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CHC@COL: Betancourt escapes jam to seal Rockies' win

DENVER -- The Rockies wrapped up their home season on a postive note on Thursday, winning their fourth consecutive game, 7-5, to sweep the series against the Cubs and give their fans a taste of why it's worth waiting 'til next year.

"That's a very good way to end our home season, with a sweep," manager Jim Tracy said. "Once again we started real good offensively. I believe we had the first four guys get base hits, although we took advantage of a couple dribblers."

The Rockies started six rookies on Thursday, par for the course at the end of an injury-riddled season. And for the eighth game in a row, the rookies notched 10 hits or better. It was as good an antidote as fans could ask for from a team 32 games under .500, and the youth brigade gave the 30,288 fans a reason to come back.

"You're beginning to see a belief in themselves that they belong here as Major Leaguers," Tracy said of the young positon players. "With the guys you don't have available, the surplus of quality position players is really special."

Colorado came out of the gate swinging, getting consecutive hits from their first four batters, including three infield singles and a three-run homer by Jordan Pacheco for a 3-0 lead.

"We're just trying to go out there and put as many runs up as we can, like any other team," Pacheco said. "Once you see somebody get a hit and somebody else get a hit, it's definitely contagious. That's how big innings are started."

What was contagious for the Rockies was a plague for Cubs starting pitcher Chris Volstad, who gave up all seven runs on 10 hits and a hit batsman in just three innings.

"The first inning pretty much killed me," Volstad said. "Home runs got me again. One was a fastball, one was a breaking ball. There's no reason to hang that breaking ball, and there's no reason to leave that fastball up. I've got to make better quality pitches in that situation."

The other home run came when DJ LeMahieu added a two-run blast to left as the second batter in the second, and Colorado added another pair of runs in the third as Pacheco and Tyler Colvin each singled and Chris Nelson hit an RBI single up the middle, followed by a sacrifice fly to center from Matt McBride to make it 7-2.

"Our hitters were jumping," Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin said. "The only thing you can do is try to get zeros, get quick innings and get the hitters to keep going, keep hitting and scoring."

Chacin offered what's come to be thought of as a "Coors quality" start, lasting five innings and yielding three runs on seven hits and four walks. He threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes, scattering single runs in the second, third, and fourth innings.

"When he was down in the strike zone, they hit groundballs," Tracy said. "But he left some two strike pitches up which got him into trouble and [that] produced some base hits."

Chacin pitched through traffic in every inning and loaded the bases in the fifth before inducing back-to-back groundouts to end the inning and escape unscathed. The first was a hard comebacker, and it was all Chacin could do to get the ball home for one out before getting an inning-ending roller to Pacheco at first in the next at-bat.

Relievers Josh Outman, Adam Ottavino, and Rex Brothers combined for three scoreless innings of two-hit ball to hold the lead and hand it over to Matt Belisle in the ninth.

Leading 7-3, Belisle gave up a pair on three hits to bring the Cubs within two. Closer Rafeal Bettancourt came on for a dramatic 31st save, striking out Starlin Castro and Josh Vitters with runners on second and third, then getting Anthony Recker to ground to short to secure the win.

The final play showcased two bright lights of the season as rookie shortstop Josh Rutledge went behind the bag at second to scoop up the grounder and throw off balance. He bounced the ball a yard before first, but Pacheco picked it, saving two runs and the game.

"Rutledge did an amazing job," Pacheco said. "He gets to a lot of balls, especially up the middle, so I knew he had a chance at that ball. He threw it over there, and I kind of just closed my eyes and was hoping I got it."

Dexter Fowler's entrance as a defensive replacement in center in the ninth inning was a welcome sign, given the fact that he'd had a precautionary MRI earlier in the day to ensure that his strained left wrist wasn't worse than the Rockies thought.

Colorado's 35 home wins are its lowest tally since the strike-shortened 1994 season, when the club went 25-32 in the old Mile High Stadium. The Rockies avoided matching their franchise worst 95 losses, and need one more win in their final six games to avoid a 100-loss season.

Following the game, the team completed its traditional lap around the field, showing their appreciation to Rockies fans. The club has drawn over 2.6 million for five straight years while finishing third, second, third, fourth and fifth in the five-team National League West.

"This fan base in this community, regardless of whether it's the Rockies, Avalanche, Nuggets, or Broncos, are as special a group of people as I've ever been around, and I've been to a number of places to be able to compare and contrast," Tracy said. "They're unbelievable. They love their teams. They support their teams. They're very special that way. They become 'Rockies Nation' because they support you whether it's good or otherwise. They're still here, obviously hopeful that they're going to get better."

"I personally feel it has a chance to get better, real good, as a matter of fact, sooner than later, if we continue to move forward with these young people."

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