ROX HEAD TO MISSOURI, DC BEHIND TAIL WIND OF 5-1 HOME STAND
While a single successful series at Coors Field hardly qualifies as a legitimate sample size, the Colorado Rockies went a long way towards restoring the spring mojo that brought the audacity of contention to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in week 15 of the 2017 MLB season. Colorado opened the week with some sweepage, taking 3 in a row over the San Diego Padres, as chronicled by Professor RMH in his triumphant return from a European diplomatic mission designed to assure US allies things haven’t come completely unglued over here, at least not yet. After a day of rest last Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived to visit the old ball park down there in Lodo, and at least on Friday the Rockies had yet to wake back up, getting a spanking from the Bucs that ended a run of 4 consecutive wins.
Jeff Hoffman got the start Friday, and as many have noticed, Hoffman’s starts tend to be either very good or very bad, and Friday’s was one of the very bad ones. Pittsburgh got to the right-hander for 7 runs on 9 hits and 4 bases-on-balls in just 3 innings, then Jordan Lyles and Scott Oberg, a pair who are great at getting you 2 outs when you actually need 3, followed Hoffman to the hill and allowed 3 and 2 respectively as Colorado went down in flames by a score of 13-5. Saturday saw German Marquez take the mound for the Rockies, and after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the 1st, Colorado scored 3 in the 3rd and one in the 4th, taking a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the 6th with Carlos Gonzalez coming to the plate.
Pirates’ starter Chad Kuhl opened the at-bat by directing a 96 MPH 4-seamer roughly in the direction of the word “Colorado” on the front of Gonzalez uniform shirt, prompting the left-handed hitting outfielder to call for a convocation of everybody on both teams in the middle of the Coors infield, and as everybody milled-around and not a whole lot actually happened, it was revealed that Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli is a very very sensitive guy, and has harbored seething resentment toward the Rockies dating back to June 14, when Marquez blasted Cervelli with a temporary tattoo to the middle of his left thigh, a thoughtful study of a baseball, stitches included. Hard feelings aside, nothing more came of the misunderstanding, and the Rockies went on to add a run in the 7th and 2 more in the 8th to log a victory for Marquez, Greg Holland coming on for Jake McGee for save No. 31, a 4-out job.
Kyle Freeland (10-7, 3.64) returned to his slot in the rotation Sunday, following-up on the near no-hitter of July 9 and 3 scoreless relief innings in the July 15 Tyler Chatwood disaster, and put in 6 workmanlike innings in what turned out to be a 13-3 Colorado rout. Chicks were digging the long ball. Charlie Blackmon had a solo shot off Ivan Nova (10-7, 3.62) in the 5th. In the 6th Trevor Story took Nova deep with a 2-run shot after Gonzalez led off with a single, then after Wade LeBlanc replaced Nova and walked Ryan Hanigan, Pat Valaika pinch-hit for Freeland and drove one down the left-field line and out for another 2. After retiring Blackmon on a ground ball, LeBlanc walked DJ LeMahieu, who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Nolan Arenado. That brought up Mark Reynolds, speaking of reacquired mojo, and Reynolds drove one out to right to plate 2 more and close-out a 7-run uprising. Reynolds would not be finished, batting a fifth time against Pittsburgh mop-up man Jhan Marinez in the 8th and dropping a solo shot over the center-field wall to wrap-up the scoring.
The Rockies would score 61 times on the home stand. Gonzalez would manage 7 hits with an RBI over 16 at-bats and Story would log 9 RBI, also with 7 hits in 21 at-bats. If those two lineup holes are plugged, the offense should be primed to take its show on the road, but the bullpen remains a concern with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching. Oberg muddled his way through a scoreless 7th yesterday, and Mike Dunn is unscored upon in July, but Adam Ottavino’s struggles continued Sunday with a 1-run/3-hit 8th. sd carp has potential relief targets identified; Jeff Bridich is on the clock.
Colorado is in St Louis, Missouri this afternoon for the first of 3 with the Cardinals ahead of a trip to Washington DC, where the NL East leading Nationals, who made the Rockies look like chumps back in May, await for 3 more. The Cards are 4-1/2 back in a tightening National League Central and will send righty Mike Leake (6-8, 3.39) out against Antonio Senzatela (10-3, 4.67) tonight at 6:08 MT. Jon Gray gets the call tomorrow for Colorado against Lance Lynn, and Hoffman will be back Wednesday, facing Carlos Martinez. Gerardo Parra, the latest Rockie to be nursing a strained calf muscle, will be on in left-field for Colorado, batting cleanup with Blackmon back in center and Gonzalez in right. Story gets the call again at short, hitting 7th under sunny skies on a hot and humid evening down by the big river. A lazy wind will blow left to right at 5 to 6 MPH.