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Rockies 3, Cubs 1: Home runs, and not much else

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You could have left after the first inning and missed only one run scoring.

Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

It was suddenly summer in Chicago Tuesday, with temperatures in the mid-80s and the wind blowing out strongly at Wrigley Field at 16 miles per hour at game time. And after I saw this tweet:

... I figured we’d be in for a high-scoring affair with lots of home runs.

After the first inning, there was nothing to disabuse me of that notion. 10 pitches into the game, the Rockies had a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl off Kyle Hendricks.

Remember when Anthony Rizzo led off a few games in the summer of 2017 and homered to lead off? He did it again Tuesday:

That was Jon Gray’s first pitch. So just six batters in (five Rockies, one Cub), three of them have hit home runs.

As I noted at the top of this recap, you could have left the ballpark then and just missed a single run. Both starting pitchers settled down and threw well, but the Cubs could score no more, and thus their five-game winning streak ended in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies. One further home run was added for Colorado, by Nolan Arenado leading off the fourth.

After the leadoff homers, Hendricks was really, really good. He allowed just two other hits, one of them the homer by Arenado, the other a leadoff single by Rockies pitcher Jon Gray in the third. Gray was taken off the bases by a double play. In all, Hendricks recorded 12 outs by ground ball before departing with two out in the eighth.

Gray was just a little bit better. After Rizzo’s homer, Gray retired the next nine Cubs in order, seven of them by ground balls, before Kris Bryant led off the fourth with a single. Ben Zobrist walked, and two outs later the runners were on second and third. But Victor Caratini grounded out to end that threat.

The Cubs had no more baserunners until the seventh, when Kyle Schwarber smacked a baseball to the right-field corner and motored around to third base, his first triple of the season. That was with one out, a fine chance to score, but Caratini struck out and Jason Heyward popped up.

After Hendricks was removed from the game, Joe Maddon called on Justin Wilson to face Dahl.

Wilson hadn’t pitched in a week, and after a pretty good start to this season his previous five outings were awful: four innings, seven hits, four walks, six earned runs.

Joe’s point here, I think, was to see if Wilson could do the job in a medium-leverage situation: the Cubs still with in striking distance two runs down, and a runner on base. He struck out Dahl to end the inning, and then threw the ninth against three pretty good hitters in the middle of the Rockies order: Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story. He retired them in order and did not go to a three-ball count on any of the four hitters he faced.

So that’s good. Is Wilson “fixed”? We can’t make that judgment yet. But the Wilson who threw Tuesday night looked more like the guy the Cubs thought they had traded for last year. Let’s hope that continues.

Former Cub Wade Davis threw the ninth for the Rox; he walked Zobrist with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Addison Russell flew to right and Schwarber struck out to end it.

That’s it, really; the Rockies simply hit more homers than the Cubs did, and got a better outing out of their starting pitcher.

A couple of home-run facts from this one:

Sooner or later, this offense will get untracked. The pitching has been outstanding through that seven-game streak — while the Cubs have scored 14 runs in their last seven games (two per game), the pitching staff has allowed just 11 (1.57 per game).

In case you were wondering, this game didn’t even come close to the major-league record for “most solo home runs in a game where there were no other runs.” That record is eight, set by the Rockies and Marlins June 20, 2016 (five by the Rockies, three by the Marlins). However, as far as I can tell Tuesday night’s game tied a Wrigley Field record with four such home runs (and no other runs). It first happened June 21, 2013 (Cubs three solo homers, Astros one) and was matched August 16, 2015 (White Sox three solo homers, Cubs one). The Cubs also did this April 25, 1969 in New York, hitting three solo homers to the Mets’ one in a 3-1 win.

So there’s that, anyway.

The Cubs maintained first place in the N.L. Central despite the loss. They’re now virtually tied for the top spot with the Brewers, a few percentage points ahead (.593 to .581) after the Brewers beat the Reds. The Cardinals and Pirates are tied for third, half a game behind.

The Cubs will go for the series win over the Rockies, and also the season series win (as this is the final regular-season game between the clubs for 2018) Wednesday afternoon. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Tyler Anderson goes for the Rockies. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage is on NBC Sports Chicago. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.