Home crowd spurs Rox to Wild Card tie
Colorado capitalizes on Cubs' emergency starter, Giants' loss
DENVER -- It's not Rocktober yet, but it felt that way at Coors Field on Friday night.
Faithful Rockies fans rose up and drowned out any Cubs support with chants of "Let's go Rockies" in the first, third and sixth innings. The home-field advantage was more than enough to spur the Rockies to snap a two-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Cubs in front of 46,118.
"It's that time of the year when teams like the two of ours are playing against one another and there's a heck of a lot at stake," manager Jim Tracy said. "It brings that type of environment, and believe me, that environment was out there. I think it was absolutely terrific. I really think our Rockies fans, they were just as noisy as the other gang that was in the ballpark. Believe me."
"It was important," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It was a huge game, and the Cubs are right there with us, so it's nice to get off on a good start."
Returning home couldn't have been sweeter for the Rockies after completing a 5-5 road trip Thursday. Before embarking on their journey, they led the National League Wild Card by two games over the Giants but returned facing a one-game deficit. But Colorado's win, coupled with a San Francisco loss to Cincinnati, put the Rockies back into a tie for the Wild Card lead.
Meanwhile, the Cubs dropped a game behind the Cardinals for the NL Central and two behind the Rockies and Giants.
What was also sweet for the Rockies and their fans was Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano getting scratched from Friday night's start about 10 minutes before the game. According to Cubs manager Lou Piniella, Zambrano had encountered back spasms warming up. Instead, the Rockies were treated to left-hander Sean Marshall, who was making his first start since May 31.
After the Cubs took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Rockies answered. They strung together four straight hits -- a Carlos Gonzalez double, Todd Helton's RBI single, Tulowitzki's double and Brad Hawpe's two-run single -- to give the club a 3-1 lead after one.
In the fourth, Chris Iannetta hit his 13th home run of the season off Jeff Samardzija, a two-run shot, into the Rockies' bullpen in right-center field to extend the Rockies lead to 5-1.
Overall, Marshall threw 62 pitches in two innings -- 40 of which came in the first -- while Samardzija threw 73 pitches the following four innings.
"It's going to help us out in the next few games because Marshall and Samardzija threw a lot of pitches," Iannetta said. "They will probably be down a few days, which limits their options. If we do a good job of getting the pitcher's pitch count up tomorrow, then we'll get into their bullpen again. Then, it will look really good for us in the last two games of the series."
While the offense did its part, Ubaldo Jimenez (9-9) locked up the Cubs with 6 2/3 stellar innings for the win. He yielded two runs, one earned, on four hits with five walks and six strikeouts. Marshall (3-7) took the loss.
"He kind of went in and out with his command, but his stuff is really good stuff," Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said. "He's able to get away with it. He's throwing about 99 mph with movement. It's not that easy to square up. He's just a tough at-bat."
As great as Jimenez was, he had plenty of help behind him. The defense turned three double plays, and Tulowitzki made a leaping catch in the seventh that prompted Tracy to inquire about seeing "maybe him and Derrek Lee, after the season, get into a basketball game."
However, the biggest defensive play came in the third when left fielder Carlos Gonzalez tracked down a fly ball hit by Lee in front of the 390 sign in left-center field before hitting the wall. Gonzalez's catch ended the inning and stranded two baserunners.
"It was hard," Gonzalez said. "It was a really tough play because the sky was still light. I saw the ball jump out of his bat, so I just put my head down and started running back like crazy."
In the sixth, Jimenez helped himself out when he struck out Mike Fontenot, who represented the tying run, swinging on a down-and-in 81-mph curveball to end the threat after Milton Bradley's RBI single made it 5-2.
Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.