Stewart homers on birthday to send Rockies to 7th straight win over Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Ubaldo Jimenez used his 99 mph fastball to put the Rockies in perfect position. Colorado's relievers certainly kept it entertaining until the end.

"I wouldn't say it was completely conventional the way we did it," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said after a 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in Monday's opener. "We made some things difficult for ourselves, but if you have plans on being a pretty good ballclub, there are days you have to play through adversity and some mistakes."

The Rockies certainly have high hopes, including a return trip to the postseason after winning the NL wild card last season when Tracy took over.

It helps to have Jimenez (1-0), who stayed out of big trouble and allowed just one run over six innings. Ian Stewart homered on his 25th birthday and five relievers held on for the Rockies, who won for the seventh straight time over the Brewers.

"It was a real exciting game, you know, from the beginning until the last inning," Jimenez said. "It was kind of like a playoff game."

That's where both teams have recent experience.

Milwaukee was the NL wild card the year before Colorado, but regressed because of its starting pitching. The Brewers' first experience this season was sour, too, after young right-hander Yovani Gallardo (0-1) gave up four runs in seven innings and the Brewers went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

The final three chances came in the ninth after a shaky outing by Franklin Morales, who held on for the save with Colorado closer Huston Street on the disabled list.

Carlos Gomez, who had a solo homer in his Brewers debut in the seventh, doubled for his fourth hit of the day in the ninth to put runners on second and third with no outs. Ryan Braun followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3, but Morales forced Prince Fielder and Jim Edmonds to line out to end it.

"I was trying to hit it hard, and I did that," Fielder said. "Unfortunately he caught it."

Rested and recharged, these Rockies looked a whole lot like the group that went 74-42 under Tracy after Colorado dismissed Clint Hurdle on May 29 trailing by 14½ games in the NL West.

The Rockies never caught up with the Dodgers, but captured the spirit of Tracy's easygoing demeanor in winning the NL wild card. This season, Jimenez and the rest of the Rockies got off to good start.

His best moments came in the fifth when he struck out the side around an RBI double by Braun that made it 4-1. He used a 97 mph inside fastball to strike out Rickie Weeks looking. Moments later, he had Fielder dodging the same pitch for another called third strike that the burly first baseman didn't like.

"He's throwing 99 and the ball is moving a foot and a half," Braun said. "He's got great stuff. We won't face anybody with better stuff -- ever. He has as good of stuff as you'll see in the game."

It was the earliest that the Miller Park roof was open for a regular-season game in the 10-year history of the stadium, and the sun and shadows played a factor in the Rockies' first runs.

In the second with Stewart batting, new Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun couldn't control a wild pitch by Gallardo that ricocheted off his glove and he failed to find it as Brad Hawpe came around from second to score.

"I'm just getting used to this ballpark during the day. It's not an easy place to see. I don't make excuses," Zaun said. "It's one of those things that's embarrassing. You don't like to see that happen, ever, especially on Opening Day."

Stewart took Gallardo's next pitch to deep center field to make it 2-0 and followed with a sacrifice fly in the fourth in his next at bat.

"Right now, I'm just trying to put the ball in play, trying to get on base every time," he said. "I'm not looking for home runs. I know the home runs are going to come. I'm trying to concentrate on getting on base so we can score a lot of runs."

Gomez homered to left field against Rockies reliever Matt Belisle with two outs in the seventh to make it 4-2. The Brewers loaded the bases after that, but Matt Daley got Casey McGehee on a weak popup. Milwaukee stranded 11 runners overall.

"The bottom line is, we left a lot of guys on base and we kind of gave them a couple runs," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "That's the bottom line of the whole thing. And their guy pitched pretty well."

Game notes
Troy Tulowitzki had a two-out RBI single in the fifth and pinch hitter Ryan Spilborghs doubled in the ninth for the Rockies final two runs. ... Colorado will start LHP Greg Smith on Tuesday in place of the injured Jeff Francis. Smith did not pitch in the majors last year.