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Chatwood adds to Cubs' NL West woes

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

CHICAGO -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood's strategy was to give Cubs hitters plenty of pitches to think about early. But after he held them to one run in six innings of a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Wrigley Field, the opponents went to bed cursing one -- his sinker.

In his third straight stellar road start, Chatwood (6-7) held the Cubs to four hits, struck out four and forced 11 ground-ball outs. In his last 21 road innings -- wins over the Phillies, Padres and Cubs -- Chatwood has yielded just two runs and nine hits, with 20 strikeouts, in 21 innings.

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CHICAGO -- Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood's strategy was to give Cubs hitters plenty of pitches to think about early. But after he held them to one run in six innings of a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Wrigley Field, the opponents went to bed cursing one -- his sinker.

In his third straight stellar road start, Chatwood (6-7) held the Cubs to four hits, struck out four and forced 11 ground-ball outs. In his last 21 road innings -- wins over the Phillies, Padres and Cubs -- Chatwood has yielded just two runs and nine hits, with 20 strikeouts, in 21 innings.

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The only blemish was Kris Bryant's one-out homer to center in the first inning. But Chatwood went right back to work and persisted mixing a four-seam fastball, a cutter and a curve with the sinker during a first inning that saw him strike out two.

It was enough to soften the Cubs for the sinker, the pitch that allowed him to not face multiple baserunners until two were out in his final inning.

"You hear a lot of different philosophies about saving your stuff for the second time through," Chatwood said. "But I think if you put other pitches in guys' heads, it's in there from the get-go, rather than all they saw was a fastball. If you put that you can throw any pitch and kind of have them on four pitches, it gets the game going."

It was another National League West nightmare for the Cubs, who recently went 0-6 on a road trip against the Dodgers and Padres. Take it back to early May, when they dropped two of three against the Rockies, and the skid is 1-9.

"We were out of the zone a little bit today," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to stay within our strike zones and force them over the plate a little more. The thing about Chatwood, the sinker was that good. Even though we might have been chasing a little low, the ball was really dive-bombing at the very end so you have to give him credit, too. In order to beat these better pitchers, we have to definitely stay within our strike zones to beat these guys.

"The most trouble seems to be coming from the West, NL West pitchers."

Once Chatwood committed to the sinker, it was his best friend. He worked leadoff man Ian Happ into a double play to end the third. His biggest pitch came after he walked Anthony Rizzo and yielded a Ben Zobrist two-out single before falling behind Jason Heyward, 3-1, in the sixth. One sinker later, he was out of the inning on a grounder to second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

Video: COL@CHC: Chatwood gets groundout for inning-ending DP

"I had some big outs, had to make pitches, had some hitter counts," Chatwood said. "I was able to throw that and get some weak contact. [Heyward] just kind of hit down on the top of the ball."

Chatwood's road performance comes in handy for a club that's 22-10 on the road. Thursday began a stretch of 16 of the next 23 on the road. But Chatwood has the kind of mix that should work everywhere, even though he has a 7.03 home ERA this year. Last year's split was similar -- 1.69 in 80 road innings, 6.12 in 78 home innings.

"He's been pitching well. ... Let's string them together," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Let's continue that."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Tyler Chatwood