DENVER (AP) — Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva was on course to reverse his history of struggling against Colorado until he made the mistake of walking his Rockies counterpart.
The fourth-inning, two-out walk to Juan Nicasio opened the door to a three-run inning and the Rockies went on to beat Villanueva and the Cubs 9-3 Saturday night.
Villanueva (2-6) allowed seven runs on nine hits in four innings in dropping to 0-2 with a 14.00 ERA in losing both of his starts against the Rockies this season.
“Basically, it was a photocopy of last time,” Villanueva said. “I tried some different things today. It seemed to work somewhat through the first couple of innings. But it’s a team that has given me trouble throughout my career for some reason.”
Overall, Villanueva is 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA in 13 games against the Rockies, two of them starts. But Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Villanueva brought some of his problems on himself with his pitch selection, throwing a 3-2 slider that was called a ball to Nicasio and then throwing a 3-2 fastball to Dexter Fowler that the Rockies leadoff man drove to right for a go-ahead, two-run triple.
“That kind of changed the game around, walking him on a 3-2 slider,” Sveum said. “Then throwing Fowler a 3-2 fastball. It was a little backwards. I think it turned the momentum around in the whole game.”
Villanueva said he wouldn’t second guess going with a breaking pitch against Nicasio.
“That’s just the type of pitcher I am,” he said. “I trust what I can do and the pitches I can throw in any count. If I make a better pitch, then he’s out. To me, it will be second-guessed a lot. A lot of things I do get second-guessed, but I’m not second-guessing myself.”
Villanueva got out of the fourth by retiring D.J. LeMahieu on a flyout, but that proved to be the final out in his outing. Carlos Gonzalez homered to start the fifth and Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton followed with successive singles to chase Villanueva.
The homer by Gonzalez was his 26th of the season, which leads the National League. Todd Helton had three of the Rockies’ 13 hits, and Tulowitzki, Fowler and Wilin Rosario had two hits each for a Colorado offense that had scored eight runs in its previous five games.
Luis Valbuena homered and had two RBIs for the Cubs.
Juan Nicasio (6-4) allowed one run on three hits in five innings to get his second straight win since being recalled from Triple-A on July 12.
Villanueva remained winless in his last eight starts and his last victory came in relief against Seattle on June 29.
“He got through the first few innings, but there was still no fastball command at all,” Sveum said. “He’s got to be able to start up his fastball a lot more than he is so his breaking stuff is going to be a lot more effective.”
A warm night turned blustery as winds reached 35 mph in the fourth inning. A strong gust coming in from right field helped keep Nate Schierholtz’s drive to the wall from going out in the top of the frame, and food wrappers and plastic bags from the stands littered the field in the bottom of the inning.
The wind wasn’t strong enough to hold Valbuena’s drive in the third. He crushed a 92 mph fastball into the Rockies bullpen to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. It was his ninth homer of the season.
The Cubs got within 7-3 with single runs in the sixth and seventh, but Tulowitzki added to Colorado’s cushion with a two-run double in the eighth.
NOTES: Cubs rookie Junior Lake followed Friday’s 3-for-4 debut with a single and a walk Saturday. … The Rockies will send RHP Tyler Chatwood (5-3, 2.56 ERA) against Chicago’s Edwin Jackson (6-10, 5.11) in Sunday’s series finale. … Alfonso Soriano went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk and is batting .319 with 10 homers and 20 RBIs in his last 18 games. … Valbuena is one homer shy of his career high set in 2009 while with Cleveland.
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