Kerry Wood is accustomed to pitching under pressure, but his first relief appearance this season in a crucial situation turned to disaster for the Cubs on Sunday at Coors Field.
Wood entered a tie game in the sixth inning and promptly gave up three runs in a 6-3 loss to Colorado.
With Milwaukee losing to Houston, the Cubs remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers.
The Cubs finished the road trip at 2-5 and ended their stretch of 20 games in 20 days with a 9-11 record. They'll get a day off Monday before opening a seven-game homestand at Wrigley Field against Cincinnati on Tuesday.
"We're fortunate to be a game and a half out of first place," manager Lou Piniella said. "We've had a rough 20 days and we've had some injuries, and hopefully we'll be a little healthier when we come home."
Despite going 9-13 since July 21, the Cubs have lost only one game in the standings to Milwaukee. Neither team has stepped up, and suddenly St. Louis has crept to within 5 1/2 games of first, despite being five games under .500.
"We're still in good position," Wood said. "We've got a great team. We're aware of that. Thank God Milwaukee loses when we lose, because we could either be 10 games ahead of them or 10 games behind them. So for us to be right there with them and not losing too much ground . . . we need to get a couple guys healthy and get back on a roll.
"We've hit a little bit of a speed bump, but we're still playing good. We just need to keep it rolling and not dwell on all the negative stuff."
Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki homered and drove in three runs for the Rockies, who earned a series split after losing the first two games.
Piniella used the same lineup for the fourth straight game, but the fourth time was not a charm. After getting five hits in the three-run fourth to take a 3-2 lead, the next 14 Cubs hitters went down in order before Jason Kendall walked with one out in the ninth. The Cubs finished with no hits in their final 16 at-bats.
"We had chances early in the ballgame," Piniella said. "We didn't take advantage of it."
The absence of Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez put the load on Derrek Lee's shoulders, but Lee finished the trip at .154 (4-for-26) with no extra-base hits. Ramirez is expected back Tuesday.
Wood replaced starter Sean Marshall in the sixth with the game tied 3-3 and issued a one-out walk to Geronimo Gil. Pinch-hitter Ian Stewart drilled a double to right before Piniella ordered an intentional walk to Kaz Matsui, loading the bases.
After quickly falling behind Tulowitzki, Wood served up a two-run double on a 93-m.p.h. fastball to give the Rockies the lead. Matt Holliday drove in the final run of the inning with an RBI groundout, and the Cubs were toast.
"We all want to be in that situation," Wood said. "But when you come in and you're behind in the count, it makes your job a lot tougher."
Tim Harikkala, a 36-year-old journeyman who had not pitched in the majors since 2005 and hadn't started a game since 1996 when he played for Piniella in Seattle, held the Cubs scoreless over the first three innings until falling apart in the fourth.
Trailing 2-0, the Cubs strung together three straight hits, with Kendall's RBI single pulling them to within a run. The Cubs tied it on Felix Pie's RBI groundout, then took the lead on Ryan Theriot's opposite-field RBI single.
The Rockies tied it in the fifth on Tulowitzki's solo homer before taking the lead against Wood.
Now the Cubs have to regroup at home against Cincinnati and St. Louis.
"Luckily we're still right there," Theriot said. "Hopefully we'll play a little bit better when we get home, get everybody healthy."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times