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Cubs Fall Behind In Wild Card Chase

Now the kidding must stop.

Kurt Abbott, teased by his teammates for failing to hit a home run since coming to the Colorado Rockies in a trade with Oakland on June 9, hit a three-run shot to help the Rockies beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 Saturday night.

Chicago's Sammy Sosa didn't homer, but Abbott and teammate Larry Walker did, and Bobby Jones pitched seven strong innings.

Sosa, who remained at 53 and one behind St. Louis' Mark McGwire in their pursuit of Roger Maris' single-season homer record of 61, went 1-for-4 with an infield single and two strikeouts.

Walker, Abbott and Dante Bichette, who went 4-for-5, helped the Rockies build a 7-0 lead through four innings.

"The guys kid around with me in batting practice, saying I'm the only position player on the team without a home run," Abbott said. "I'd say, `I've got a few in my career (45 in parts of six seasons).' They'd say, `No, we're not talking about careers, we're talking about now.'

"So they can't say that anymore."

Abbott, making only his 14th start this season for the Rockies, put Colorado ahead 5-0 with his 439-foot homer to center field in the third inning.

"I knew I hit it pretty good," Abbott said. "But I didn't know how high it was and whether it would hit off the wall. I didn't even see where it went over, I just ran hard until I knew it was over."

Jones (7-7) allowed only three hits and one run in his seven-inning stint, striking out a career-high eight.

Rockies manager Don Baylor said Jones "had a real good sharp slider that he kept down and in on right-handers. What helped him out was his control early. He threw strikes and was always ahead. He shut down a club that had been real aggressive the last two nights and had scored a lot of runs."

Chicago's Glenallen Hill, who had three of the Cubs' five hits, belted a 448-foot, two-run homer off Curtis Leskanic in the ninth.

With the loss, the Cubs fell one game behind the New York Mets in the NL wild-card race.

"I have managed against Abbott enough over the years to know he has real good power," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said.

Defending an intentional walk to Todd Helton just before Abbott's at-bat, Riggleman said, "Helton has been sticking hits out there every time up. I think walking him was the way to go.

"Jones threw a heck of a game. When a guy is throwing that well, you have to find a way to scratch out of a couple of hits or baserunners. We couldn't do that tonight."

Sosa said Jones "threw me pretty much all sliders and pitched me pretty good. I didn't show a lot of patience, and that's why I struck out twice."

Walker went 2-for-4 to overtake New York's John Olerud for the NL batting lead with a .3427 average Bichette is next at .3422, and Olerud, who went 1-for-5, is at .3418.

Walker hit a solo homer, his 19th, in the first off Mark Clark (7-13). Abbott singled to lead off the second, advanced to third on a pair of groundouts and scored on Darryl Hamilton's single.

In the third, Bichette doubled, Helton was intentionally walked and, with two outs, Abbott homered.

The Rockies chased Clark in the fourth with two more runs. Hamilton walked, Walker singled and Bichette and Vinny Castilla each had RBI singles.

Jones set the Cubs down in order in the first, third and fifth innings, allowing only two hits to that point, both to Hill. The Cubs threatened in the fourth when left fielder Bichette dropped Mark Grace's popup for an error and Hill singled off the right-field wall, but Jones then struck out Gary Gaetti for the third out.

Jones lost his shutout bid in the sixth. Right fielder Walker lost Jose Hernandez's fly ball in the twilight, and it fell for a triple. Hernandez scored on Grace's groundout.

Jones, who didn't walk a batter in his first six innings, walked both Hill and Gaetti leading off the seventh but worked out of the jam.

Sosa, who hit his 53rd homer on Friday night, struck out in his first two at-bats, flied out his next time up and had an infield single in the ninth.

Notes:

  • Abbott had two homers earlier this season for Oakland, his last coming on June 6.
  • Castilla and Helton each extended their hitting streaks to 10 games.
  • Clark has gone 1-4 in his last seven starts.
  • Bichette, who leads the NL with 193 hits, has had nine games this season with four or more hits.
  • The outcome ended Chicago's three-game winning streak and Colorado's three-game losing streak.
  • Castilla's first-inning double gave him 1,500 total bases in his career.

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