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Rockies' DJ LeMahieu one of the few who got away from Theo Epstein

CHICAGO -- DJ LeMahieu has done a whole lot during his career with the Colorado Rockies. He won a Gold Glove for his work at second base in 2014. He started in the All-Star Game in 2015. Last season, he won the NL batting title by hitting .348, a figure driven by his ridiculous .391 mark at Coors Field.

One thing he had never done was hit a home run at Wrigley Field. Now he has.

LeMahieu’s two-out, three-run homer off Cubs lefty Jon Lester in the second inning provided the Rockies all the runs they needed in a 4-1 win over Chicago on Thursday. It was a victory very much in the modus operandi of this year’s Rockies, who aren’t like last year’s Rockies or really any other version of a franchise that has never won a World Series or a division title.

“Big swing by DJ for sure,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “When you get a three-run homer against a guy like Jon Lester, that’s a big swing.”

With the win, first-place Colorado moved to 22-10 on the road. This is a team that has had a winning road record just once in franchise history -- a 41-40 mark in 2009 -- and has won just 39.5 percent of its road games since it joined the National League in 1993.

“It doesn’t matter where we play,” starter Tyler Chatwood said in defiance of franchise history. “We think we’re going to win every night.”

For LeMahieu, Wrigley Field wasn’t supposed to be just another road trip. Friday marks the eighth anniversary of when the Cubs selected him in the second round out of LSU. He rose through the Cubs' system and made his big league debut at the Friendly Confines on May 30, 2011, against the Astros. He played 37 games for Chicago that season, the one after which the Cubs franchise was reborn under new management.

Does it seem like eight years?

“Eight years ago?” LeMahieu said. “No. It doesn’t seem that long ago at all.”

Books have been written on how Theo Epstein built the Chicago Cubs into world champions, but a crazy little piece of that story is that his very first trade with the franchise didn’t work out so well. About six weeks after he was hired, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer struck their first deal, sending LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin to the Colorado Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. Oops.

Although LeMahieu hadn’t homered at Wrigley before Thursday, he has generally hit well against the Cubs, with a .860 OPS in 30 games.

“I like playing here,” LeMahieu said. “I like playing against these guys. Getting my first homer here at Wrigley, it came at a pretty good time.”

Epstein and Hoyer have crafted a remarkable record in the trade game, often parlaying one trade into another, with the valuable acquisitions seemingly multiplying almost exponentially. But that all started after the LeMahieu deal. None of the other three players in the deal is still in the big leagues. Stewart was supposed to take over for departed free agent Aramis Ramirez at third base for the Cubs, but he hit .201 in 55 games in his only Chicago campaign.

You can’t win them all, and the Cubs have managed just fine despite that trade. For LeMahieu and the Rockies, they are much more interested in getting to where Chicago has already been than settling any old scores. Winning so many games on the road is further evidence that they’re on the right path.

“I think we have the mentality that we’re going to win,” LeMahieu said. “Probably because we don’t get so many questions about [winning on the road], it’s not in our heads all the time. But no, I just feel like we expect to win -- home, road, anywhere.”