DENVER (AP)—After nearly a month of struggles, Aaron Cook had a discussion with manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Bob Apodaca about relaxing on the mound.
It proved to be just what Cook need. Well, that and a little run support.
Garrett Atkins hit a three-run homer, Ryan Spilborghs had three RBIs in his return to the majors and the Colorado Rockies gave Cook some rare run support in an 10-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs Friday night.
“They just told me to relax, stay in control out there and that put things in perspective for me—just go out there and worry about pitching, make the pitches and when guys on base, just slow it down that much more,” Cook said.
He did and it worked.
After allowing four or more runs in five of his previous eight starts, Cook pitched eight solid innings, working through traffic in just about every inning. The right-hander had the Cubs chasing his sinker all night, getting 12 groundball outs, and allowed two runs despite giving up 10 hits.
Cook gave up a run in the third inning on John Mabry’s RBI single and another in the sixth, when Jacque Jones led off with a 438-foot homer to center — his 19th—to cut Colorado’s lead to 7-2. But that was it off Cook, who pitched into the eighth inning for the fifth time this season.
“His demeanor was a lot better,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “For whatever reason, he was getting wound up and he was taking it out on the mound getting wound up, and it wasn’t helping the situation by any means. A sinkerball pitcher is a touch and feel guy and it you overthrow it, it doesn’t sink. It was a step in the right direction for him.”
Colorado’s offense certainly helped him get there.
The Rockies had scored three runs or less in six straight games to match a team record and hadn’t helped Cook (8-10) much all season, giving him 4.07 runs per nine innings—sixth-worst in the majors.
Colorado got off to a good start in this one and kept it going, getting 12 hits—one from every position player—and scoring 10 runs for the first time since July 18.
The Rockies got a two-run double in the first inning from Spilborghs, who finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles after being recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs, and scored five more in the fifth inning to chase Cubs starter Rich Hill (2-5).
Choo Freeman then ended an 0-for-16 slump by leading off the eighth inning with a line-drive homer to center off Scott Eyre, and pinch hitter Jason Smith followed Danny Ardoin’s single with a two-run homer, a 437-foot shot that nearly reached the second deck in right-center.
Not bad for a team that managed 10 runs combined in losing three of four to the Dodgers.
“Just a little more comfortable in that dugout than we were four days in LA,” Hurdle said.
It was a nice way to return to Colorado on what was a huge sports day at the edge of the Rockies.
The second round of the PGA Tour’s International was being played just down the road in Castle Rock, a section of downtown was closed off for the Grand Prix of Denver and the Broncos were on TV, playing a preseason game against Detroit. But the crowded schedule didn’t stop more than 35,000 people from showing up at Coors Field.
Of course, many of them were rooting for Chicago, filling the stands with white and blue, cheering every time the Cubs got a hit or made a nice play in the field.
The home-away-from-homefield advantage didn’t help the Cubs much, thanks to Hill’s control problems and an inability to get hits in key situations.
Chicago’s pitchers walked seven, including five by Hill, and the Cubs were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine.
“We got a lot of hits. We just didn’t’ get them at the right time,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Hill cut down on the walks in his two previous starts, giving up three in the two wins, but had trouble from the start in this one.
The left-hander walked two in the first inning, leading to Spilborgh’s two-run double, and had one each in the second and third. He also walked Ardoin, who’s hitting .196, to lead off the fifth, setting up Colorado’s five-run inning.
Atkins hit his 18th homer of the season in the fifth, a three-run shot deep into the seats in left, then Matt Holliday chased Hill with a two-out double. Spilborghs greeted Michael Wuertz with an RBI double and Luis Gonzalez made it 7-2 with a run-scoring single.
Hill walked five for the third time this season and lasted just 4 2-3 innings, giving up six hits and six runs. He has 26 walks in 42 1-3 innings this season.
Hurdle gave 1B Todd Helton, RF Brad Hawpe and C Yorvit Torrealba the night off. … Chicago has homered in six straight games, matching its season high, done twice. The Cubs have nine the past six games.