The Rockies would have been more than pleased if the All-Star break came a month early.
In mid-June, they were still hovering a few games above .500 and 2 1/2 games back in the National League West. But the Rockies have battled to stay in playoff contention since, with injuries to Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler playing a significant part in the team falling four games below .500 and 4 1/2 games behind the D-backs in the division.
After earning a badly-needed split against the Dodgers with a 3-1 victory on Sunday, Colorado will put its best foot forward when lefty Jorge De La Rosa (9-5, 3.21 ERA) opens a three-game set against the surging Cubs on Friday at Coors Field. Eyeing his fourth straight start without allowing more than three runs, De La Rosa will look to slow a Chicago team that won six of its last eight to end the first half.
"De La Rosa has had an outstanding first half after being one of the guys that didn't pitch last year," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
De La Rosa will try to keep a surprising run of dominance from the starting staff going beyond the All-Star break, as Colorado's starters boast a 2.23 ERA over their last eight games.
"I'm encouraged by the way we played and the way we competed and the way our pitchers -- our starters in particular -- have performed, considering we started the year with four guys that virtually didn't pitch last year," Weiss said.
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija (5-9, 4.06 ERA) will try to bounce back from one of his ugliest starts of the year. The right-hander allowed nine earned runs -- serving up a career-high four homers -- in a season-low 4 2/3 innings in a 13-2 loss to the Angels last Wednesday.
Samardzija, who held a very respectable 3.54 ERA before his last start, leads the club with 128 strikeouts and has a considerably better ERA on the road (2.71) than at Wrigley Field (5.46).
"Look at my career -- my first half isn't always my bread and butter," said Samardzija, who is 16-22 with a 4.38 ERA in the first half and 10-9 with a 3.63 ERA in the second half during his career. "I enjoy seeing that end of the season and making that push at the end of the year."
Rockies: Bats carry through first half
Even for a club known more for its sluggers than its aces and calls hitter-friendly Coors Field home, the Rockies posted historic offensive numbers through their first 96 games.
The Rockies' 880 hits are the second-most in franchise history and the most in the league. Their 107 home runs are also their most in a decade and their 426 runs are second-most in the league and the highest total for Colorado since 2010.
Cubs: Lake expected to join team
Infielder/outfielder Junior Lake, MLB.com's No. 9 Cubs prospect, is expected to be promoted prior to Friday's game in place of Brian Bogusevic (hamstring), who is headed to the disabled list.
Lake, 23, is hitting .295 at Triple-A Iowa with four home runs, 10 doubles and 14 stolen bases. The promotion could be brief, as outfielder David DeJesus (sprained right shoulder) is at the team's complex in Mesa, Ariz., and could play in Rookie League games next week.
• The Cubs, 42-51 overall, are 13 games above .500 when their starter turns in a quality start. Chicago starters are 29-11 with a 2.09 ERA in those outings.
• With 16 homers and 10 stolen bases, outfielder Alfonso Soriano is the first Cub to lead the team in both homers and stolen bases at the All-Star break since Sammy Sosa did it in 1998.
• After allowing just one run over six innings Sunday, Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin will head into the break with a 3.50 ERA, his lowest at this point in the season since 2011.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.