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Rockies-Cubs Preview

Rockies-Cubs Preview
The Chicago Cubs have used their high-powered offense to dominate teams at Wrigley Field during the first two months of the season, leading them to one of baseball's best home records.

It turns out their pitching can carry them as well.

Fresh off a three-game home sweep where they allowed just three runs, the Cubs will look to make it four straight wins on Thursday when they continue their homestand with the first of four against the Colorado Rockies.

Chicago (32-21) is tied with Atlanta for the most home wins (22) in baseball, and the majority of those victories have come thanks to an offense that's averaged a major league high 6.3 runs in its home park.

But the Cubs have relied on some excellent pitching in winning their last three on Chicago's north side. While they only scored eight runs in their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team's pitchers allowed just a run apiece in three games.

After ace Carlos Zambrano gave Chicago eight solid innings on Wednesday, the offense did just enough to get the Cubs their 11th home win in their last 13 games.

Geovany Soto's sacrifice fly tied the score at 1 in the ninth, then Alfonso Soriano - who had been criticized for dropping a fly ball that cost the team a win on Sunday - singled in Mike Fontenot in the 10th to give Chicago a 2-1 win.

"He's a battler. He has that ability just to stay up and keep on trucking, performing," manager Lou Piniella said. "I was happy for him. A big clutch hit and it got us the win."

Soriano and the Cubs' offense should find runs easier to come by against Colorado (20-33). The Rockies gave up 35 runs while getting swept in Philadelphia this week, and only Pittsburgh has allowed more runs in the NL this season.

Colorado has dropped eight straight and 14 of 16 on the road.

"We've got improvement to be made in every area," manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official Web site. "Unfortunately, we've earned the position we're in. One thing we've kept very basic around here is we hold ourselves to a high level of accountability and execution."

The Rockies haven't had a starting pitcher make it through six innings on the road since May 10, the first loss of their current eight-game slide away from home.

They'll count on Jeff Francis (1-5, 6.18 ERA) to end that streak, but he's been mired in a season-long slump after winning 17 games last year. Francis lasted six innings in his last outing but gave up six runs - five in the first - to the Mets in a 9-2 loss on Saturday.

"We need better from Jeff from that," Hurdle said. "The good news was, he was able to find some rhythm, reestablish his command and repeat his delivery late in the game."

Francis hasn't had much luck at Wrigley Field, posting a 9.37 ERA in three starts without a decision.

Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee is 6-for-6 against Francis.

Colorado's offense - which is missing injured stars Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes and Troy Tulowitzki - is averaging just 3.5 runs in its last 17 games.

The Rockies will try to get their bats warmed up against Jason Marquis (2-3, 4.97). Marquis has won just one of his last six starts, and lasted 5 1-3 innings while allowing three runs on Saturday against Pittsburgh. He didn't get a decision in the Cubs' 5-4, 14-inning loss.

Marquis is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his last four starts against Colorado.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 29, 2008

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