Cubs stumble into Colorado after marathon loss

DENVER — Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta saw action Sunday, the day before his scheduled start against the Colorado Rockies.

However, it was merely a pinch-hitting appearance, so it shouldn’t have any impact on his performance in the opener of a three-game series at Coors Field.

What could have an effect on the Cubs is the fact that they played until 1:14 a.m. CDT on Monday, losing 5-4 to the New York Yankees in 18 innings.

The Cubs used seven relievers for a total of 11 innings, and four of them threw at least 30 pitches, so Arrieta (4-1, 4.63 ERA) figures to have little backup.

In three career starts against Colorado, Arrieta is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA. In his only start at Coors Field, Arrieta allowed a career-high 13 hits and a career-high-tying nine runs during a 13-4 loss on Aug. 6, 2014.

Arrieta will be attempting to slow Rockies first baseman Mark Reynolds, who homered in all three games of Colorado’s weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies won two of three, including a 5-2 victory Sunday.

Re-signing Reynolds wasn’t a high priority for the Rockies last winter. They were looking for a right-handed bat off the bench, someone who could change a game with one swing, when they signed him to a minor league contract Feb. 1.

The deal carried a base salary of $1.5 million, a paltry sum considering Reynolds’ output already in the young season.

Reynolds is hitting .321 through 31 games and is tied for the team lead in RBI (27) and runs (20) with a .379 on-base percentage and .661 slugging percentage.

Reynolds was the Rockies’ primary first baseman last year. He assumed that job again to begin this season because Ian Desmond, who was signed as a free agent to play first base, began the year on the disabled list as he recovered from a broken left hand, the result of getting hit with a pitch March 12.

Desmond was reinstated April 30 but has started five games in left field and only two at first base because Reynolds has been so productive. Desmond is hitting .258 with two homers and three RBIs but has struck out 12 times. He has one hit in his past 12 at-bats with six strikeouts.

Reynolds has made it difficult for manager Bud Black not to write his name in the lineup.

“I want to keep playing,” Reynolds said. “If you want to play, you got to produce, especially in my situation. I’m just trying to produce every night and hopefully be in there the next day.”

The Rockies will be looking for production from Antonio Senzatela, who will face the Cubs for the first time in his seventh career start. Senzatela (4-1, 2.84 ERA) is 2-1 with a 3.15 in three starts at Coors Field.

Colorado (20-12) has won six of the past nine games and is off to the second-best start in franchise history through 32 games. The Rockies were 21-11 in 1997.

“Two out of three will get you to the playoffs,” Reynolds said, “and that’s what we preach around here. You’re not going to win every game, but try to win series. That’ll get you to October. That’s what we’re pulling for.”

The Cubs (16-15) have lost seven of their past 11 games after a 3-4 homestand that left them 7-9 at Wrigley Field. They have a better road record (9-6), but that is small solace going into their Monday night game with the Rockies, the start of a six-game, seven-day trip that will also take the Cubs to St. Louis.

Chicago’s 18-inning loss Sunday capped a three-game sweep by the Yankees. Cubs pitchers registered 22 strikeouts, but Chicago manager Joe Maddon was not happy that his hitters struck out a franchise-record 26 times.

“I know (the Yankees) are good, their pitchers are, but we have to do better than that,” Maddon said of his hitters. “We have to make adjustments. We were not making adjustments.”