ON THE BRIGHT SIDE TULO – AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO PLAY ALL 11 TONIGHT
Friday night was one of those games that really summed up the Rox who season – the failure to get all 4 parts of the game to be at least average on a given night. The starting pitching was there, but the defense (from Dickerson’s brain-lock to Arenado’s poor throw), lack of more than 2 runs (did get a nice run back in the 6th to give DLR the chance for the win), to the atrocious pen work again, the team that should be better than .500 wasn’t. We saw this right before the break with the Saturday and Sunday games against the Twins.
Tonight’s game also saw the Rox again short-handed, with both Logan and Morneau sitting due to neck issues, and Tulo pulled out after a cramp while running down the line in the 4th.
So, facing a very good right-hander in Charlie Morton, the Rox failed to even get a runner to 2nd until what looked like the 6th. However Charlie Blackmon after a great AB for a single was thrown out on a great throw by Russell Martin. So the score remained 1-0 going into the 7th.
But just like Jorge the night before, Brett Anderson used his off-speed pitches to set-up his fastball, and, aside from the weird 4th inning, was dominate. He got good plays early by DJ and Tulo, which is what this team needs with a groundball pitcher like Anderson. Going 1 more inning than Jorge (which given DLR’s health issues stopping him at 100 is acceptable), Anderson allowed just the 1 run, but added in 8Ks, including striking out the side in the 7th, despite falling behind 2-0 on each hitter. That folks, is what a veteran lefty does – he doesn’t give in when he falls behind. When the Tyler Matzeks, Eddie Butlers and Jon Grays of this team learn that…there is nice potential in the rotation. Brett Anderson’s start is one of those reminders of what might have been had it now been for the freaky broken-finger all the way back in April (if nothing else it would have saved us a month of Franklin Morales starts)
The offense on Friday night wasn’t bad, but it was minimal -8 singles, no extra-base hits. That all changed in the 7th when Nolan Arenado (still without a homer on the road this year) line a nice double to right-center. The next batter up was CarGo, who last night had one of those night we have seen a lot of over the years with CarGo – 0-5, with 5s. Yes, he is still finding his rhythm, but more than that it was rushing CarGo. He fell behind 1-2 chasing a bad curve in the dirt. I think every Rox fan expected the next pitch to be another K but CarGo, fighting back to a 2-2 count, then turned on a not-bad curve and launched jut to the good side of the foul-pole in right field. He knew it when he hit it, and you could tell he felt like that was the swing he had been trying to get to all season. When given the 2-run lead, seeing Anderson out for the 7th may have shocked those of us used to seeing 100 pitch limits (and made us grimace when we have seen starters or relievers go that one inning too far), but charged up with that lead he Kd the side to set-up the perfect picture for the Rox pen.
When they only need 6 outs, it is easier to mix and match, asking for just a good AB or two from each reliever 12 outs (the norm this year) depends on good innings (or more) from each pitcher. Sadly…the mixing and matching didn’t work out so well.
The Pirates started with a lefty in the 8th, you send Rex and, despite being more bad Rex than good Rex, get Polanco to line-out easily to Dickerson. Then the move to get Ottavino, who the night before, with the bases-loaded, hit Marte on a pitch meant to go up and in, but Kd the Pirates best two hitters in McCutchen and Martin.
Tonight he had to face All-Star Josh Harrison first, and fell behind 3-1. If there is one thing that has killed the Rox pen this year aside from too many innings (Brothers and Ottavino are 3 and 4 in appearances this year in the NL), it is falling behind again and again. He walked him on a 3-2 on a slider no-where near its spot. He fell behind 2-1 to McCutchen (fast base-runners do effect relievers) when he delivered another slider than went to the backstop, though Rosario should have grabbed it, but instead he did an ole grab rather than slid-step, but with the eventual walk to Cutch making the WP less important. In May the Rox got their best work out of Belisle when he worked every other day, and at this point in the season, it might be time for a while, to not go back to Ottavino 2 days in a row. Usually the 2nd day the slider becomes uncontrollable. Fortunately, he still has a 93 mph fastball. Unfortunately, Russell Martin was able to take the fastball to one spot near short where it made, with the runners going, an infield hit and another bases-loaded situation.
Now Tommy Kahnle, who also pitched Friday, came in to try and bail Ottavino out of the mess. He gave up a line drive hit to right-field to Neil Walker, scoring one but CarGo came up and threw a bullet to home to cut-down Cutch with a step to spare. That is two bullets already since moving to RF, which might be one of the best moves for the team going forward. But regardless, it is now 2-2, with 2 outs but now 3rd and 1st. Once again the bullpen wasted a great start for one of the Rockies top pitchers. Travis Snider was the pinch-hitter up next, got him with a nasty mix of 84 mph changes and a 94mph fastball to finish the AB.
The Rockies have had a weird season where depending on the month one part of the team stopped performing. In May it was the defense (mostly after Arenado’s departure) and the hitting. In early June it was the bullpen. From mid-June to early July it was the starting rotation. The one good piece of good news for the future is that rebuilding a bullpen is easier than building a rotation or adding an impact bat.
The game stayed essentially as is until the 11th. The Rox got men at 3rd and 1st (the runner at 3rd, Culberson, probably would have scored had not the Pirates 3B knocked down Stubbs ball headed to the hole). Next up Charlie Blackmon, who on a first pitch lines a ball right back up the middle…which just happened to land in the glove of the Pirates pitcher who threw to 3rd (Culberson was in no-man’s land, so no fault of his own there) to end the inning. Sums up the luck the Rox have had this season pretty well.
In the bottom of the 11th the depth issues of the Rox pen showed up. I realize there are different viewpoints on using your closer on the road – usually saving him until you have a lead to protect in extra innings. However, when your other option is the last man in the pen – Chad Bettis – who has failed repeatedly in this setting, you have to ask the wisdom. Needless to say, after a single, bunt, intentional walk, Bettis gave up a game-ending hit to deep left-center, to end the game.
Highlights: Great outing by Anderson and the best swing by CarGo in months.
Lowlights: Ottavino’s blow-up (once again Walt waited until the situation was out of hand before getting relief in, just like last night, and Kahnle, despite a great performance, couldn’t prevent a run from scoring.
Bettis’s blow-up. At this point, he has done all he can at the minors, and he cannot be trusted in the majors. My guess is that he will have to show something big in the way of improvement before next spring to even by considered for this team.
Rockies offense: for the second time in a row they were relatively shut-down, surviving on a two-run homer from CarGo. They were ironically 2-3 with runners in scoring position.
So, after playing two games they should have won they try and get the series finale to rescue things, throwing Tyler Matzke against suddently very good Jeff Locke, who on June 8th had an ERA over 5 and today is below 3.