Carlos Villanueva (1-3, 3.93) had his handlebars twirled to perfection, up-turned expertly to frame his regal nose. The Colorado Rockies didn’t care, knocking Villanueva around for 7 runs on 12 hits in 5 innings to go on and defeat the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night at Wrigley Field 9-4. Jeff Francis (2-3, 6.00) was meanwhile channeling Mark Twain: “The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
The left-hander limited Chicago to one run on 3 hits over 6 innings, a blast over the wall in left-field by 2nd-baseman Darwin Barney. Francis retired the Cubs in-order in the 1st, 2nd and 6th. He gave-up a single to Barney in the 3rd, a double to Starlin Castro in the 4th, and walked pinch-hitter Julio Borbon after Barney’s solo-shot in the 5th.
The Colorado hitters had very little trouble with the meticulously groomed Villanueva. They tallied one in the 1st on an Eric Young Jr double, Dexter Fowler sacrifice and Carlos Gonzalez single, the first of 5 hits in 5 at-bats for the left-fielder, who is now hitting .312. They ran themselves out of a run in the 2nd when Stu Cole waved Todd Helton home from 2nd-base on a Josh Rutledge single, the Rockies’ third of the inning. Helton looked like a startled cat spinning-out on a hardwood floor, and was out at the plate on a strong throw from Alphonso Soriano and Welington Castillo’s reach-tag. But Francis knocked Arenado-in with a sacrifice fly, and EYJ followed with a 2-run shot to straight-away center-field that plated Rutledge.
Gonzalez led-off the 3rd with his 8th 2013 home run, then in the 5th Dexter Fowler ran Colorado out of another run trying to stretch a lead-off double into a triple. Cargo followed with a double of his own and scored on the third consecutive double of the inning, by Troy Tulowitzki. Helton singled-in Tulowitzki to make it 7-0 Rockies.
Edgmer Escalona relieved Francis and dispatched Chicago in the 7th, then he and Young gifted the Cubs a pair of runs on back-to-back thoughtless errors in the 8th. David DeJesus singled with one out and moved-up to 2nd when Castro’s fly ball into the right-field corner bounced-off the heel of Young’s glove and onto the ground. Anthony Rizzo then smacked a tailor-made double-play grounder to Escalona, who threw it into center-field, scoring DeJesus and moving Castro to 3rd, where he scored on a ground-out by Soriano.
The Rockies answered with 2 in the 9th, including 2013 home run no. 9 for Gonzalez, who had 3 RBI. Rafael Betancourt was shaky in the bottom of the inning, surrendering a run on doubles by Castillo and Barney, who went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI.
Colorado will be looking to take the series tomorrow evening, when it sends Jon Garland (3-3, 4.83) out against Jeff Samardzija (1-5, 3.70) at 6:05 pm MDT, again at Wrigley Field on Chicago’s north side.