Late-inning breakdown haunts Rox

Late-inning breakdown haunts Rox

CHICAGO -- The wind at Wrigley Field blew just right for the Rockies early on Friday afternoon. But by the end, a pair of eight-run leads had floated away, and the Rockies' mood went from breezy to deep blue.

"It's a 'same thing that can make you laugh can make you cry type of thing,'" first baseman Todd Helton said, although the improbable 10-9 loss to the Cubs before a crowd of 39,686 made a strong case for crying in baseball.

The Rockies, who coughed up a late lead in Thursday night's 8-4 loss, have dropped five straight to drop to 20-35. Just seven months after playing in the World Series, the Rockies are further below .500 than they've been since finishing the 2005 season at 67-95.

"We've got enough men out there that continue to find ways to challenge one another," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "If I see something individually, I'll handle that. We know where we are, we know what's at stake.

"You've got to find a way to put this one away, the quicker, the better."

But this one should live for awhile in Rockies statistical annals and oddities, for several reasons:

• The Rockies tied a club record by blowing eight-run leads of 8-0 through 3 1/2 innings and 9-1 through 5 1/2. The only other times they lost such a big advantage were against the Cubs -- Sept. 30, 2006 at Wrigley in a game the Rockies won, and June 22, 1999 at Coors Field in one the Cubs took.

• Helton, who hadn't hit a home run off a left-handed pitcher all season, went deep against Ted Lilly for three runs during the Rockies' four-run first. It was Helton's fifth homer off a lefty pitcher since 2004, when he hit seven. The wind continued to work for the Rox when Chris Iannetta knocked a two-run homer in the third and Ryan Spilborghs added a solo shot in the fourth.

• The Rockies' Jeff Baker set a club record with four doubles, and tied a Major League record by doubling in four consecutive at-bats. The last double came in the top of the seventh, when the Rockies had a seemingly safe 9-4 lead. Baker was removed for defensive purposes. But no glove man, it turns out, can keep a ball from sailing over the fence.

Even in such a bafflingly bad season, such a legendary collapse was not supposed to happen with right-hander Aaron Cook pitching. Cook has seven wins -- more than a third of the club's total for the year -- and the club was 8-3 in his starts.

Through five innings, Cook had held the Cubs to one run and four hits.

By the time he'd left, he had given up three home runs -- a Kosuke Fukudome two-run longball, followed immediately by a Jim Edmonds solo shot in the sixth, and Henry Blanco's two-run shot in the seventh. Cook left after Micah Hoffpauir followed the Blanco homer with a single.

Cook's first career start at Wrigley went from a potentially memorable one to a mess -- 6 1/3 innings, 10 hits, seven earned runs.

"Right there guys came out and did their job on offense," said Cook, who wasn't affected by the wind on his 11 ground-ball outs. "Pitchers ... me, especially, just didn't take care of shutting the door.

"You never think you can lose a game that you're up 9-1, but you've still got to go out there and still play. That's why we play 27 outs. We didn't finish the game today."

Hurdle said, "Aaron went out there and gave it everything he had. Today really wasn't a good day if you left anything up and over the plate.

"You saw the gale. Balls get hit here on days like today, they ride it out of the ballpark. You saw it on both sides."

Manuel Corpas (0-3) replaced Cook with the score 9-6, and completed the awful day by yielding a two-run Edmonds double and a delirium-inducing Mark DeRosa two-run homer on an ineffective slider.

As if the loss wasn't enough, the scoreboard showed the Rockies, momentarily at least, in last place in the Majors while the Cubs have the best record in the big leagues.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.