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Cubs bats take care of Rockies again
In a move as rare as a Bigfoot sighting, Lou Piniella started the exact same lineup on Friday night that he used in Thursday's romp over Colorado.
"It worked well [Thursday], so no need changing it," Piniella said before the game. "The team showed some energy and played very well defensively. We got some timely hitting in, so let's go back to the same alignment."
The same alignment worked well again, as Jacque Jones and Matt Murton homered in the Cubs' 6-2 victory over Colorado.
Will Piniella use the same lineup again Saturday?
"Look, whatever's working, it's working," he said.
Jason Marquis allowed one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings, and reliever Bob Howry entered with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth and allowed only one run to score.
The Cubs remained a half-game behind Milwaukee, which beat Houston in extra innings Friday night.
The Cubs' offense that looked so lifeless in Houston has suddenly and inexplicably turned it on against a Colorado staff that came into the weekend with the best earned-run average since the All-Star break.
The Cubs finished with 12 hits off starter Aaron Cook and three relievers, including a two-run single by Jason Kendall, hitting .317 as a Cub, and a 3-for-5 night from Jones, who suddenly is carrying the team on his shoulders.
Jones has multiple-hit games the last three nights and is hitting .373 over his last 20 games. Jones' sixth-inning homer was his first since June 1, and only his third of the year.
"Finally," he said.
Jones, who also had an infield hit and an RBI double, is making himself quite at home in the No. 2 hole.
"I've been in the league eight years for a reason," he said. "It's not a fluke. It's not by accident."
Meanwhile, Murton has homered in three of his last four games, making a bid to monopolize the left-field position while Alfonso Soriano heals from his torn quad muscle. While rumors surfaced Friday that the Cubs put in a claim for White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik, Murton is hoping management has enough faith in his to give him an extended look in left.
"You can't worry about all those things," Murton said. "I think that's one thing I've really learned this year. You can only control what you're controlling right now. I'm just thankful I've had an opportunity to get some consistent at-bats.
"I've been in four out the last five and have had a chance to start. It's probably one of the most consecutive runs I've had this year. I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable at the plate and it's starting to show in my at-bats."
Marquis improved to 9-7, winning on the road for the first time since May 2 in Pittsburgh. He was removed by Piniella after hitting Jeff Baker in the side of the head in the seventh, a scary moment for both Baker and Marquis, who called over to the Rockies' clubhouse to make sure the Rockies knew how badly he felt.
"The pitch got away from me," Marquis said. "You never want to see anything like that. I could've kept going. Obviously, it was Lou's decision to take me out. Unfortunately that happened and, hopefully, the results from the tests come back and he's fine."
The Cubs led 5-1 in the eighth when the Rockies loaded the bases against Carlos Marmol on two infield hits and a walk. But Howry was called on to face the left-handed-hitting Brad Hawpe, inducing him into a pop-out. Troy Tulowitzki brought home a run with a groundout before Howry retired Yorvit Torrealba on a liner to center to end the threat.
With Scott Eyre as the only left-hander in the bullpen, Piniella is counting on Marmol and Howry to face left-handed hitters in late-inning situations.
"I'm glad," Howry said. "I think throughout my career, I probably have better numbers against lefties than righties. I feel confident against either one, and I'm glad he has the confidence to put us out there."