SAN DIEGO — Todd Helton doesn't get mad when asked about playing baseball at age 39. He doesn't growl — usually — when asked how much he has left to give to the game or to his team.

He simply smiles knowingly, trusts that his swing will come around and believes that he's still a productive ballplayer.

And then he goes out and proves it.

Helton hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer to right field off Dale Thayer in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon, lifting the Rockies to a 2-1 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. The win gave the Rockies their second three-game sweep of the Padres in the first month of the season.

Colorado starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa delivers in the second inning at San Diego.
Colorado starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa delivers in the second inning at San Diego. (Denis Poroy, Getty Images)

From the day he first took over as the Rockies' new manager, Walt Weiss knew he wanted Helton to return for another season. And even when Helton slumped early on, Weiss never lost faith.

"I want to respect what he's done in his career," Weiss said. "And he's earned the benefit of the doubt for the type of career he's had. And to be honest with you, the first couple of days I saw him in spring training taking batting practice, I said, 'This guy's still got a lot left.' "

Four Rockies pitchers combined for a two-hitter, just the 20th time the Rockies have allowed fewer than three hits in a game. But closer Rafael Betancourt was hanging on for dear life in the ninth before getting his fifth save.

Turning point. Helton has not been called on to do much pinch hitting in his career, but he came through big time Sunday, breaking up a scoreless pitcher's duel on an overcast day with heavy air.

He drilled Thayer's 2-1 pitch on a line drive into the right-field seats, barely clearing the wall that was moved in 11 feet this season.

It was Helton's first homer this season and the third pinch-hit home run of his career, but the first game-winning pinch-hit home run of his career.

"It's the same as whenever I hit — get back, see the ball and try to put a good swing on it," Helton said. "You don't try to do anything different. The only difference is you only get one shot. That's what makes it so difficult. I'm not good at it. But I got the right pitch, was able to stay back and I got enough barrel on it to hit it over the shorter fence."

Helton's last pinch-hit homer was a grand slam last April 29 against the Mets in the eighth inning, but the Rockies lost the game 6-5 in 11 innings.

"This makes it a little more worth it," Helton said. "It feels a little better when you're able to come off the bench to win a game."

Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki walks to first base with San Diego pitcher Clayton Richard on the mound in the first inning.
Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki walks to first base with San Diego pitcher Clayton Richard on the mound in the first inning. (Alex Gallardo, The Associated Press)

On the mound. Rockies lefty Jorge De La Rosa and Padres lefty Clayton Richard matched each other pitch for pitch, both going six innings and allowing no runs on two hits. De La Rosa, who's beginning to resemble the pitcher he was before his Tommy John elbow surgery in June 2011, struck out seven and walked only two. He notched his first victory since May 13, 2011.

"It's a good day for Jorge and he's pitched well enough to have at least one win already this year," Weiss said. "I told him when I took him, 'Hey, we are going to try and get you a W right here,' and then Todd hits the two-run homer."

De La Rosa was clearly pleased with the victory and the way he threw the ball.

"It was really, really special," he said. "I had a really hard time last year. So to start pitching like this feels really good. At the same time, I have to stay focused every game."

Betancourt nearly gave away the game in the ninth. He walked Everth Cabrera and Yonder Alanso opening the inning, setting up the Padres' only run when Cabrera scored on Jedd Gyorko's sacrifice fly to right. But Betancourt fought through the white-knuckle moment and struck out Nick Hundley to end the game and notch the save.

The wildness was uncharacteristic of Betancourt, who walked just 12 batters in 57 ⅔ innings last year and eight in 62 ⅓ innings in 2010.

"Everybody did their job. I don't want to go there and give it up," he said. "But in those situations, I don't try to think about it. I just concentrate and get outs. I knew with a base hit they could tie the game. I was able to get a fly ball to right field. After that, I needed one more out. The guy was still at second base."

Reliever Wilton Lopez, who entered the game with an unsightly 12.46 ERA, set the Padres down in order in the seventh, striking out Gyorko and Hundley. And Matt Belisle threw a perfect eighth inning.

At the plate. Helton arrived in San Diego with an .095 average (2-for-21), but he went 6-for-14 in the series with two doubles to go with his game-winning home run.

The Rockies had just three hits: Singles by Chris Nelson and Yorvit Torrealba, and of course, Helton's homer.

Weiss said he foresees using Helton as a pinch hitter more often as the season goes on.

"He's going to have some at-bats in those type of situations late in games," Weiss said. "It's a credit to him being mentally ready and focused on a day he had off."

What it means. The surprising Rockies, 8-4, have won three of their four series this season, including a road series in Milwaukee as well as San Diego.

"This was a big win," Weiss said. "We already had won the series and we could have looked forward to heading home, but we didn't do that. We found a way to win. It's a good win in a lot of ways."