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Rockies strike early to crush Brewers

DENVER (Reuters) - The Colorado Rockies returned from the All-Star break in impressive style, knocking the Milwaukee Brewers off top spot in the National League Central Division with a 12-3 pounding on Thursday. The Rockies roughed up Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo, chasing him from the mound after he allowed six runs in four innings, and added a late offensive flurry to drop the Brewers (49-44) a half game behind the St Louis Cardinals. Ryan Spilborghs went 4-for-6 with four RBIs, blasting a homer in the first inning and adding a two-RBI double in the seventh.

The Rockies (44-48) scored four runs in the fourth to take a 6-2 advantage and added a run in the sixth on Mark Ellis's RBI double. Ellis finished with three RBIs and the Rockies tallied a season-high 20 hits on the night.

"(Getting) quality at-bats and getting guys in from third base with less than two outs is important," Spilborghs told reporters. "It's been our Achilles' heel all year." Starter Ubaldo Jimenez tossed six innings and allowed two runs to earn the victory for Colorado, who sit third in the five-team NL West Division. Jimenez (5-8) started the season 0-5, but has regained the form that fired him to 19 wins in 2010.

"Earlier this year, when guys got on base, I'd start worrying, 'Oh, is this guy going to score?'" he said. "But I'm feeling more confident now. I'm a lot more comfortable."

Jimenez allowed an RBI double to All Star Game MVP Prince Fielder in the first, and another run in the second.

Despite the loss, Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun returned to the lineup in style after missing eight games with a calf injury. He added two hits to extend his hitting streak to 23 games.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien/Ian Ransom; To comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)