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Sunday, July 21, 2013
Carlos Villanueva snakebitten vs. Rockies

By Bruce Levine

DENVER -- Every pitcher seems to have one team that has his number, and Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva has certainly found the Colorado Rockies to be that team.

The veteran pitcher was ambushed by the Rockies for the second time in 2013 on Saturday evening.

Carlos Villanueva

Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva was victimized by the Rockies, again, on Saturday to remain winless in four road starts this season.

“I guess I am glad we only play them twice this year,” he said after lasting just four-plus innings. “This was basically a photo copy of last time. I tried some things today and it seemed to work somewhat for the first couple of innings.

“That is a team that has given me trouble throughout my career for some reason.”

Villanueva wasn’t kidding about his struggles against the Rockies. He allowed seven runs on nine hits in the 9-3 loss on Saturday, and a like number of runs on 12 hits in a five-inning start and loss to Colorado on May 14.

The road itself has been rough on the pitcher. He is 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA in four starts away from Wrigley Field this season.

“He is extremely competitive,” said manager Dale Sveum after the game. “He is one of the more competitive, prepared, hard-working pitchers you are going to see.

“I am sure he is mad at himself hanging a slider and not getting through that [fifth] inning by himself.”

Villanueva’s night began to spin out of control in the fateful fourth inning. He walked his counterpart Juan Nicasio with two outs, setting up Dexter Fowler's two-run triple.

“That kind of changed the game around walking [Nicasio] on a 3-2 slider and throwing Fowler a 3-2 fastball,” Sveum said. “That was a little backward and changed momentum around in the whole game.”

Villanueva, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, has been the ultimate team pitcher. He started the season in the rotation and moved into the bullpen when Matt Garza returned from the disabled list at the end of May.

“I have been able to go out there and eat up some innings,” he said. “I think for the most part I have given us a chance to win. I remember a couple of years ago, [Giants starter] Matt Cain had a horrible won-and-loss record but overall good numbers.

“It is frustrating, but you look at the bigger scheme of things. After you let the ball go, you can’t really control what happens.”

The Cubs are 21-26 on the road this season and 7-9 against the National League West.