Cubs aim for to extend win streak vs. Rockies

CHICAGO — When the Chicago Cubs stumbled out of the gates to begin the season, neither manager Joe Maddon nor his players panicked.

As the Cubs struggled to produce runs, to get quality outings from their starting pitching as well as battling the elements, Maddon predicted things would quickly turn for the better.

The Cubs enter May on a five-game winning streak after Monday night’s 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Jon Lester added to what had already been an impressive string of showings from Cubs starters and the Cubs continued to score just enough runs to keep their winning ways alive.

But even before the Cubs’ run of success moved them six games above .500 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Rockies, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had already liked what he had seen.

Now, as the Cubs turn the page into May, Epstein expects more of the same.

“The biggest thing I like is how many guys seem to be really growing and getting better, and as a team, too,” Epstein said Monday. “I said the other day, too, when we were close to .500, I said I’d rather have the record we had but with the growth and certain guys facing some difficult stretches and coming out of it and making adjustments that I think will serve them well for the rest of the season. …

“I’m proud of what our guys have done in April and how it sets us up going forward.”

The Cubs will turn to Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 3.10 ERA) to keep the winning streak alive. He is coming off his best outing of the year when he pitched seven shutout innings and allowed just four hits against the Milwaukee Brewers while striking out five. Hendricks is 2-2 with a 4.20 ERA in seven career starts against the Rockies.

While the Cubs have been rolling of late, the Rockies will enter Tuesday’s game having lost three straight.

The Rockies have struggled offensively during their recent skid but got a boost Monday when right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was activated after missing nine games with a right hamstring strain.

Gonzalez did not start due to being a bad matchup with Lester but collected a hit in a pinch-hitting role in Monday’s loss. Gonzalez returned just as second baseman D.J. LeMahieu was placed on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to Saturday) with a right hamstring strain.

But considering how well Gonzalez has performed at Wrigley during his career (.247, eight home runs and 15 RBI in 24 games), he hopes to contribute to the Rockies’ offensive chances in the final two games of the series this week.

“This is a place that I really enjoy playing in, great atmosphere, good team,” Gonzalez told reporters before Monday’s game. “Overall, it’s going to be a great series. We’re all excited to get going.”

Right-hander Jon Gray (2-4, 5.79) will take the mound for the Rockies and, like Hendricks, will be coming off an impressive outing. Gray struck out 11, held the San Diego Padres to three hits and didn’t allow a run in six innings on April 25.

Gray is 0-1 in his lone career start against the Cubs, which took place earlier this season when he allowed seven runs (six earned) in a 16-5 Cubs victory on April 20.