Wow, these games of late have really stunk. Going into the last two days of April the Rox were three games over .500, one back of the Dodgers, and ready to finish the month positive. The Kendrick put them in a hole early the never recovered from. Then Lyles, after pitching well through 4, gave up 5 in the 5th and that game became a blow-out. Well, momentum matters, and when they rolled into San Diego for the first of three they simply cut and pasted the past two games.
Things started out okay. Eddie Butler is still struggling with his command but he held the Pads to just one hit, which brought in the first run of the game in the 1st. Then came the 4th. A lead-off hit-by-pitch (do our pitchers practice that, because they are really good at it) of Justin Upton got Butler off his game. He threw a missile behind Upton and no where near Justin Morneau while keeping Upton close and all of a sudden it was man on 3rd with no outs.
Now a veteran pitcher in a 1-0 game in a low-scoring stadium can re-focus, and at the least stop the damage at 1 run. A rookie pitcher who still doesn’t have his best stuff (his slider looked good at times, his fastball less so, and his change-up seems to have disappeared as a go-to pitch) gets flustered. The inning fell apart fast:
Single to Norris to score Upton
A double to Alonzo to put men at 2nd and 3rd.
An error on Tulo load the bases.
An error on DJ to score one and re-load the bases
A pop-out of his opposite number, Ian Kennedy
A K of Wil Myers
Now with 2-out and the bases-loaded Butler could have walked out of it with just a 3-0 game knowing his defense putting him behind the 8-ball. But instead another single, this time on a shot to center scored 2, and it might have been worse except for nice throw by Stubbs cut-off by Morneau who alerted tossed it to Arenado that produced a run-down.
Score 5-0, and only 3 of the 5 were earned.
Now, if this were Coors Field, the Rox might have still had a chance. But after being completely shut down the previous two games, they were effectively bottled up by Kennedy. They got Kennedy out of the game in the 6th with 101 pitches. But they struggled to bring runs across. With one-out in the 3rd DJ hit a double but was stranded by Dickerson and Tulo. In the 4th a 1-out single by Arenado was wasted. That kind of summed up the night.
They did get runs off Kennedy starting in the 5th when Drew Stubbs, who had been struck-out in the 2nd for essentially the 10,000 time this season, came up in the 5th and got his first hit on a hanging 1-1 curve. The homer went out to left, barely, but it counted. He had to feel, even with the score, like a brand new man. I said in the game preview this may well be the last chance for Drew. At least in that AB, he took advantage of bad pitch. He still struck-out 3 times and left 2 man on during the game, but hey, he got a hit and scored a run.
Sadly Christian Bergman, coming in for Butler in the 5th, gave the run back on a sharp ground single to right, a pop fly that landed in front of Dickerson, and a fly ball single to CarGo. The score was back to 6-1, and the Rox had to feel that the hill was simply too high to climb, especially at PetCo. Bergman gave them a good 6th however.
In the 6th the Rox scored again off Kennedy on an Arenado homer to left on a 1-2 count. The pitch was inside but Arenado hit it high and just over the wall in left. One of the really nice things so far this season has been Arenado’s growth as a hitter. He has been striking out a bit more of late, but last year he struggled with his homerun power on the road. Not this year thus far, and it seems his bat is a bit faster than anytime we have seen him.
But all night, against all the Pads pitchers they could not string together hits. In fact, at no point did they have more than 1 hit in an inning and only the 9th saw them get two runners on in the same inning, when Hundley drove in CarGo to score the last run of the game.
Oh, and we saw maybe the worst inning of baseball in history. Actually this may have been the worst defensive game they played in a very very long game.
You already had Tulo and DJ make errors earlier. Now in the 8th Jorge Rondon came on. Now last week when they needed someone to replace Zero a lot of us, basically anyone following the AAA team in Albuquerque wondered why Rondon was recalled and not Tommy Kahnle, We all remember that he had pretty darn good year considering his previously being no where near the MLB level. If he hadn’t had a shore shoulder and fatigue in August and September he might well have ended up with an ERA under 4 and a WHIP below 1.15 (1.194 actual). But he did struggle with walks throughout his whole career, and in 68.2 last year he allowed 31 walks (4.1/9 but a K/BB ratio of 2.03). Sending him down to start the year to continue to work on his control wasn’t a bad thing. But so far this year in 12.1 innings he has struck out 15 and allowed only 2 walks. He has allowed 7 runs with 2 HR, but this is the PCL, where even Ozzie Smith could have been a homer run leader. Kahnle’s periphal stats look pretty darn good. And he has experience here in Colorado, against the NL West and at Coors. But he did not get the call. I can only guess that he married Dan O’Dowd’s daughter or something and now he is verbotten in Denver
So instead up came Rondon. Rondon has more gitty-up on his fastball, but he too has been plagued by…the walk. In 539 career minor league innings he has 252 walks and 44 HBP. The trade to bring him here from the Angels was a good one, but he is not ready for the big show. He still needs development. In his 6.2 innings of work at AAA this year he had 4Ks and 2BB while giving up 2 hits and a homerun. Not horrible, but good enough for a promotion? Well, let’s just say the facts speak for themselves. After coming in the game on the 28th he gave up 3 hits, a walk, and with one strike-out and three runs (for a lovely ERA of 27). Couldn’t get worse, right?
Well, he entered last night’s game in the 8th, and while 6-2 is hardly the basis for a come-back, especially in PetCo knowing they have Kimbrel to close it out if it gets scary. But you want to give your team a chance. Especially a team with a really bad offense right now. Here is how Rondon’s 8th went:
Walk to Middlebrooks
Walk to Amarista
Single on a bunt to Rockie killer Cory Spannenberg
Error by the great Nolan Arenado, two runs score
Single to Solarte
Single to Kemp
Single to Upton
Double to Norris
Pitching change to Friedrich
Single to Alonzo
Sac Fly of Middlebrooks
Line out of Amarist to 3rd
Ground out of Spannenberg
Look, Friedrich wasn’t sharp either, but I continue to believe at this point in his development he should come in at the start of an inning. Rondon was given the start to the 8th and while the error by Nolan didn’t help (double play chance), Rondon looked terrible. Every pitch was seen great and hit great it seemed. His ERA is now, ready for this – 90.0. His ERA is closer to 100 than 50. 90? I mean I know is just 1.1 innings right now, but in 4 outs he has allowed 10 ER, 8 hits, and 3 walks vs 1K.
So I guess Rondon is part of the Rockies master plan. They call him up, he gives up lots of runs, helping all the NL West players to get really high batting averages. They get over-confident, an WHAM – the Rox shut them out. That has to be it, right?
Final score last night was 14-3, but it felt like 99 by the time the 8th was over. I wrote for the game preview that the key to the Rox were: 1) limit walks 2) play great defense and 3) avoid the long-ball. Hey, 1-3 is a good night for a hitter. A bad night for the staff. Had the three errors not helped the Pads gain a solid lead and put too many pitches on Butler, maybe he has a decent night (82 pitches in 4 innings). And hey, Scott Oberg pitched and didn’t give up a run, that is progress too, right?
Right now this team looks terrible. They have to string together hits. They have to play Gold Glove caliber D (3 errors on 3 GG players who are among the 3 best defenders at their positions). They have to limit walks. They need length from the starters. They need their bullpen to stretch but not break (to be fair, most of the runs of late have come against either AAA (Rondon and Oberg) guys or tired arms (Friedrich, Brown and Logan).
The really positive side to this is that if they win the next two days they go back to Coors with an even road trip and two games above .500. See, everything is really just fine.