The fresh-start thing worked great for the Cubs on Tuesday night.
It was what came after the start that was their problem against the Rockies. As in not much of anything.
Anthony Rizzo’s ballyhooed return to the leadoff spot had the desired sudden impact of a leadoff home run.
But just as suddenly, the Cubs’ bats went quiet against Rockies starter Jon Gray in a 3-1 loss on a warm, humid night with a 16-mph wind blowing out at Wrigley Field.
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“I don’t think the approach changes. I think maybe you grip your intensity a little bit harder, which is a negative in this game,” Rizzo said of the hitter-friendly wind conditions. “You see the wind blowing so much here that when it does blow out, as hitters you’ve got to be ready to tell yourself to be more relaxed.”
The loss snapped the Cubs’ five-game winning streak and cost them sole possession of first place in the National League Central. The Brewers moved into a tie after beating the Reds.
Gray, whom the Cubs passed on to take Kris Bryant second overall in the 2013 draft, retired nine in a row after Rizzo’s homer and gave up just two hits the rest of the way in seven innings.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he liked how moving Rizzo worked.
“I felt good about it. We weren’t striking out [until late],” he said. “We were moving the ball. Gray got better game-in-progress. He got sharper.”
Gray’s only trouble came on a one-out triple into the right-field corner by Kyle Schwarber in the seventh inning that awakened the slumbering home crowd. But Victor Caratini and Jason Heyward hit the snooze button with a strikeout and foul pop behind the plate to leave Schwarber standing at third.
Gray’s gem came just 11 days after the Cubs pounded the right-hander in a 16-5 win in Colorado.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (2-2) pitched well enough to win on most nights, allowing only four hits and pitching two outs into the eighth.
But three of his four hits were solo homers to the top three batters in the Rockies’ order, including Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl leading off the game during a first inning that had Hendricks visibly frustrated by umpire Laz Diaz’s strike zone.
“After the inning, I said, ‘Keep making those pitches; they’re going to come back to you,’ ” Maddon said. “ ‘I just think you may have ambushed the umpire early on in the game.’ ”
After Nolan Arenado’s leadoff homer in the fourth, Hendricks retired 14 of the next 15 before he walked Blackmon with two out in the eighth and was replaced by lefty Justin Wilson.
Hendricks pitched with a man in scoring position only once all night, after Blackmon’s leadoff walk in the sixth and a one-out stolen base.
Blackmon’s home run leading off the game snapped the Cubs’ rotation’s streak of 33⅔ consecutive innings without allowing an earned run — the longest streak in the majors since the Nationals went 47⅓ innings in 2015.
The Cubs’ five consecutive starts without an earned run marked the longest streak for the franchise since another five-gamer 106 years ago.
But the problem on this night obviously was not pitching.
Rizzo’s fourth career leadoff homer in 15 starts in the top spot notwithstanding, the Cubs continued to sputter at the plate since the beginning of the homestand.
It was their seventh consecutive game scoring three runs or fewer — the first time in the last six of those that it cost them a game.
Maddon said Rizzo will move back down to the middle of the order Wednesday against left-hander Tyler Anderson.