Mr. Clutch: Yan Gomes delivers again as Cubs top Rockies
Isaiah Downing - USA Today Sports

Mr. Clutch: Yan Gomes delivers again as Cubs top Rockies

by - Senior Writer -

DENVER - Coors Field is known as a house of horrors for many, and the Chicago Cubs (78-67) hope to avoid that for three days. With the Cubs in the middle of a significant playoff run and facing off against the worst team in the National League, the Colorado Rockies (51-92), this should be one of those series that the Cubs should sweep.

However, with Coors Field being the equalizer it is, expect the unexpected this week, as this can potentially be a trap series for the Cubs. In a way, it was looking like that as David Ross made an interesting managerial decision to stick with Jose Cuas after he struggled to find the strikezone most of his outing. That resulted in a three-run seventh for the Rockies as they not only took a 4-3 lead but wasted another great start by the rookie Jordan Wicks.

It wasn't until the ninth inning when the Rockies gifted the Cubs with a leadoff double before falling asleep on a double steal to put a pair of runners at second and third. That set the table for Mr. Clutch Yan Gomes and his .321 average with runners in scoring position as he laced a game winning RBI single to put the Cubs in front 5-4. Things did get interesting late as Michael Fulmer had no command, and then suddenly found it to strikeout the final two hitters he faced to lock down the save.

While the final score shouldn't come as a surprise, how they got there may be surprising as both teams were locked into a rare pitcher's duel. Despite an ERA not of 5.00, Kyle Freeland is the Ace of the Rockies staff and has been known to have great outings against the Cubs. Take the 2018 NL Wild Card game, for example. Granted, that was six years ago, but Freeland can still pitch to that capability as he gave the Rockies six innings of three-run ball despite allowing a ton of contact.

On the other hand, Wicks doesn't know how to lose at this point, as he went 7-0 during his Minor League season and has gotten off to a 3-0 start to begin his MLB Career. Wicks was well on his way to a 4-0 start, giving the Cubs six innings again, allowing just one run on three hits as his ERA fell to 1.99 on the season. The lone run he would allow came three batters into the game as Charlie Blackmon started things off with a leadoff double before coming home on the Nolan Jones grounder.

Wicks would then walk the leadoff man in the second inning before using a double play to erase that threat and allowing a single to Elihuris Montero later in the inning, only to escape trouble again. That was about all the traffic the Rockies would have against Wicks as he settled in nicely and started to dominate the Rockies in the process.

While Freeland may have been strong early, the Cubs finally got to him in the third as Gomes continued his Coors Field mastery with a leadoff single to push his average to .564 the past two seasons at Coors Field. That was followed by singles from Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal with Madrigal bringing home Gomes to tie things up 1-1. Freeland was later bailed out by his buddy Blackmon in right as Nico Hoerner ripped what looked to be a double off the bat only to have Blackmon make a great play to kill any further momentum.

With Wicks now in a groove to the point where he retired seven of eight hitters and was barely over the minimum for the game, it would be up to the Cubs offense to get going. Leave that to Morel in the fifth as he unloaded for a 466-foot shot off of Freeland to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. The very next inning saw Cody Bellinger get things started with a single before advancing to third on the Seiya Suzuki bloop single to left. With both runners still on base and two outs, Gomes came through with the first of his clutch hits as his RBI single made things 3-1, but Suzuki was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the play.

Given that Wicks was on cruise control and gave the Cubs the outing he did, David Ross had to piece together his bullpen the rest of the way and called on Cuas to pitch the seventh. Cuas got off to a great start with a pair of strikeouts before losing command of his breaking ball. That led to an Elias Diaz single, a hit-by-pitch, and a Hunter Goodman double as the Rockies pulled within 3-2 and were still threatening.

The Colorado offense wasn't entirely done as the lack of command bit Cuas again, with Brenton Doyle cashing in with the go-ahead RBI single to put the Rockies back in front 4-3. Drew Smyly would be summoned from the pen after that single and would not only get out of the seventh but went to toss 1 2/3 scoreless frames for Ross and the Cubs.

Hoping to battle back, Hoerner started the eighth with a single against Justin Lawrence, only to have Bellinger hit into a rare double play to erase the threat. With the Rockies holding their 4-3 lead in the ninth, it would come to the Cubs offense as the middle of their order was due up. First was Dansby Swanson who connected for a well-struck ball off of Tyler Kinley only to have a misplay in left result in a leadoff double. That was followed by an Ian Happ walk as the Cubs had two men on and no outs.

The critical play of the inning came with Gomes at the plate as the Rockies fell asleep on the bases and allowed both runners to pick up a double steal. That opened things up for Gomes, who delivered again to put the Cubs back in front for good 5-4. With all eyes on Pete Crow-Armstrong making his MLB debut, the rookie dropped down a perfect bunt to move Miles Mastrobuoni to second, but the Cubs couldn't pick up the run as they were just three outs away from a win.

Smyly came back out to begin the ninth, and after retiring the first hitter he faced, it was a bit surprising to see Ross pull him in favor of Michael Fulmer. Returning for the first time after a three-week stint on the IL, you could see how rusty Fulmer was as he walked Diaz on four pitches before hitting Montero to put the winning run on first.

That sparked a meeting between Tommy Hottovy, Miguel Amaya and Fulmer and whatever they talked about clearly worked as Fulmer focussed in on the job in hand to strikeout the next two hitters and lifted the Cubs to the massive 5-4 win. The win keeps them within three games of Milwaukee and two games ahead of Arizona, as the Cubs are down to their final 17 games of the season.

Gomes continues to have an excellent season for the Cubs as he led the way with three hits and three RBIs. Swanson picked up a pair of hits, with seven other Cubs grabbing one hit in the win. The Cubs will look to clinch a series win on Tuesday as they send another young arm in Javier Assad to the mound against Chris Flexon.

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