DENVER -- The Cubs spoiled Rockies rookie Jeff Hoffman's Major League debut -- tagging him for seven runs in four-plus innings -- in a 9-2 victory Saturday night at Coors Field. The loss ends the Rockies' three-game win streak.
After three clean innings to start his career, Hoffman, 23, was roughed up by the second-best offense in the National League. The first four batters reached in the fourth, and Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist plated them on a single and a double along with Miguel Montero's two-run single. Hoffman couldn't record an out in the fifth and was removed after Bryant's three-run homer, which Statcast™ projected at 469 feet. Bryant broke a tie with Colorado's Nolan Arenado for the NL lead (31).
"There's still a lot of season left, but for me, I just kind of went into this year working on making a little more contact, and I think having that approach has allowed me to tap into more power," Bryant said. "I've always been the type to hit the ball in the air and hit home runs, so if I'm going to be able to make more contact, I just think more home runs are going to result from that."
Hoffman was banged up for seven hits with two strikeouts and one walk. He was removed after 77 pitches, which is one pitch more than he has thrown in any of his last five Minor League outings.
"I wasn't getting ahead as much as I should have been, which opens up a whole world of opportunities for guys in the box," Hoffman said.
The Rockies could not touch Cubs starter Mike Montgomery, who was making his first start for Chicago, for most of the game. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth and was removed after Nick Hundley's home run broke up the bid with one out in the inning. Montgomery struck out five in 4 1/3 innings but was not eligible for the win. Trevor Cahill (3-3) worked the final 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
"We never really figured out Montgomery, first time seeing him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's got a good fastball-breaking ball mix. I felt like we expanded a little bit for him, but it looks like there's some deception."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Montero, Rockies killer: Montero went 3-for-5 with three RBIs -- two on his fourth-inning single and another on a seventh-inning single. In 90 career games against the Rockies, he has accumulated 80 RBIs, and his .281/.351/.512 line against the Rockies coming into the game is well above his career .258/.341/.414 line. He has a .294 career average at Coors Field.
"I haven't played much, so back then when I played every day I did feel more comfortable coming here and playing here," Montero said. "I'm always believing in myself, and I believe what I can do, so today is obviously one of those days that I try to help the team some way, somehow. I try to put the bat on the ball. Like I said, I haven't played enough, and it's hard to get your timing going. Luckily I found the holes today, and I got a couple RBIs to help the team."
Shifted out of gear: With Dexter Fowler at third and no outs in the fourth, Bryant and Hoffman jousted until Bryant poked the 10th pitch through the right side of an infield shifted to the left to drive in the game's first run. Three of the Cubs' five hits that inning were on the ground and two of them beat shifts. But it all added up to a 4-0 deficit for Hoffman, who had given up just one hit the first time through the order.
"We didn't fare too well tonight with our alignment, and they found some holes," Weiss said. "That's what they do. They put the ball in play. It's a high-contact club. They found some grass and got some big hits on top of it."
Montgomery fills in admirably: Montgomery was moved from the bullpen to the rotation when starter John Lackey was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with a right shoulder strain. Montgomery was making just his third start in 40 appearances and was effective in his 60 pitches, 39 for strikes. He has lowered his ERA to 2.77 since the Cubs acquired him from the Mariners in July.
"It was almost like Spring Training for him tonight," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Just stretching him out to the point that you're comfortable with the guy progressing. I thought he was outstanding. Would I have loved to have left him out there? Of course. But in the larger picture, we're thinking he can be very helpful for us. Putting your Spring Training cap on was the right thing." More >
Rescue Rusin: After Hoffman departed, lefty Chris Rusin held the Cubs to one run and six hits in three innings. In his last three appearances, Rusin has given up one run and 10 hits in nine innings.
"He has great command of his off-speed pitches, and the fastball has been located really well. A very good curveball, and a nice changeup off that and with that a two-seam fastball that runs and gets the ball on the ground and a four-seam fastball that he can strike you out with. He's got really good command of everything right now, but the thing that's impressive is the ability to throw a breaking ball for a strike." -- Maddon, on Montgomery
"I definitely wanted to stay in ... but I understand the situation and the pitch count. That's just how it goes. I felt good, but I respected the decision, and I wasn't worried about that. I was just going out there and put up as many zeros until they take you out." -- Montgomery
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Right-hander Jason Hammel (13-5, 2.75 ERA) takes on his former team as the Cubs wrap up a three-game set against the Rockies on Sunday at 3:10 p.m. CT. Hammel has not allowed a run in 22 innings, and his 0.95 ERA since the All-Star break is tops in the NL.
Rockies: Lefty Jorge De La Rosa went six innings and finished with a no-decision in his last start, a home loss to the Nationals. De La Rosa (7-7, 5.29) will face the Cubs on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. MT in the deciding game of a three-game set at Coors.