The Cubs nearly watched it slip away from them after a five-run sixth from the Rockies. Down a run with one out and one on in the ninth, Aramis Ramirez launched a go-ahead homer deep into the left-field seats, reclaiming the lead and keeping the hopes for the historic victory alive.
The Rockies would tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, but a 10th-inning rally sparked by Geovany Soto's fourth hit of the night and capped by Ryan Theriot's game-winning RBI single gave the Cubs the well-deserved milestone win in the Mile High City.
"I tell you what, as hard to win as this one was, it could have been 15,000," manager Lou Piniella said. "It's a lot of history here with the Cubs. I think it's the second franchise to win 10,000. Congratulations to this organization."
The win was the Cubs' sixth in a row, and though they've rolled along building momentum during the stretch, this benchmark victory was not an easy one.
The Cubs took the early lead in the second with a one-out triple to the right-field corner from Kosuke Fukudome. Mark DeRosa brought him home with a sacrifice fly to center, and Soto doubled the score with a solo homer into the left-field seats. The Cubs added a run in the fifth when Derrek Lee legged out a triple to right -- the second of his four hits -- and Ramirez doubled him home.
For five innings it looked like three runs would be more than enough to overwhelm the Rockies, as Rich Hill held them scoreless on two hits and three walks. Hill ran into trouble in the sixth, however, giving up a leadoff homer to left to Clint Barmes and walking Todd Helton before Piniella went to his bullpen.
"He did fine," Piniella said of Hill's outing. "I wanted to leave him out there. His pitch count wasn't high. I think he could have gone further into the ballgame. We wanted to leave him with a nice positive effort. We just didn't hold onto the lead. Their bats came alive there in the sixth and they put five runs on the board."
It was an improved outing for Hill at Coors Field, where he was 0-2 with an 11.32 ERA coming into the game. He threw 84 pitches in five-plus innings, yielding two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out three.
"Obviously not my best stuff today, but I went out there and worked well with what I had," Hill said. "I went out there and pitched five quality innings. It's something to look forward to for the next start."
Though he ended up with a no-decision and was long gone from the game by the time it ended, Hill was as excited as anyone about the milestone victory for the Cubs.
All-time winningest franchises
(through April 23, 2008)
|1. New York/San Francisco Giants||10,193|
|2. Chicago Cubs||10,000|
|3. Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves||9,706|
|4. Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers||9,462|
|5. Pittsburgh Pirates||9,397|
After Hill left, the bullpen allowed another three runs in the inning, giving Colorado a 5-3 lead after six.
The Cubs battled back in the seventh, scrapping out another run to pull within one before DeRosa lined to short with the bases loaded for an inning-ending double play.
The Cubs didn't offer a significant threat again until Lee connected for his fourth hit of the night, a single to left with one out in the ninth. Facing struggling Rockies closer Manuel Corpas, Ramirez drilled his 1-2 offering for a homer, handing the Rockies their fourth late-inning blown save in as many games.
Kerry Wood (2-0) struck out the side in the ninth, but he blew the save with two outs, when pinch-hitter Scott Podsednik singled up the middle and Ryan Spilborghs tripled him home to tie the game and send it to extras.
The Cubs reclaimed the lead against Kip Wells (1-1) in the 10th with a rally sparked by Soto's leadoff single.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch to drive it," Soto said. "The ball flies out here. [I wanted to make] good solid contact. I got a piece of that slider and hit a little dribbler between the third baseman and shortstop and it got through.
After a sacrifice from Ronny Cedeno, Theriot connected on a two-out run-scoring single for the game-winner.
"I'd been out in front of a few balls, so I was really focusing on just trying to stay up the middle," Theriot explained. "I was fortunate to get a pitch that I was able to handle."
Carlos Marmol secured the save, making the Cubs the only other organization besides the Giants franchise to hit 10,000 in the win column.
Caught up in their six-game winning streak and their 15-6 record, the 10,000th win caught many Cubs off guard, including the two men at either end of the game-winning rally.
"Wow! I didn't even know," said Soto. "The bottom line is it's a long season. It's still early. We'll take all the wins we can right now. We're hot right now, and it's good to see everybody's doing good. Just keep rolling, keep doing it."
Theriot shared his teammate's perspective, keeping his focus on the immediate challenge of winning this season, without allowing himself to be overly distracted by a milestone 132 years in the making.
"It was a lot of fun," Theriot admitted. "Try to win every one that you play. It's a cool benchmark. Something cool to be a part of. It's cool to win all of them."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.