August 04, 2014

DENVER -- The rampaging Chicago Cubs begin a nine-game, 10-day road trip with three against the Colorado Rockies beginning Friday.

Chicago, which is coming off a four-game sweep of Milwaukee, has won 18 of its past 21 games. The Cubs (77-43, 32-24 on the road) are 34 games above .500 for the first time since Sept. 27, 2008, when they were 97-63 on the next-to-last-day of the season.

Kyle Hendricks, who is 11-7 with a 2.19 ERA -- the third-lowest ERA in the majors, has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his past 15 starts for Chicago, dating to May 22. In his last start Saturday against St. Louis, Hendricks allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings with no walks and 12 strikeouts but wasn't involved in the decision as the Cubs lost 8-4.

Hendricks is 3-6 with a 3.43 in 10 road starts this season. The Rockies handed Hendricks his only loss in 13 games (12 starts) at Wrigley Field this season April 15 when he allowed four runs (two earned) and seven hits in six innings of Colorado's 6-1 victory. In two starts at Coors Field -- both Chicago victories -- Hendricks is 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA.

Left-hander Tyler Anderson, who makes his first career start against the Cubs, is 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA -- the lowest ERA for a Rockies starter through his first 12 starts in franchise history.

In his last start Saturday in Philadelphia, Anderson was ejected by home plate umpire Eric Cooper for hitting Maikel Franco with a pitch to begin the fourth inning. That outing ended a streak of eight straight starts in which Anderson had pitched at least six innings.

In eight starts at Coors Field, Anderson is 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA. Because the Rockies were off Thursday, Anderson will pitch with five days of rest.

Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu, the first and second hitters in Colorado's lineup, have been on offensive tears lately.

Blackmon has a 12-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .481 in 54 at-bats with five doubles, one triple, nine homers, 15 RBIs, a 1.111 slugging percentage and a 1.637 OPS. During his streak, Blackmon raised his average 23 points to .322.

LeMahieu, who began his career in the Cubs' organization and played 37 games for them in 2011, had hits in eight straight at-bats and reached base in 10 consecutive plate appearances before both streaks ended on his second at-bat Wednesday. He has hit safely in 14 of 16 games this month, going .483 in 60 at-bats with two doubles, one triple, three homers, nine RBIs, a .483 on-base percentage and a 1.281 OPS. During the month, LeMahieu has raised his average 23 points to .343, one point behind National League leader Daniel Murphy of Washington.

Blackmon and LeMahieu have helped the Rockies weather the losses of Trevor Story, who last played July 30, and Mark Reynolds, who last played Aug. 11, to season-ending injuries. Also, Carlos Gonzalez has started only five of the past 14 games because of an ankle sprain Aug. 3 that he later re-aggravated.

"Both guys have really upped their game," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Blackmon and LeMahieu. "Both are getting on base at a really high rate. They're a big reason why our offense has performed better even with some key pieces out. Even on the road where we've struggled historically, it's performing and (that) has a lot to do with those two guys."

In Chicago's 9-6 victory Thursday against Milwaukee, Kris Bryant went 5-for-5 with a double, two homers and five RBIs. He's hitting .296 with 30 homers, 78 RBIs and a .956 OPS. With his second five-hit game of the season, Bryant tied Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado for the National League lead in home runs.

Anthony Rizzo, who went 2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs on Thursday, is hitting .291 with 25 homers, 86 RBIs and a .956 OPS. With six weeks remaining in the regular season, Rizzo and Bryant along with Murphy are the leading contenders for the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

"We've obviously put ourselves in a good position to have that chatter," Rizzo said. "But we've still got to go out and play every day and do what we do."

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