Rockies-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

With the playoffs out of the picture, the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs both feature lineups full of inexperience as they look to the future.

Colorado's young team is currently outplaying Chicago's.

In their first meeting of the season, the Rockies look to win a sixth straight game for the first time in 16 months when they open a three-game series Friday against the slumping Cubs, who are returning home from a 1-6 road trip.

Jim Tracy's 75-pitch limit for his starters suddenly seems to be working for Colorado (50-73), which matched its longest winning streak of the season with Thursday's 1-0 victory over the New York Mets.

The Rockies, who haven't won six straight since reeling off seven from April 9-15, 2011, have yielded seven total runs during their winning streak after allowing an average of 6.4 in their previous eight.

"I think we're throwing the ball really well right now as a staff,'' said starter Tyler Chatwood, who was pulled after throwing 65 pitches in three innings Thursday.

Drew Pomeranz (1-7, 4.87 ERA), the key to the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland last season, has also seen an early exit in his last four starts, going four innings in each.

The left-hander, who has never faced Chicago, gave up two runs, three hits and a career-high tying four walks while racking up 76 pitches in Colorado's 3-2 win over Miami on Sunday.

The Rockies are winning despite regulars Dexter Fowler (right ankle), Eric Young Jr. (left ribcage strain), Josh Rutledge (left quad tightness) and Michael Cuddyer (right oblique strain) all getting injured since Sunday. Young and Cuddyer have landed on the disabled list, while Fowler is day-to-day and Rutledge has come off the bench in the last three games.

The influx of injuries caused the Rockies to start four rookies on Thursday - right fielder Charlie Blackmon, first baseman Jordan Pacheco, catcher Wilin Rosario and second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

A former Cub has been the one leading Colorado during its recent surge, as Tyler Colvin is batting .435 with a homer, four RBIs and five runs in the last six games.

Chicago (47-76) is giving regular time to top prospects Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters along with rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and it hasn't led to many wins. The Cubs dropped to 4-18 since July 31 with Wednesday's 3-2 loss at Milwaukee.

Rizzo has cooled off after a hot start, batting .200 with two RBIs in his last eight games, while Jackson is hitting .164 with a homer and 29 strikeouts in 16 contests and Vitters is batting .119 with a home run in 13.

"We've got to start grinding at-bats and learn how to foul balls off, and get to another count, get to another pitch,'' manager Dale Sveum said.

Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.17), who is in his first season as a starter, will make his first career start against the Rockies after posting a 2.00 ERA in nine innings of relief in the series.

Samardzija gave up six hits and four runs - all on three homers - in five innings of Saturday's 5-3 loss at Cincinnati.

Returning to Wrigley Field could help him bounce back. In three home starts since the All-Star break, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 18 innings, with the Cubs winning each.

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