The surging Rockies look to continue their offensive outburst when they open a four-game series against the slumping Cubs on Thursday at Coors Field.
Colorado (59-54) totaled 36 runs and 50 hits in its three-game sweep over Milwaukee, capped by Wednesday’s 19-4 victory. The Rockies had 11 extra-base hits, tying a club record set Aug. 3, 2003, while their runs and hits (23) were each one off the franchise marks.
“It is enjoyable,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. “We are hitting the ball from line to line, we are gapping balls, situational hitting and hitting balls out of the ballpark.”
The high-scoring Rockies are taking full advantage of playing at hitter-friendly Coors Field, where they have won five straight. They are a major league-best 21-5 at home since June 2.
They’ve moved five games over .500 for the first time since last May 22, and are in third place in the NL West, four games back of first-place Arizona.
Chicago (58-54), meanwhile, has lost four straight and six of seven.
The Cubs fell 8-2 to Houston on Wednesday, as they were without All-Star Alfonso Soriano for the third straight game and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who was a last-minute scratch because of a sore right wrist. Chicago has scored only eight runs during its four-game skid, its longest losing streak since dropping a season-high six straight May 27-June 2.
“Hopefully this thing turns around in Colorado,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told the team’s official Web site. “We’re missing two big bats out of the lineup, and we just have to tough it out. What can I say?”
Second-place Chicago has been lucky, though, as it is still only one game back of struggling Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.
Colorado was swept in three games at Wrigley Field from June 25-27, but has won four of its last five against the Cubs at Coors Field.
Garrett Atkins had four hits and matched a career high with six RBIs Wednesday, and in eight games this month, he’s batting .531 (17-for-32) with two home runs and a major league-best 18 RBIs. Atkins is hitting .491 (26-for-53) with two home runs and 17 RBIs in his last 13 home games, and is 16-for-33 (.485) with five homers and 13 RBIs in his last 10 games against the Cubs.
The Rockies third baseman is 2-for-3 with a double lifetime against Thursday’s starter, Ted Lilly (12-5, 3.53), who was on the hill the last time the Cubs won.
On Saturday, Lilly allowed two runs - both coming off solo home runs by Moises Alou - and struck out eight in 7 2-3 innings of a 6-2 win over the New York Mets. He is 8-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his last 10 starts, and has allowed two runs or less in five of his last seven outings.
Lilly makes his first August start away from Wrigley Field after allowing three runs in 21 1-3 innings in winning all three of his road starts in July.
The left-hander did not have much success in his only career start at Coors Field, however, as he was tagged for five runs and six hits in just 1 2-3 innings of a 5-3 loss for Toronto last May 21.
Lilly won his only start against the Rockies this season, giving up four runs, six hits and five walks in six innings of an 8-5 victory on June 26.
Colorado counters with rookie Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 5.16), who tries to bounce back from his first career loss.
Jimenez allowed six runs, six hits and five walks, and hit two batters in 4 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Atlanta on Saturday. He did manage to strike out a career-high seven.
The 23-year-old right-hander had allowed seven runs in 18 innings over his first three major league starts since being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on July 17.
Jimenez faced the Cubs in last year’s season finale, but did not factor in the decision. He allowed four runs in 6 2-3 innings of an eventual 8-5 Chicago victory.