DENVER -- Nolan Arenado's discontent came to a head Saturday night, when he and a hitting confidant argued until finding the cause. Arenado provided the solution Sunday afternoon, when he delivered two three-run homers in the Rockies' 11-4 rout of the National League Central-leading Cubs at Coors Field.
Batting-practice pitcher Garrett Carson, whose voice Arenado listens to, thought he was doing things right without good results. But Arenado, 1-for-16 this homestand before Sunday's 4-for-5 performance, knew something was off. Video revealed a slightly longer-than-recommended stride.
A few drills Sunday morning and, boom, boom, the Rockies would take the series and finish a homestand against the NL East-leading Nationals and the Cubs at 4-2. The Cubs had just their fifth loss in the past 24 games and were on the wrong end of a series for the first time since losing both games against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on July 25-26.
"I know what feels good, and I know what feels fast," said Arenado, who noted that he and Carson often work through hitting issues. "My hands felt fast today, which means my body wasn't getting in the way of my swing. It was a good day."
The first Arenado homer, during the Rockies' second seven-run first inning this week (they also did it in Wednesday's 12-10 victory over the Nats), landed just short of the concourse above the left-field stands and ended Cubs starter Jason Hammel's scoreless streak at 22 innings. The second, also off Hammel, reached the concourse, and upped Arenado's total to 32 to regain the NL lead from the Cubs' Kris Bryant (31). His NL-leading 104 RBIs give him his second straight year of 30-plus homer and 100-plus RBIs. Chicago's Addison Russell also had a two-homer game with a pair of solo shots.
"That's the kind of game I really don't dwell on very long," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Who said leadoff walks hurt? Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, who ran his club-record wins total to 86 and his record at Coors Field to 53-19, walked Dexter Fowler to open the fourth. In his last start, a no-decision against the Nationals, a leadoff walk led to a big inning. But this time, he erased Fowler on Bryant's fielder's-choice grounder. After Anthony Rizzo singled, De La Rosa worked Ben Zobrist into a double play.
De La Rosa matched a career high by going eight innings and holding the Cubs to two runs on four hits, with six strikeouts against one walk.
"We know very well he's capable of going out there and giving us a performance like that," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That's a really tough lineup. You've got to execute pitch after pitch. It's a grind." More >
First is the worst: Hammel's 22-inning scoreless streak came to a screeching halt in the first with Arenado's home run, but things didn't get much better after that. The Rockies brought 12 batters to the plate -- scoring seven runs -- and Hammel even gave up a two-run single to De La Rosa -- just his sixth hit of the season.
"I kind of gassed myself there in the first couple innings," Hammel said. "Those first two innings were a lot of pitches. I kind of put myself behind the eight ball there. That's a tough lineup to navigate through. I wasn't able to put them away."
No stopping Wolters: The first-inning, bases-loaded double hit by Wolters, a left-handed-hitting rookie who splits the catching with veteran Nick Hundley, is becoming commonplace. With bases full this season, Wolters is 5-for-7 with three doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs.
Errors sting Cubs: The Cubs tied a season high with four errors, three of which came in the first frame. Rizzo bobbled a grounder that allowed Gerardo Parra to reach, Bryant's throw to second pulled second baseman Javier Baez off the bag, and catcher Willson Contreras was unable to catch a popup in foul territory. Fowler misplayed a double by Wolters two innings later, which allowed him to take an extra base, although Wolters did not come around to score.
"We gave them too many opportunities," Maddon said. "They had to get six outs, Jason did, in the first inning, and that'll wear you down a bit. Had we just caught the ball today, he could've had a different view about it early in the game. We came out first and third, popout, homer, but then we started making too many mistakes. That really put Jason behind the proverbial eight ball."
"He beats himself up pretty hard when he's going through it, but it's just a matter of time before he works through a tough stretch." -- Weiss, on Arenado, who entered Sunday hitting .242 with a .315 on-base percentage and .452 slugging percentage since the All-Star break, after going .287/.359/.570 the first half
"That was a tough mental inning for him right there. I give him a lot of credit because he wasn't staring at anybody. He didn't come in and throw [things] around because we did make it a tough inning for him. I thought he handled it extremely well. He's had two outings -- that one in New York and one here -- otherwise his numbers would be so minuscule you wouldn't recognize them." -- Maddon, on Hammel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his eighth-inning home run, the Rockies' DJ LeMahieu completed a 3-for-4 performance and moved into a tie with the Nationals' Daniel Murphy for the NL batting lead. Both are 150-of-435 for a .345 average.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The Rockies challenged a second-inning call that Arenado was out trying to dive back to first after Parra grounded out to Rizzo. The umpires ruled that the call stood because they could not definitely determine that the ball was separated from the glove when the Rizzo tagged Arenado.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs: Left-hander Jon Lester will make his first ever start at Petco Park on Monday at 9:10 p.m. CT. Lester has held his opponents to two or fewer runs in his past four starts.
Rockies: Righty Chad Bettis, who has eight quality starts on the road this season, will open a three-game series against the Brewers at Miller Park on Monday at 5:20 p.m. MT.