Holliday, Rockies keep pace in wild card at Cubs' expense

DENVER (AP) -- The ball left Matt Holliday's bat and kept rising,
reaching the highest point of the arch as it sailed over center
fielder Juan Pierre's head before landing over some trees in the
back of Chicago's bullpen.

For a team that's had a hard time getting the big hits, this one
was huge.

Holliday hit a 446-foot, three-run blast in the first inning and
added a sacrifice fly in the second, helping the Colorado Rockies
batter Chicago's pitchers for the second straight game in an 8-4
victory over the Cubs on Saturday night.

"That's a big swing of the bat," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle
said. "We've been through enough situations where we've said let's
get our gloves and see if we can hold them, come back in and score
some runs, so it's a big swing of the bat."

The Rockies have had trouble coming up with the big hit most of
the season, entering Saturday's game second-worst in the majors at
hitting with two outs and after the seventh inning. Colorado had
particular trouble in the clutch during a recent seven-game road
trip, averaging 2.71 runs and 6.57 hits to go 3-4 and fall further
behind in the NL wild card standings.

Apparently, all the Rockies needed was a trip home.

So what if Coors Field has had some of the hot air taken out of
it this season and who cares if half of the 43,485 fans seemed to
be cheering for the Cubs. Colorado has felt right at home in its
first two games against the Cubs, taking advantage of Chicago's
inexperienced pitching to build early leads and stay within 2½
games of Cincinnati in the wild card race.

"As a starting pitcher, it's unbelievable to have a five or
six-run lead to deal with, knowing that if you make a couple
mistakes you're not going to go out there and start pressing,"
Rockies starter Josh Fogg said. "With a six-run lead, a home run
here, a home run there isn't going to kill you."

Colorado broke out of a scoring slump against the Cubs on Friday
night, getting 12 hits and three homers in a 10-2 win. The Rockies
were still feeling it a day later, battering Angel Guzman (0-3) for
four runs in the first inning and finishing with 15 hits -- six for
extra bases.

That helped to help Fogg (8-7) earn his first win since July 5
despite some shaky moments.

The right-hander allowed three earned runs -- four total -- and 10
hits, dodging what could have been a huge inning in the fourth,
when he held the Cubs to two runs after they loaded the bases with
no outs.

"It's frustrating," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "That one
inning we were really threatening. That was a big, big double play
they got us to hit into."

Matt Murton was 3-for-4 with a homer and an RBI single, and the
Cubs tried to keep pace with the Rockies with 13 hits, but couldn't
overcome deficits of 4-0 and 7-1 in the first three innings for
their fourth-straight loss.

Chicago's troubles started early.

Holliday had the big blow in the first inning with his
team-leading 22nd homer of the season, and Ryan Spilborghs followed
with an RBI single.

Todd Helton tripled in a run in the second inning and Holliday
just missed his second homer in as many at-bats, settling for a
sacrifice fly at the warning track in center that put Colorado up
6-1. The Rockies added another run off Guzman in the third on Clint
Barmes' RBI single and finally chased the rookie right-hander on
Jamey Carroll's two-out single -- Colorado's ninth hit of the game.

Guzman, called up before the game after Mark Prior went on the
15-day DL with shoulder tendinitis, allowed a career-high seven
runs to remain winless in seven major-league appearances, including
five starts. He's allowed 23 earned runs in 28 innings.

"I think early in the year I was having a lot of problems with
my command," Guzman said. "(Now) everything is coming good. Today
wasn't one of those days."

Fogg wasn't exactly sharp, either. He just did a better job of
working through traffic.

Chicago got a run off the right-hander in the second inning on
John Mabry's RBI double, then got two more in the fourth after four
straight singles.

Fogg gave up a solo homer to Murton in the sixth that cut the
lead to 8-4, and didn't come out for the seventh.

Helton had a single in the first and a double in the fifth to go
with his second-inning triple, but failed to become the fifth
Rockies player to hit for the cycle in his final at-bat, popping
out to first to end the seventh inning.

Game notes
Colorado's Garrett Atkins has reached base in 36 straight
games at Coors Field. ... Helton's triple in the second inning was
his fourth of the season, matching his total from the previous two
years combined. ... Pierre had a single in the fifth inning to
extend his hitting streak to 15 games on the road.