Hours after learning that 48-year-old Keli McGregor was found dead in a Salt Lake City hotel room, Helton brought a jersey into the dugout that had McGregor's name on it and the No. 88 he wore as a second-team All-America tight end.
Helton winced after standing through a moment of silence with McGregor's image on the scoreboard, and then the Rockies resoundingly beat the Washington Nationals 10-4 on Tuesday night.
"Seeing his picture up there, it's hard," Helton said. "It's hard to believe it actually happened. He basically brought us to where we're at right now. It really hasn't set in yet."
McGregor, who had been the team's president since 2001 and in the organization since October 1993, was the last person players thought they would suddenly lose.
He went golfing and duck hunting with Helton, lifted weights with other players and had a magnetic personality and a terrific resume. A great football player at Colorado State who had a brief NFL career with three teams and then a rising baseball front office executive -- suddenly gone.
"I struggle with the words because I don't think they would do him justice," Helton said.
Before the game, Colorado manager Jim Tracy, voice cracking, paid tribute to McGregor. After he spoke of his friend, Tracy went back to his office, gathered himself and prepared for one of the most difficult games he's had to endure.
"Do it in his honor -- that's what you do. That's what we did," Tracy said.
The Rockies made it look easy with their biggest inning of the season -- scoring eight runs in the third, getting five hits to start the inning and hitting for the cycle.
"What took place tonight on the field was a wonderful tribute to a man that we obviously loved. The game tonight -- and the way it turned out -- eases the pain. It's there. There's no getting around it. Eventually with some time, it will go away, but not immediately," Tracy said.
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said he thought about McGregor the entire game.
"Little things here and there just reminded me of him," Tulowitzki said.
The winning pitcher was Jorge De La Rosa, who had a three-run double in the third. De La Rosa had his first three-RBI game and won despite allowing four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. He struck out six and walked four.
De La Rosa (2-1) has 18 wins since June 1 -- most in the majors, and helped stake himself to a 10-0 lead in the third. It was the second time in the last three games the Nationals quickly found themselves behind by 10 runs. On Sunday, they allowed 10 runs in the first inning before losing 11-7 to Milwaukee.
Ryan Spilborghs followed De La Rosa's double with a two-run homer. Dexter Fowler began the inning with a triple and Helton singled in a run. Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe and Melvin Mora singled, and after Ian Stewart walked, De La Rosa doubled.
"It was not easy," Tracy said, thinking again of McGregor. "Under the circumstances -- very well done."
Six of the runs were charged to Scott Olsen, pulled after Hawpe's RBI single. Olsen (0-1) gave up seven runs in two-plus innings in his second start of the season.
"Sometimes it just falls apart on you. That's kind of what happened there," Olsen said. "It all kind of snowballed in that third inning."
Tulowitzki's homer and an RBI double by Stewart gave Colorado a 2-0 lead in the second.
Cristian Guzman had four hits for Washington. Zimmerman had three.Notes
- Mora had three hits, his first multihit game with Colorado.
- Washington manager Jim Riggleman said he's being careful with 38-year-old catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "We have a plan for him," Riggleman said. "He's been pretty adamant. He wants to play every game this week." The manager said Rodriguez will not play Wednesday. Rodriguez had two hits, his fifth straight multihit game. He's batting .444.
- Colorado RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, who threw a no-hitter in Atlanta on Saturday, will pitch against the Nationals on Thursday.