Bryant delivers as Rockies top Cubs
Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports

Bryant delivers as Rockies top Cubs

by - Senior Writer -

DENVER - The Chicago Cubs (78-68) have played exceptionally well the past two-plus months, but they are not making it easy on themselves these final three weeks. On a night when the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins, and Arizona Diamondbacks lost, the Cubs had a chance to pick up a game in the wild card race while keeping pace with the Milwaukee Brewers.

To do that, the Cubs would have to beat the NL Worst Colorado Rockies (52-92) at Coors Field on Tuesday, one night after nearly letting one get away. Anytime you go to Coors Field, you know the challenge, and the Cubs were counting on another rookie in Javier Assad to deliver. Despite being one of the best pitchers in the National League over the past month, we have seen what Coors Field can do to young pitchers, and you saw that again in this one.

Not only was Assad not sharp, but he let that get into his head before allowing four runs in 3 1/3. It was his worst start since joining the rotation, and it came at a bad time as the Cubs offense continues to struggle. Even with Seiya Suzuki delivering a game-tying two-run blast as part of his three-hit, three RBI night, Daniel Palencia couldn't keep the Rockies in check as he allowed a game-winning homer to former Cub Kris Bryant in the sixth and an additional run in the seventh as the Rockies take game two from the Cubs 6-4.

Opposing Assad was Chris Flexen, looking to end the year on a positive note after a miserable season so far. Flexen may have given up nine hits, but he did an excellent job for Colorado, allowing just three runs with five strikeouts in five-plus innings. Flexen worked around a jam in the first inning before the Cubs opened up the scoring in the second.

A leadoff triple from Dansby Swanson certainly helped with that, but the Suzuki single put the Cubs in front 1-0. With Yan Gomes staying hot with another single, Suzuki was able to advance to third before coming home on the Pete Crow-Armstrong RBI fielder's choice to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. It was the first RBI of PCA's young career, as he also added a pair of gold glove catches in center.

With the lead, Assad was looking to keep doing what he has been doing, but after Elehuris Montero led the bottom of the second off with a double, the Rockies were instantly threatening. Montero was erased on a terrible baserunning play later in the inning, which proved costly as Brenton Doyle picked up a second double later in the inning mixed with a Charlie Blackmon walk as Assad escaped a bases-loaded situation with no damage.

The same can't be said about the fourth inning, as Assad quickly started to unravel. He walked two of the first three hitters he faced in the fourth and hit a man as the Rockies loaded the bases without a hit. Following a huge out to Blackmon, Bryant was gifted with some luck as an excuse me check swing resulted in a two-run single as the Rockies tied things up 2-2.

Colorado was just getting started in that inning as the RBI ground from Nolan Jones gave the Rockies a 3-2 lead, while Elias Diaz capped off the four-run frame with an RBI single off of Luke Little as the Rockies led 4-2 entering the fifth. Looking to strike back immediately, Nick Madrigal led the top of the fifth off with what looked to be a leadoff triple, only to be gunned down at third.

David Ross challenged the ruling, and it was upheld as the Cubs were down a challenge and a baserunner. That would prove to be the biggest play of the game, with Nico Hoerner adding a single shortly after, which would have scored Madrigal, but instead, the Cubs ended the inning down two. The Cubs continued to battle back in the sixth, with Swanson smoking one up the middle against Flexen to bring the tying run to the plate in Suzuki.

With Bud Black going to his pen and not taking any chances, Jake Bird was called upon to pitch, and Suzuki greeted him with a long fly ball to right field that bounced off the top of the wall and over the fence as the Cubs were back to even 4-4.

Immediately following that homer, it was the Rockies striking back again as Bryant got into a Daniel Palencia heater and turned on it to drive it over the left-center field fence, putting the Rockies back in front 5-4. This was a much-needed night for Bryant's confidence, as that hit was the game-winner.

Things went from bad to worse for Palencia in the seventh as he put the first two runners on base before nearly working out of trouble. The key word is nearly, with Doyle coming through at the worst time as his RBI single gave the Rockies a 6-4 lead late. Still trailing by that score in the ninth and with the bottom of the order up, the Cubs had to face the sidearm Justin Lawrence, who was looking for his 11th save.

Despite retiring the first two hitters he faced, the Cubs were not going to make it easy as Lawrence hit Madrigal to put the tying run in the batter's box in the form of Christopher Morel. Sitting on a four-strikeout night to begin the at-bat, Morel showed great discipline and knowledge of the zone as he worked a walk to put two on with Hoerner coming up.

Of all the Cubs in the lineup, Hoerner may be the guy you want up in that spot, but it was Lawrence delivering the goods as he got Hoerner on a called third strike to end the game and gave the Rockies a 6-4 win. Suzuki did most of the damage for the Cubs offense with three hits and three RBIs. Swanson added two hits, as did Hoerner, as those were seven of the team's 10 hits.

Not only did PCA make his first career start, but the Cubs also saw Brad Boxberger return to the mound for the first time since May 13, and he worked a scoreless inning. If he can emerge into the guy the Cubs thought he would be down the stretch, it would be huge, as the Cubs pen is taxed right now.

The Cubs will look for the series win on Wednesday as they turn to Jameson Taillon to face off with left-hander Ty Blach. Taillon is coming off his best start of the season, and he will look to build on that the rest of the way. First pitch is 2:10 CDT.

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