Tulo, Morneau lift Rockies past Cubs to 4-0 start
DENVER -- Troy Tulowitzki's two-run double in the fifth and Justin Morneau's solo shot in the sixth carried the Rockies to a 5-1 victory over the Cubs in the Coors Field opener Friday afternoon in front of a record crowd of 50,967. The four-game win streak ties 1995 for the best start in the Rockies' 23-season history.
"Our team is a little bit different -- I'd like to think we're a little bit tougher," Tulowitzki said.
Tulowitzki's double came with one out in the fifth against Cubs starter Travis Wood and broke a 1-1 tie.
"He's Tulowitzki," Wood said. "He's made a name for himself, and he's a great player. He did what he had to do tonight and got the better of me in a big situation." More >
Morneau, who came off the bench to replace Wilin Rosario at first base in a double-switch, powered a 1-0 fastball off Brian Schlitter into the seats in left-center to begin a two-run inning. The homer was Morneau's 1,500th career hit. More >
Much of the game was carried by the bullpens. Rockies starter Tyler Matzek struggled with command for four innings and was removed with two on and no outs in the fifth. But Christian Bergman escaped that jam with two ground balls, and Brooks Brown followed with two strikeouts in two frames of one-hit ball as the Rockies opened their advantage. Wood fanned five but gave up seven hits and lasted 4 2/3 innings.
"The thing I like is we've been playing well," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We're playing clean games. We're pitching well. The bullpen has been outstanding. Our approach at the plate has been rock-solid."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slipping through the clutch: The Cubs need to work on their clutch hitting. They are 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position this season, and missed chances against the Rockies, loading the bases in both the second and third innings. Matt Szczur drove in the only run with a sacrifice fly in the third.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of his team, which stranded nine baserunners. "[The Rockies] found a way through it. We did not get the big hit; they did." More >
Bergman escapes tight spot: Matzek had little command -- three walks, two hit batters, 84 pitches through four innings. After Anthony Rizzo singled to put men at first and second with no outs in the fifth, in came Bergman -- a starter serving as long reliever. Bergman used an 81 mph changeup to induce a double-play grounder from Starlin Castro and ended the threat by coaxing a Mike Olt grounder.
"I wasn't really too focused on the situation, as it were, because I didn't want to hype it up in my head as much," Bergman said.
The clutch relief was part of an early-season pattern: Rockies relievers have struck out 14, walked one and held opponents to two earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
Penmanship: Justin Grimm led the Cubs relievers in appearances last season, but the right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday -- before getting in a game this year -- because of a strained right forearm. His replacement, Schlitter, received a rude welcome as Morneau led off the Rockies' sixth with his first home run of the season. More >
On the plus side, Edwin Jackson, who lost out in his bid for a spot in the rotation, made his first relief appearance of the year and retired the Rockies in order in the seventh and gave up one hit in two innings.
No. 9 just may fit No. 9: Each team hit its pitcher eighth, and for the Rockies it meant DJ LeMahieu was No. 9 on his jersey and on the lineup card. He responded with three hits, including an RBI single in the second for the first run of the game.
"Hitting nine-hole in Little League, everyone's like, to make you feel good, 'You're our second leadoff hitter.' I really do feel that way. If I can just get on base, the best hitters in the game are coming up after me." -- LeMahieu on batting behind the pitcher
"Our whole lives are one big plagiaristic moment. It's how we decipher the information and utilize it ourselves that makes us all unique. It's really hard to have one unique thought these days that hasn't been attempted before us." -- Maddon, when asked about the Rockies moving the pitcher into the No. 8 spot in the lineup, which the Cubs have done all three games
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the first inning, and now has reached base safely in his last 17 games, dating to Aug. 23 of last season. It's the longest streak in the Majors, and the longest in his career. He had reached safely in 16 consecutive games July 6-25 last year.
Cubs: Jason Hammel makes his season debut Saturday in the second game of the three-game series at Coors Field. Hammel pitched for the Rockies from 2009-11 but has never faced them. He has a career 13-14 record and 4.95 ERA at Coors Field. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Plus and WBBM radio.
Rockies: Right-hander Kyle Kendrick threw seven scoreless innings with no walks in the Rockies' opener, a 10-0 victory at Milwaukee. Kendrick is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in six games, five starts, against the Cubs, but hasn't faced them since 2013. Catch the contest on Root Sports Rocky Mountain and 850 KOA.
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