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CHC@MIL: Garza fans eight over 5 2/3 frames

Cubs manager Mike Quade knows what to expect when his club takes the field on Friday in Colorado.

Coors Field is never an easy place to play.

And it isn't about to get any easier, with the Rockies coming off a 7-1 road trip to greet the Cubs in a place where they historically perform better.

With a doubleheader sweep of the Mets on Thursday in New York, Colorado is the Majors' hottest team, being led by the game's hottest hitter.

Picking up where he left off in September, as though the six-month offseason was no more than a power nap, Troy Tulowitzki has 22 homers in his last 38 games. Seven of them have come this season, the two most recent in the twin bill, with the shortstop going 5-for-8 in the two games to wrap up a 10-for-16 series with eight RBIs.

Tulowitzki's charge has fueled the 10-2 Rockies -- whose only two losses have come in extra innings. It will come as little comfort to the Cubs, and Friday starter Matt Garza, to know that Tulowitzki usually picks it up at Coors Field, where his career average and OPS are 40 and 118 points, respectively, higher than on the road.

"It was embedded in our head that we have to get off to a good start. We left Spring Training with a new mentality, knowing how important this was," said Tulowitzki, alluding to the slow starts which usually have left the Rockies in catch-up mode by midseason.

"Colorado is a difficult place as far as home-field advantages go," Quade said. "They understand the way the ball reacts there, both on the mound and at the plate. It gives them an advantage at home than most places."

The Cubs are coming off a series victory against the Astros but face a bigger challenge in this series. The Cubs went 2-3 against the Rockies last season, with all three losses coming at Coors Field.

"From our standpoint, we try to go in there and play the game as if we were playing anywhere," Quade said. "When you start changing things because you're in Colorado, or San Diego, or wherever, you usually get yourself in trouble."

It will be up to Garza to change Chicago's recent luck in Denver. In his first outing of the season, Garza struck out 12 and gave up 12 hits, both career highs. In his second start, he struck out eight and gave up eight hits.

The Rockies will send Jhoulys Chacin to the mound. Chacin struggled but still walked away with the win against the Pirates in his last start. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers in his first start but has struggled with his fastball command in both of his outings.

Cubs: Patching rotation together
• The Cubs are still looking for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter with Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list. Jeff Samardzija could get a spot start Tuesday against the Padres, but he does not appear to be a long-term solution.

• Carlos Pena, who is hitting .185, was given the day off Wednesday and could return to the lineup Friday. Jeff Baker started in his place.

Rockies: Johnson checks in
• Right-hander Greg Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs soon after going five innings to pick up the Game 1 win over the Mets on Thursday. His place was taken by righty Alan Johnson, for whom room was cleared on the 40-man roster by moving Aaron Cook from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Johnson is expected to make his big league debut by starting Sunday's series finale against the Cubs.

• After sitting out the first game in New York, Chris Iannetta doubled in the third inning of the nightcap to snap an 0-for-16 lull.

• Ubaldo Jimenez touched 97 mph on his fastball and averaged 94 mph on Wednesday during a rehab start against Athletics Minor Leaguers in Scottsdale, Ariz. He could return to the club's rotation Monday at home against the Giants.

Worth noting
Quade is happy with Starlin Castro hitting at the top of the lineup and Darwin Barney batting second. In the three-game series at Houston, the pair batted 1-2 in all three games. Castro is hitting .389 and Barney is hitting .345.

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