ARENADO DRILLED ON FIASCO IN FLORIDA; BETTIS IS BACK
A Purple Monday like no other is set to unfold later this afternoon at Coors Field in downtown Denver. Colorado Rockies’ right-hander Chad Bettis, Chettis (14-8, 4.29 in 2016), no. 35, makes his first 2017 MLB start, some 9-1/2 months following a late autumn diagnosis of testicular cancer. Sky-high emotions are expected to dominate in the first of 4 between Colorado and the Atlanta Braves, with building engineers expressing concerns the old ball park may in fact rise up off its foundations and drift away pleasingly into the night.
Bettis takes the hill for a Rockies squad coming off a dismal 1-5 road trip through Cleveland and Miami, and his arrival, along with tomorrow’s unexpected (to me anyway) return of Kyle Freeland from the Disabled List, signals a significant transition shift for a Colorado pitching staff that’s fairly remarkably navigated the 2017 campaign to-date. Freeland follows Bettis in a rotation that now, presuming everything goes as planned, includes those two and Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, and German Marquez. Antonio Senzatela and Tyler Chatwood slide out to the bullpen, presumably knocking Carlos Estevez and Zac Rosscup back to Albuquerque, and shuffling the other chairs and roles around as you work your way backward from closer Greg Holland. Hapless Jordan Lyles has become a Padre, Scott Oberg is also an Isotope, and Adam Ottavino was on in relief of Marquez with one out in the 5th on Sunday.
Inspirational as all of this may sound, the Rockies come into week 19 of the season, with 6 to go, off another offense-challenged week at sea level. As Agbayani notes elsewhere, only 20 games away remain, but Colorado can’t afford to lose all of them, and the way things were looking in Miami, they frighteningly just might. After grabbing the 2nd of two in Cleveland on another Charlie Blackmon miracle and a save from Chatwood, Jon Gray took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 6th Friday when he ran into a Giancarlo Stanton blast and Christian Yellich doubled and tied the score on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly. The Rockies had no answers and the Marlins got to Jake McGee for 3 in the 8th.
Saturday it was Hoffman who ran into to the Stanton juggernaut (he has something like 700 home runs in his last 40 games). The right-hander was hanging-on in a 1-1 standoff when Tyler Moore doubled leading-off the 4th, Miguel Rojas singled, and with 2-out Stanton drove one into the seats in left-center. The Rockies got one back in the 5th and another in the 8th, a day late, dollar short. Marquez was out yesterday without his sharpest stuff. He got burned for 2 on a 2-out opposite field slapper off the bat of opposing hurler Vance Worley, who would play the villain of the piece in more ways than one, in the 2nd, Stanton paid his respects by dumping an opposite-field job just inside the right-field line in the 3rd, and Tomas Teliz and Rojas would score behind a Mike Avilés double in the 4th. Colorado had managed 3 in the 3rd when Blackmon got hit with a pitch and DJ LeMahieu, Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez followed with singles, but it wouldn’t be enough, and on top of that the world nearly came to an end when Nolan Arenado came to the plate in the 5th against Worley.
Arenado was working in a 1-1 count when Worley came inside with an 88 MPH 2-seamer that struck the all-star dead on the back of the left-hand, leaving the Rockies’ 3rd baseman to stagger toward the dugout, and after a short examination by trainer Scotty Gehret he would head for the showers and X-rays that mercifully turned-out negative. Arenado is thankfully day-to-day, and speculation wavers between stand-ins by super-sub Pat Valaika versus newly arrived rookie Ryan McMahon, but with shortstop Trevor Story back in a funk, pressure is building for Valaika to play short every day, and McMahon had been penciled for platoon relief at 1st-base for Mark Reynolds, who has also cooled-off considerably of late.
But tonight the spotlight is on Bettis, who faces struggling Braves’ right-hander Julio Tehran (7-10, 5.25) in a 6:40 MT start in Lodo. Valaika does get the call for Arenado at 3rd, he’ll bat 7th. Parra slides up a slot into Arenado’s customary 3-hole, followed by Reynolds at cleanup and Gonzalez hitting 5th. Freeland goes tomorrow against Sean Newcombe, Gray gets Atlanta ace Mike Foltynewicz Wednesday, and Hoffman gets the Thursday day-game (there’s no TV) against Lucas Sims. The Milwaukee Brewers follow the Braves into town Friday for 3 over the weekend.
Despite the obvious need, Coors’ vendors will not be offering $18 Bettis souvenir pocket-packs of Kleenex for purchase. Bring your own.