DENVER (The Sports Xchange) – The Chicago Cubs needed someone to come forward and stop their season-high-tying four-game losing streak, so John Lackey stepped up to the plate.
Lackey overcame his dismal history at Coors Field with seven scoreless innings while also contributing an RBI single, and Chicago parlayed two Colorado Rockies errors into a five-run second inning and an 8-1 romp Tuesday night.
The Cubs gained a split of the day-night doubleheader after losing the opener 10-4.
Lackey was 0-2 with a 9.18 ERA in three previous starts at Coors Field. The last time he took the mound there in 2015, he surrendered a career-high 10 runs (eight earned).
It was much different Tuesday as he allowed four singles with two walks and struck out a season-high-tying 10. Lackey joined Pedro Martinez as the only visiting pitcher to throw seven or more scoreless innings with 10 or more strikeouts at Coors Field. While pitching for Montreal on July 29, 1997, Martinez threw a complete game five-hitter with one walk and 13 strikeouts.
Lackey (3-3) faced only four batters with a runner in scoring position and threw 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes. He did not allow a hit after Ian Desmond led off the fourth with a single, and he retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.
“They’re a really good hitting ballclub,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s pretty good (what Lackey did). They beat us bad the first game. We’re running on fumes a bit. We’ve had some difficult games. I’m proud of our guys. But starting pitching drives the engine — don’t ever be deceived.”
Lackey singled home the first run in the five-run second, jumping on a high, first-pitch, two-seam fastball from Kyle Freeland and scoring the fourth run before getting back to business on the mound.
“Slider, curveball, in between, was pretty good today,” said Lackey, whose innings total was a season high. “Able to locate that well. I was spinning it pretty good today.”
Freeland (3-2) worked six innings and gave up five runs (three earned). He held the Cubs hitless for five of those frames without allowing a ball to be hit to the outfield, and he retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
“There’s definitely positives about this outing and the way I bounced back after that second inning to eat up more innings to give our bullpen rest and not really tax them,” Freeland said. “It showed I could get back in the zone and get outs.”
The four singles Freeland allowed came in the second, when the Cubs, aided by errors by shortstop Trevor Story and second baseman DJ LeMahieu — both aggressively attempted long flips and missed the mark, took control early. The Cubs sent 11 batters to the plate during the rally, which also included three walks.
Jeimer Candelario led off with a single and went to third when Story made a diving backhand stop of Addison Russell’s hard smash and with his back to home plate tried to make a sideways flip from his knees to LeMahieu but threw wide of the base.
With one out, Willson Contreras walked to load the bases. After Lackey’s run-scoring hit, two runs scored on a single when diving first baseman Mark Reynolds deflected Albert Almora Jr.’s hot shot to LeMahieu, who shoveled the ball past Story. Kris Bryant singled home a run, and Candelario made it 5-0 with a bases-loaded walk.
“It was just one blemish, one inning where I didn’t have my stuff,” Freeland said. “My sights were off in that second inning. I was trying to out-stuff guys instead of letting my stuff work. Two-seamer was up in the zone, they ambushed it a few times. Changeup was up a little more than I wanted.”
Javier Baez made it 7-0 when he hit an opposite-field, two-run homer to right in the eighth, and Bryant belted a homer in the ninth. The Rockies avoided a shutout in the eighth, scoring an unearned run on Ian Desmond’s single off Felix Pena, who took over for Lackey.
“He had good command of the fastball,” Rockies manager Bud Black said of Lackey. “The breaking ball was thrown at any time in the game. There was a little bit of variance to the velocity of the breaking ball — there was an 83-84 mph breaking ball and 78-80. He was able to really mix.”
NOTES: Rockies CF Charlie Blackmon, who played every inning of the team’s first 33 games, was not in the lineup for the second game of the doubleheader. However, he pinch-hit in the ninth and struck out. … Cubs 3B Jeimer Candelario, brought up from Triple-A Iowa and added to the roster as the 26th man for the second game, hit cleanup and finished 1-for-4. … Rockies RF Gerardo Parra batted first in the second game and went 0-for-5. It was the first time since April 27, 2016, that Parra led off. … Chicago’s Kris Bryant played right field in both games of the doubleheader after playing every inning of the team’s first 30 games at third base. … Rockies RHP Jeff Hoffman, the 26th player on the roster for the second game, gave up one run on Bryant’s homer in 1 1/3 innings.