The Rockies (46-51) entered Friday 4 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading D-backs and hoping for a big start to a key 10-game homestand. But even with a healthy lineup, they are not hitting. Before the break, the Rockies split a four-game set at Los Angeles without scoring more than three runs in any contest. They have not scored more than five runs in any of their last 11 games.
In games like that, the pitching must not blink. Starter Jorge De La Rosa certainly didn't. He gave up one run, on Alfonso Soriano's leadoff homer in the fourth (Soriano's 17th) on five hits in six innings. But walks from relievers Edgmer Escalona (1-3) in the seventh and Rex Brothers in the ninth led to difference-making runs.
"We pitched great -- De La Rosa did great, the bullpen did good -- but we didn't score any runs for them," said Michael Cuddyer, who twice grounded into double plays, including the one to end the game as Kevin Gregg earned his 18th save. "That's what tonight came down to."
The Rockies had to settle for pieces of an offense. Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the fourth with a tying homer, his 11th this season -- two shy of his career high. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who missed 25 games with a broken rib then went 0-for-10 at Los Angeles, had two singles and drew a walk during the near-rally in the ninth. But five total hits -- four against Samardzija, who struck out six -- were not nearly enough.
Fowler also returned from an injury, to his right hand, just before the break. Now the Rockies are waiting for the offense that had them in the lead in the division during the first month of the season to reappear.
"I'm not overly concerned about our offense, to be honest," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Getting back to full strength, I think our offense will be rolling."
But not against Samardzija, who also held the Rockies to two runs and five hits in eight innings of a 6-3 Cubs victory at Wrigley Field on May 15.
"He doesn't get a lot of credit, but he's one of the best pitchers I've seen," rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "He threw a lot of pitches for strikes, and that splitter, every time he threw it, it was landing right on the plate."
Samardzija was at his best in the seventh, after Escalona walked Cody Ransom with two outs then yielded Anthony Rizzo's RBI double that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. Samardzija fanned Carlos Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Cuddyer consecutively.
"I got ahead in the count, which helped out a lot," Samardzija said. "Then obviously my splitter got me through that inning; I struck three guys out on it. It was just about being aggressive there."
De La Rosa was solid as well. He threw 98 pitches in six innings but was not as efficient as Samardzija, who threw 105 in 7 1/3. De La Rosa did pitch out of a two-on jam in the second and fanned Rizzo with two outs and two on in the fifth. His only mistake was to Soriano, whose homer tied the slugger with Johnny Bench for 57th on the all-time list with 389.
"My changeup was working, and my slider I threw in any count for a strike," De La Rosa said.
Escalona (1-3), who is counted on to hold games steady until manager Walt Weiss can call upon his strong late relievers (Matt Belisle, Brothers and Rafael Betancourt), gave up his fifth run in six innings since returning from the disabled list in early July after nursing an elbow injury, while Samardzija received clutch relief work from onetime Rockies farmhand Pedro Strop. Brothers walked Cole Gillespie with one out in the ninth to set up Barney's RBI double.
Samardzija received strong work from his relievers. After the Cubs' starter walked Todd Helton to open the eighth, and then Arenado with one out, Strop worked pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco into a flyout to center and fanned Fowler. Gregg escaped his two walks in the ninth by working Cuddyer into the double play.