Cubs give Chacon shortest outing of season

CHICAGO (AP) -- If the Chicago Cubs can look this good with only

a few hours of sleep, imagine the possibilities when they're


Taking the field about 14 hours after arriving home from the

West Coast, the Cubs picked on one of the NL's best pitchers for a

7-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday afternoon. Mark

Bellhorn went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, and Sammy Sosa, Ramon

Martinez and Shawn Estes also drove in runs.

"We came out and got the hits we needed against a pretty good

pitcher,'' said Estes, who showed no signs of the back pain that's

been troubling him as he won for the first time since April 15.

"That says a lot about our team because I know guys didn't get

much sleep.''

The Cubs had an afternoon game in San Francisco on Thursday and

didn't get back to Chicago until after well after midnight. Though

manager Dusty Baker told them they could sleep in, most of the

players were at the clubhouse early.

Carrying large cups of coffee and not saying much, but there

early nonetheless.

"Nobody was dragging, nobody was tired,'' said Joe Borowski,

who got the last four outs for his fifth save in as many chances.

"Everybody was ready to go.''

Estes (2-3) had a bad back when he got rocked by Colorado last

weekend, and there was some question if he'd even make this

shutout. But he breezed through this outing, taking a shutout into

the sixth before giving up an RBI single to Todd Helton.

He got into trouble in the eighth as the Rockies scored three

runs and had runners at the corners, but the bullpen bailed him


Estes gave up four runs -- three earned -- and 10 hits in 7 1/3


"He stayed aggressive,'' Charles Johnson said of the difference

in Estes. "He got them deep in the game. He got them out of some

big jams. That's the name of the ballgame.''

While Estes was taking care of the Rockies, the Cubs reached

Shawn Chacon (4-1) for six runs and eight hits in just five

innings, his shortest outing of the year.

He more than doubled his ERA, going from an NL-best 1.04 to

2.27, and looked out of sync all day. He walked four, threw two

wild pitches and also hit a batter.

Not exactly the kind of outing he wanted on a day he was named

the NL pitcher of the month for April.

"There's no explanation for it,'' Chacon said. "My mechanics

might have been out of whack.''

The Cubs got to him early, with Bellhorn leading the way.

Bellhorn has struggled this season, watching his average dip to

.200 after batting .111 in his previous six games.

He hadn't started since Saturday as Baker tried to give him a

break, and the rest worked. He drove in the Cubs' first run with a

double in the second inning, and also had an RBI single and a

sacrifice fly.

"This year's been a little frustrating for me. I think I've

been trying too hard,'' Bellhorn said. "Today I just tried to come

out and have fun.''

Estes' RBI single gave Chicago a 2-0 lead, and the Cubs tacked

on three more runs in the third inning. Alex Gonzalez led off with

a single, taking second on Chacon's wild pitch. Sosa doubled to

deep right, and Gonzalez slid underneath Charles Johnson's arm to

beat the tag at home.

Chacon loaded the bases on back-to-back walks to Hee Seop Choi

and Bellhorn and then forced in a run, giving Chicago a 5-0 lead.

"He couldn't get that big pitch,'' Johnson said of Chacon. "He

needs to put this start behind him and next time throw a gem.''

The Cubs might want to savor this one for a while. They're 17-12

and in first place in the NL Central. Last year, they didn't get

their 17th win until May 23.

"I'll tell you what, it's a heck of a lot better feeling in the

clubhouse,'' Borowski said "Last year at this time, we were pretty

much moping around. We come to the ballpark every day expecting to


"It's just a pleasure to be around.''

Game notes
The Cubs turned a season-high four double plays. ... Both

of Estes' victories have come at home. He has a 2.53 ERA at Wrigley

Field -- and a 16.00 ERA on the road. ... Chacon was trying to match

Brian Bohanon for the best start by a Rockies starter. Bohanon

opened the 1999 season 5-0. ... For the first time in eight games,

Colorado pitchers didn't allow a homer.