around Sunday, as a win would guarantee them to gain a game on the Cardinals or Pirates with the two squaring off in Pittsburgh.
Reds: Light role expected for Hamilton
Barring an injury or some unforeseen circumstances, Sunday's finale against the Rockies will be the Reds' last game of the season before the addition of speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton. Expected to join the club Monday, Cincinnati's No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com is unlikely to play a huge role for the Reds, but he will be asked to contribute.
"Hamilton's here to help us win," Baker said. "However we think he can most help the team."
Hamilton set a professional record with 155 steals in 132 games playing Class A and Double-A ball in 2012, and he leads the league with 75 steals in 90 attempts for Triple-A Louisville this season. Not surprisingly, Baker said Hamilton would pitch in as a designated runner at times, but he will not be limited to that role.
"He's going to be Herb Washington sometimes," said Baker, referring to the A's speedster who stole a combined 31 bases in 1974 and 1975 and made the playoff roster both seasons despite never having a plate appearance. "But he can play defense. I can use him as a pinch-hitter, especially to lead off an inning."
Rockies: Rosario providing offensive boost
Following his 4-for-5 effort in Friday's 9-6 win Friday, Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario came back Saturday and extended his hit streak to five games. That capped the best offensive month of Rosario's career, as he finished August batting .351 with five homers, five doubles, 20 RBIs in 23 games.
Rosario's 72 RBIs are a season record for a Rockies catcher, and manager Walt Weiss said he enjoyed watching the 24-year-old grow as a hitter.
"I think it's just the cerebral part of hitting that we're seeing him mature at," Weiss said. "The ability to think along with the pitcher and sit on certain pitches, understand sequences, understand especially with guys in scoring position where the pitcher's going to go and what he's going to try to do. Still a very young player, and I think he's going to get better and better."
• After hitting two three-run homers Friday, Todd Helton went 0-for-4 on Saturday, leaving him one hit short of 2,500 in his career entering Sunday.
"It basically comes down to you got to be really good for a really long time," Weiss said of Helton. "Todd, his whole career, he's just put his head down and he's went. That's what I respect about him and not a lot of fanfare or hoopla -- he shows up, and he's grinded for 16 or 17 years, whatever it's been. He's had a hell of a career."
• A win Sunday would give the Rockies three straight series victories for the first time since late April.
• After wrapping up the series against the Rockies, the Reds will continue their six-game road trip with a three-game set in St. Louis.
• The Reds will look to even the season series against the Rockies on Sunday after going 2-3 in the first five games.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.