DENVER (AP) - It took two weeks for a starting pitcher to finally lose a game for the Colorado Rockies, although neither the bullpen nor the lineup had his back.
Jason Hammel (1-1) was tagged with the loss Saturday night when the Chicago Cubs ended Colorado's seven-game winning streak with an 8-3 thumping that also snapped their own six-game skid in Denver.
Hammel wasn't bad, allowing just three earned runs on seven hits over six innings, but Felipe Paulino blew up in the seventh by allowing five runs on five hits in just one-third of an inning, and Colorado's rock-solid rotation had its first blemish.
Cubs leadoff hitter Starlin Castro set the tone by getting three of his four hits off Hammel.
``He's an aggressive hitter but if you can pitch inside to him it opens up the outside corner for you, because he's so aggressive he'll chase the slider off the plate,' Hammel said. ``But when you can't establish the outside corner, he gets pretty comfortable at the plate and his whole game plan is to use the big part of the field.
``His third at-bat was a hanging slider (which he smacked for a double) and the other ones were fastballs that just weren't in.'
Castro's big blow came against Paulino, a three-run homer that sealed the Cubs' win.
Despite missing ace Ubaldo Jimenez (thumb), the Rockies' rotation had been 9-0 during the team's Major League-best 11-2 start.
The Rockies were missing Carlos Gonzalez (soreness) and Todd Helton (rest) from their starting lineup Saturday night, and it sure showed.
So efficient while jumping out to a baseball-best 11-2 start, the Rockies were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base.
``That's not a very good formula for success,' Colorado manager Jim Tracy lamented. ``But we kept playing. We were a hitter away in the bottom of the eighth inning from really making it interesting, even at 8-3.'
Casey Coleman scattered four hits while working into the sixth inning. Alfonso Soriano also went deep for the Cubs, whose win ended a six-game skid at Coors Field that dated to Aug. 9, 2009.
The Rockies hadn't been blown out all year, losing just twice in their first 13 games, both in extra innings.
Despite walking three and hitting two batters, Coleman (1-0) kept the Rockies off balance while giving up just four hits and one run, which came in the second when Troy Tulowitzki tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly that tied the game at 1.
The Cubs, who had 17 hits, broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth when Coleman slapped a one-out single to center and took third on Castro's double down the left-field line. Coleman scored on Darwin Barney's slow roller to first baseman Jason Giambi.
Soriano made it 3-1 in the sixth with his fifth homer, which came off Hammel.
The Cubs put it away with a five-run seventh inning with all the runs coming off righty Felipe Paulino, who allowed hits to five of the six batters he faced and was charged with five earned runs. He saw his ERA jump from 1.59 to 9.00.
Castro's blow was the big one. He sent an 0-1 offering into the left field stands for his first homer, which made it 6-1.
``Obviously, that guy was a complete nemesis tonight, period,' Tracy said.
Before Castro's big blow, Blake DeWitt hit a single past Giambi after Koyie Hill's bunt base hit. Had the smooth-fielding Helton, who pinch-hit in the sixth, stayed in the game, he might have started an inning-ending double play on the DeWitt's groundball and limited the damage.
Tracy said he never considered keeping Helton in the game, however.
``No. No. Because if I was going to use him, it was going to be in a situation like that to pinch-hit, but not to put him out there and play him knowing I'm coming back and am going to play him tomorrow. Don't want to grind on him like that, no way.'
Tracy wanted to give Tulowitzki the day off Sunday with the Giants coming into town Monday but his star shortstop talked him out of it.
``I just walked up to him and I talked to him about (how) the San Francisco series was not going to be an option, and he looked at me and said, 'Tracy, I'm good.' And as long as he's good and the head trainer's good with the fact that we're not grinding him too hard, then we'll let him keep going out there.'
Notes: RHP Alan Johnson will make his major league debut Sunday when the Rockies wrap up their three-game series with the Cubs. Johnson, 27, has spent six-plus seasons in the minor leagues, going 56-42 with a 4.55 ERA. ... Tulowitzki's walk-up song before his at_bats at Coors Field is ``Baby,' by teen heartthrob Justin Beiber. Hanging in his locker Saturday night was a bright purple Beiber T-shirt.
The Associated Press News Service
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