Cubs 5, Rockies 3

Preview | Box Score | Recap

DENVER (AP)—After eight runs and 12 hits in the first two innings, it seemed like Colorado and the Cubs were about to play another four-hour marathon in the Mile High City.

Then somebody pulled the plug on Coors Field.

Kerry Wood pitched eight innings despite a shaky start, and Derrek Lee hit his 21st homer in a five-run second that lifted Chicago over Colorado 5-3 Tuesday night.

Colorado scored three runs in the first and Chicago answered with five in the second, but not much else happened. The teams combined for four hits and no runs over the final 7 1/2 innings, finishing in a brisk 2 hours, 14 minutes—the fifth-shortest nine-inning game in Coors Field history.

“If you missed the first two innings you would have missed the whole ballgame,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “Rarely do you see a game that quickly and that sharp and crisp in Colorado.”

The starting pitchers had something to do with it.

Wood (6-4) had a hard time finding his release point in the first inning and gave up three runs. He gave up two more runners in the third inning, but started to hit a rhythm after that.

With his breaking ball diving hard toward the dirt and his fastball still hitting the mid-90s in the eighth inning, Wood retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced to win for the third win in five starts since coming off the DL following a triceps strain.

“I felt real strong. That has been a plus coming back,” said Wood, who struck out five and walked three. “At times I started get winded at the end, but I felt good in the eighth. That was a good sign.”

Chicago batted around in the second inning off Jeff Fassero (2-7), scoring five runs on seven hits. But the left-hander tightened up after that, retiring 11 straight batters before Wood hit a two-out single in the sixth.

Fassero was lifted for a pinch hitter in seventh inning after giving up five runs and nine hits in his first loss since June 8 against the Yankees. It also was the first loss by a Rockies starter since Jason Jennings was beaten July 20 by the Padres, a span of 13 starts.

“There were a couple of flares that in other ballparks would probably be caught because guys aren’t playing so deep,” Fassero said. “If you give up five runs early in the game at Coors Field, you hope you can come back.”

The Rockies just couldn’t do it against Wood.

Todd Helton homered for the second straight game and Larry Walker had an RBI triple in Colorado’s three-run first inning, but the Rockies managed just six hits and lost for just the third time in 11 games.

“The results were very similar, but Wood has a different arsenal than Jeff does,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was up there throwing 96 and 97 in the eighth inning. To me it looked like after the three-run first, he put his foot down.”

Sammy Sosa drove in a run and so did Nomar Garciaparra, playing his second game since the Cubs acquired him from Boston. Chicago has won six of eight to stay within reach of San Diego in the NL wild card race.

LaTroy Hawkins pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 21 chances, walking off to cheers from a large, raucous crowd that seemed to be filled mostly with Cubs fans.

The Chicago fans started things off with a standing ovation for Garciaparra, which led to boos from the Colorado side.

The Rockies gave their fans plenty to cheer about early, with Helton floating a fly that just curled inside the pole in left for a two-run homer in the first. Wood then walked Vinny Castilla and Walker followed with a triple to the gap in right to put the Rockies up 3-0.

Then Chicago’s fans took over.

Lee started things off with a two-run homer that followed the same line as Helton’s, but ended up on the concourse. Mark Grudzielanek followed with a double and Wood tied it with a sacrifice fly after Michael Barrett’s flyout.

Corey Patterson followed with a one-out single, then Garciaparra and Sosa had RBI singles to put the Cubs up 5-3 and bring the Cubs fans to their feet.

“I thought I was pitching at Wrigley Field tonight, not Coors Field,” Fassero said.

But what appeared to be another 15-12 game at Coors quickly changed.

The Cubs managed just one runner over the final seven innings, on Wood’s single in the sixth, and didn’t even hit many balls hard.

The Rockies didn’t get a runner past second after the first inning and had one hit over the final 6 1-3 innings.

“They jumped on Woody in the first and we got on Fassero in the next, and then they both settled down and started throwing the ball good,” Baker said. “Both bullpens did a good job. Good game. Good clean game.”

Notes

Fassero made his 651st career appearance, tying Wilbur Wood for 32nd among lefties. … Olympic gold medal wrestler Rulon Gardner threw out the first pitch. … Colorado had won the previous four shortest games at Coors.

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