A sixth-inning fight was enough to get Rockies fans intrigued, but a shutdown operation with runners on base was the Cubs’ key to success on Thursday. Colorado finished the night going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Entering Thursday with the best record in baseball, the Rockies have now dropped to a still-exciting-but-not-as-strong 4-2. Chicago was able to score in just two innings tonight, the first and sixth, while Colorado’s run scoring was limited to only the fifth.
There were 15 other zeroes for the remaining half-innings on the scoreboard, and an old friend would eventually post the final one en route to a save and Cubs victory.
Freeland gets burned early
It didn’t take long for the Cubs to establish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish all night. Nick Madrigal kicked off Chicago’s offense with a first-inning single, followed by a Jonathan Villar one-bagger, Frank Schwindel single, an error by Elias Díaz and a double by Seiya Suzuki. Yan Gomes would record the final hit in the first half-inning of action, and at one point before three outs had even been recorded, the Cubs’ win probability surpassed 80%.
Freeland was able to claw his way through 5 1⁄3 total innings of work, allowing just four hits from the second inning on. Stat corrections would eventually make all five of Freeland’s runs earned, pushing the season ERA of the Opening Day starter to an even 10.00 through nine total frames.
Steele and Thompson steal the show, strand everybody on base
Chicago’s Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson combined to throw 7 2⁄3 innings, holding Colorado bats to just a single run on nine hits. The Rockies were 2-for-21 with runners on base, much to the credit of Steele and Thompson for executing big pitches when it mattered. Thompson hasn’t allowed a run in six innings of work this year, so manager David Ross was definitely riding a hot hand for the latter half of tonight’s ballgame.
Colorado’s biggest offensive production came in the fifth inning courtesy of this C.J. Cron double, the Rockies’ only extra-base hit of the night:
Consecutive walks from Cubs pitcher Ethan Roberts, one of them cashing in a run, would open up the Colorado threat even further. A flyout would end the bases-loaded threat, however.
With a narrow 3-2 lead for Chicago at this point, the sixth inning answer by the Cubs silenced a lot of newfound momentum.
Chicago opened up the frame with a Schwindel home run, his second hit of the day. Yan Gomes would later piece up a one-out double, scoring on an Ian Happ single two batters later. Freeland’s day would be complete after Happ’s base hit, leaving men on the corners and turning the frame over to Ashton Goudeau.
Bullpen magic continues in low leverage
Your Colorado Rockies have been dominating out of the bullpen, ladies and gentleman. Thursday was no exception: with the best reliever ERA in baseball being tested, Goudeau shut down the sixth with a double play to the first batter he faced.
Goudeau returned for the seventh and posted another scoreless frame. He was replaced by Justin Lawrence, tossing a perfect eighth, and Tyler Kinley shut down the ninth with a perfect two-strikeout frame. The Rockies found a way to lower their already-miraculous relief figures tonight, all without the A-list services of Estévez, Colomé and Bard.
Rockies bats fade quietly into the night
Colorado sent four batters to the plate in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth inning. One batter reached on a single in each of those four innings and none of them made it to second base.
Old friend Givens picks up a save
Mychal Givens, the Rockies’ prime acquisition of the 2020 trade deadline, suited up in Cubs blue for a ninth-inning save on his old mound. The lone blemish on his otherwise perfect frame was a one-out single by Kris Bryant, but the Rockies were otherwise stifled with two strikeouts into an eventual handshake line by the visiting team.
Germán Márquez returns to the hill on Friday night after tossing seven dominant innings against the Dodgers in his last start. He allowed three hits and a single earned run against the NL’s most potent offense, suggesting he is more than ready to pick up where his All-Star nomination left off in 2021. Márquez averaged 96.0 MPH with his fastball in his last start, 1.2 ticks above his average from a year ago. It will be interesting to see if that boost was a result of first-outing adrenaline, offseason development or something of the like.
Chicago will counter with right-hander Marcus Stroman in his second-career start with the Cubs. He is no stranger to Coors Field; Stroman has made three starts in Denver since 2018, allowing a combined four earned runs in 22 total innings. His last appearance at 20th and Blake came last year on April 18th with his former team, the New York Mets, where he carved through eight innings of one-run baseball.
We’ve got two guys with proven Coors success on the hill Friday night. First pitch is again set for 6:40 p.m. MDT.