ROX MOURN PASSING OF BAYLOR ON TRIP TO CLEVELAND, MIAMI
It’s tempting to remember original Colorado Rockies field manager Don Baylor in terms of foundation building: after all he was the first of now 7 men to lead the team on to battle, but in fact Baylor, who passed-away yesterday at the age of 68, was more of an exploratory figure, more the geotechnical engineer examining the soils below Coors Field, trying to identify the type of foundation that would result in success for a revolutionary major league franchise trying to discover the secret of winning baseball at altitude.
Baylor would be the man to lead the way during the early, salad days at old Mile High Stadium, the inaugural season of 1993 and pre-Coors campaign of 1994. Baylor would lead the Rockies out onto the glistening green grass of a brand new lower downtown stadium in 1995, a place that would energize and symbolize the renaissance of a city that continues to grow at a world-class pace 22 years later, snagging the NL Wild Card playoff slot only 3 years into the team’s history. Baylor would demonstrate for us that pre-humidor Coors Field would play more like Pinball Wizard than than major league baseball, that 10 runs are never enough, and that starting pitchers at altitude are at once difficult to obtain, difficult to maintain, and difficult to retain. Baylor would discover that speed doesn’t necessarily kill, although you’ve got to have it to cover the Coors Field outfield. He’d discover you can get by with barely the notion of a starting rotation, but you’d better have a shut-down bullpen if you want to try it. And he’d discover that all good things eventually come to an end, even the Greatest Show on Earth.
Baylor was gone after a 77-85 season in 1998, rendered irrelevant in an early outbreak of Irrational Exuberance by a Rockies front office that finally had it all figured-out, if only for the first time. It would be less than fitting to contemplate the horrifying events that would follow, but as the current cast of Rockies continues to contend for the 2017 post season, it would sure have been great if we knew then what we know now. God bless you, Groove.
The Rockies are in Cleveland, Ohio this afternoon, setting-up for the first of two with the American League Central leading Indians tonight and tomorrow. Colorado settled for series wins over the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies in week 17 of the 2017 season, falling short of a sweep over Philadelphia when one of those pesky blown saves we grew so fond of in 2016 rose-up to bite the exquisite closer Greg Holland.
The Rockies and Phils went at each other in a low-scoring affair on Sunday. Colorado got a run in the first off of young Aaron Nola, went scoreless over the next 6, then nicked him again on a Raimel Tapia walk and Charlie Blackmon double in the 7th. Jeff Hoffman actually bested Nola over his 7 inning stint, surrendering only a 2nd-inning run on 4 hits and 8 strikeouts. Pat Neshek and Mike Dunn would combine for a scoreless 8th, but Holland would flounder after Odubel Herrera led-off with a fluke double, and circumstances went sideways after Maikel Franco singled and Cameron Dunn drove a double over the head of Blackmon for the Phillies’ game winner.
Colorado also got a nice outing on Saturday from Jon Gray, who’s quietly come off of his broken toe to deliver a series of them since returning from the Disabled List. Gray went 7 as well, allowing just a run on 6 hits and a walk as the Rockies took an 8-1 lead into the 8th. Nolan Arenado, Gerardo Parra and Pat Valaika had singles in a 5-run 1st that also included a walk, hit-batter, and Philadelphia error. Colorado got 3 more in the 3rd on a Parra double, Mark Reynolds single, and 2-run blast by Valaika. On Friday the Rockies got 2 off of Phillies’ starter Vince Velasquez, who is not the same Vince Velasquez as the Atlanta homicide detective featured on The First 48, and led 2-0 until the 6th, when the Phils got to Antonio Senzatela, the second of six Colorado relievers who would cover for Kyle Freeland, who left the game in the 1st with a groin strain, for 2. Philadelphia would briefly lead with a run in the 7th, but the Rockies would tie in the bottom of the inning and score the game winner for Holland on a couple of walks and a 2-out DJ LeMahieu single in the 8th.
Jonathan Lucroy has added some pop at the bottom of the Colorado order since his pickup at the July 31 trade deadline, and Neshek provides needed stability for a ‘pen that has struggled until recently. Carlos Estevez replaces Scott Oberg in an exchange of dangerous relievers, Jake McGee returns from the DL to reinforce the back end, and speaking of dangerous pitchers, Tyler Chatwood also joins the ‘pen after a bad string of disastrous starts.
Right-hander German Marquez (9-4, 4.11), who’s been steady all the way back to the end of June, gets the call tonight for the Rockies, facing Cleveland ace Corey Kluber (9-3, 2.77) in a 5:10 MT start at Progressive Field, where Flo is sure to be on-hand to greet the paying customers. Senzatela will be back on the hill at 10:10 in the morning Wednesday against Trevor Bauer, then Colorado is off to the exotic climes of southern Florida for 3 with the Marlins on the weekend. The Rockies are 5 better than Cleveland at this stage of the season, and 12 better than the Marlins, but a history of Colorado teams, the one that wears orange and blue included, in the city of Miami makes the final leg of the long trip as trying a challenge as the first.
The Rockies return to Denver August 14 for a 7-game stand versus Atlanta and Milwaukee before a day off and another trip through Kansas City and more Braves in Georgia.