Rockies down Cubs 5-1, off to first 4-0 start since '95
DENVER (AP) It's not the wins but the way they're winning that gives the Colorado Rockies faith this season can be different.
They're 4-0, tying the 1995 team for the best start in franchise history. They've done it by combining errorless defense, stellar pitching and timely hitting - all things that eluded them while averaging 93 losses over the last four seasons.
''I think we're a tougher team than we've been in the past,'' Troy Tulowitzki said after sparking the Rockies to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Cubs in their home opener Friday.
That followed a three-game sweep in Milwaukee for a team that went just 20-61 on the road last year.
''I know it's (only) four games, and I don't want to get too excited. But these guys are playing a little bit different,'' Tulowitzki said. ''They've got that look in the eye that I like to see.''
Justin Morneau homered and Rockies relievers were outstanding in relief of a shaky but wily Tyler Matzek, allowing just one hit - a bunt single by Anthony Rizzo with the shift on - in five innings.
Right-hander Christian Bergman (1-0) picked up the win by retiring both batters he faced, one on a double play, in the fifth after coming in with two men on and nobody out.
Matzek became the first Rockies starting pitcher ever to bat eighth, and Colorado second baseman D.J. LeMahieu went 3 for 4 from the No. 9 spot, including a RBI single following Matzek's two-out double in the second.
With fellow lefty Travis Wood (0-1) also batting eighth, this marked the first game that both starting pitchers batted in that spot since St. Louis' Joel Pineiro and Pittsburgh's Ian Snell did it on July 13, 2008, according to STATS.
Both managers said the unconventional strategy allows for a more potent No. 2 hitter, and Tulowitzki proved the point with a two-run double down the left-field line off Wood that broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth.
''As long as I'm playing and in the lineup, I'll hit anywhere,'' Tulowitzki said after seeing his name in the No. 2 spot in the starting lineup for the first time since May 27, 2009. ''It doesn't matter to me, as long as I get RBI opportunities. I love those RBI situations. I love being up there in the clutch. It's what I live for.''
Wood was cruising until Tulowitzki's screamer into the left-field corner.
''One pitch to Tulo pretty much erased everything,'' Wood said. ''I threw a cutter up and in and somehow he kept it fair. That's why he is who he is and that was pretty much it.''
Matzek was wild all day - just 40 strikes in 84 pitches - and he left after allowing a walk and a single to start the fifth. He gave up an earned run on Matt Szczur's sacrifice fly in the third, on four hits, walked three, plunked Rizzo twice and threw a wild pitch.
Morneau greeted right-hander Brian Schlitter with his first homer leading off the sixth for his 1,500th hit, and Corey Dickerson added a run-scoring single.
''We had plenty of opportunities. We had the runners out there,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ''Their pitcher was struggling. We had plenty of opportunities. The weather was fine. They found their way through it. We did not get the big hit. They did.''
Broncos GM John Elway tweeted a photo from behind the Rockies' dugout, wished the locals good luck and added, ''The former baseball player in me always looks forward to opening day.''
Cubs: Reliever RHP Justin Grimm landed on the 15-day DL with swelling in his right forearm and was replaced by RHP Brian Schlitter.
Rockies: LHJ Jorge De La Rosa said he's probably going to have to deal with his sore left groin all season. He threw 57 pitches in a rehab start at Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday night and will throw a bullpen session Saturday at Coors Field.
Cubs: RHP Jason Hammel (0-0, 0.00) makes his first start against his former team Saturday. He pitched for the Rockies from 2009-11.
Rockies: RHP Kyle Kendrick (1-0, 0.00) makes his home debut for the Rockies on Saturday. Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Kendrick has a 1-1 record and 5.26 ERA at Coors Field.