Rockies get back on track with 9-0 win over Diamondbacks

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The Rockies have been a different team on the road so far, with their pitching dominating compared to the way they pitch at home. Tyler Chatwood continued that trend on Friday night with a dominating performance of his own.

Chatwood went 6.1 strong innings and gave up only 5 hits and no runs. He lowered his ERA to 2.73 and has been the most consistent and brightest spot in the Rockies rotation this year. The bullpen came in after Chatwood left and pitched even better. They allowed only one base runner, Yasmany Tomas on a walk, in the final 2.2 innings. Gonzalez Germen, Justin Miller, and Scott Oberg were the pitchers to do the job. The pitching performance was great, but the main story from this game was the offense.

It took a couple innings to score, but in the fourth the Rockies got their first two runs off of Robbie Ray. It started with a Ryan Raburn homer to left, his fourth of the year. Nick Hundley followed that up a batter later with a homer of his own, his second. They were the first home runs Ray has allowed on the year, but it wouldn’t stop there.

The next inning saw Trevor Story swat a two-run home run, his tenth of the year, tying the Major League rookie record set by Jose Abreu in 2014. The next batter, Nolan Arenado, followed that up with his tenth of the year. Both players now lead the league in home runs and have been the driving forces of the Rockies offense. For Story, his hot start in Arizona continued and proved he really enjoys hitting in the desert. It was his fifth home run in four games at Arizona.

The offense took a little break until they came out again in the eighth. Mark Reynolds reached on a single and Raburn was hit by a pitch to put two on for Gerrardo Parra. Parra obliterated a ball to deep center that hit off the top of the wall to drive in one. Hundley followed that up with a double of his own to plate two more. Parra would drive in one more before the game was up in the ninth on another double, his ninth of the year. That would cap the scoring for the game at give the Rockies a 9-0 win.

This was an extremely important game for the Rockies to get back on track. They had lost five straight before this game and their pitching had fallen apart. Chatwood set them back on the right path to getting some consistent pitching. Chris Rusin will start Saturday night against Zack Greinke and will look to give the Rockies another solid performance. The offense will try and replicate their output on opening day against Greinke, who has struggled at home this year.

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Series Preview: Rockies @ Diamondbacks

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Friday, April 29th 7:40pm: Tyler Chatwood (2-2 3.47 ERA) vs. Robbie Ray (1-0 3.80 ERA)

The Rockies will return to Arizona for their opening day rematch against the Diamondbacks. They started the season 2-1 against Arizona and made two of the biggest offseason acquisitions look like minor leaguers. They will face Robbie Ray for the first time in 2016 on Friday. This is an important game for Chatwood to come out and regain some traction for the rotation who struggled mightily on the home stand. The Rockies have not had a lot of success against Ray in the past, but their offense has been doing pretty well and should be able to carry that momentum.

Saturday, April 30th 6:10pm: Chris Rusin (1-0 2.45 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (2-2 6.16 ERA)

It is hard to imagine that the Rockies will have the same success against Greinke that they had on opening day, but Greinke has struggled this season thus far. Chris Rusin will make his first start in 2016 and is filling in for De La Rosa. Rusin has looked really good in long relief and had some success last year while starting. The Rockies will aim for him to go around five innings and then the bullpen will likely take over. If Rusin can go five and give up three or less, this will be a winnable game for the Rockies, but that is a big if with how the rotation has been going.

Sunday, May 1st 2:10pm: Chad Bettis (2-1 3.77 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (0-2 8.69 ERA)

Miller is the other highly touted pitcher that the Diamondbacks acquired, but he has struggled even more than Greinke this year. The Rockies had success against him in his first start of the season, but his story is similar to Greinke’s. It is only a matter of time before he gets back on track, let us hope it doesn’t start against the Rockies. Bettis, on the other hand, has pitched really well so far in 2016. He is starting to establish himself as a solid middle of the rotation guy who, if he can establish his pace early, has the ability to shut teams down. Keeping his pitch count down and not getting into deep counts is important, and this is a game that Bettis will likely need to go 6+ innings to keep the bullpen from being overworked even more than they have been.

Rockies stage comeback, lose in 12th

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The Rockies came back from a seven run deficit to make it a game on Wednesday night, but they still fell in the 12th. Jon Gray did not pitch well. He went only 3.2 innings and gave up 6 runs, all earned. He failed to finish the Pirates hitters off, though in his defense, the Pirates have been drawing long counts all series long and have kept fouling pitches off.

The scoring started early again for the Rockies opponent and put them behind in a game for what seems like the nth time on this home stand. The run came from a questionable play regarding the new slide rule. With runners on first and third, Jordy Mercer grounded the ball to Trevor Story who flipped to DJ LeMahieu for the first out. Here is where the slide rule was brought into play. Josh Harrison slid into the bag to break up the play, completely legal, but he slid past the bag on his attempt. Under the new rule 6.01(j) the runner has to be “…able to and attempting to remain on the base at the completion of the slide (except at home plate)…” Josh Harrison did not do this and according to the rule, whether the runner would’ve been out at first or not, should be called out for interference. They would review the play and the umps in New York confirmed the call on the field. The explanation they gave was questionable at best, but that is what the call was.

The next inning things started to unravel for Gray. Three singles to start the inning, a walk, a sac fly, and finally another single, would plate three more runs for the Pirates. This would put the game at 4-0 and it was not looking good for the Rockies. The next inning saw the end of Gray’s night after allowing a couple more hits and another run. Eddie Butler would come on for his first appearance of 2016 and allow two more runs, one credited to Jon Gray, to put the game at 7-0.

The Rockies were determined to fight their way back into the game however and the next inning would start their comeback. Trevor Story started the inning with his ninth home run of the season, a rookie record. Nolan Arenado followed that up two batters later with a home run of his own. The next four batters would all reach base, capping off the rally with a LeMahieu single to put the game at 7-4.  From there the Rockies would chip away at the lead for the next few innings. They scored a run on a ground out in the sixth, and two more in the seventh. The Pirates did score in this stretch of innings, but only one run. The game was at 8-7 and it was Gerrardo Parra’s time to shine. Parra swatted a home run to center field that tied the game up at 8-8. The Rockies had finished the comeback and had a chance to win.

Unfortunately for them, the offense seemed to halt after the home run. They had some chances with runners reaching base in extra innings, but the key hit never came up while the Pirates did find the key hit. In the 12th inning, Jordy Mercer hit a ball to deep center that caromed off of the wall and let Gregory Polanco score from first. Mark Melancon would come on the next inning and close the game out.

The Rockies have one more game against the Pirates in this series and I could not be more happy that this series is almost over. The Pirates are the Rockies kryptonite and facing another opponent will hopefully let the Rockies string together some wins to get out of this horrific slump.

Rockies continue to falter on homestand

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The Pirates won their seventh straight game at Coors Field and the Rockies pitchers gave up four runs or more for the seventh straight game. They are 1-6 during that time and have struggled as a team overall. If something doesn’t change and quickly, the Rockies will find themselves falling out of any playoff hopes that came with early season success.

Tuesday night saw the Rockies pitchers give up a combined 9 runs with the Rockies offense only scoring 4. Jorge De La Rosa had another poor start and left early with an apparent injury. This could be good news for the Rockies as De La has not looked good in any of his starts and it will give them a chance to try someone else while De La hopefully gets right. Eddie Butler appears to be his replacement, although the club has not made any official statement. This is not exactly the person the Rockies need as he was very unsuccessful in his MLB stint last year, but hopefully some good performances coming from AAA will boost his confidence and allow him to be effective.

I’m getting ahead of myself now, but last night was not a game I am eager to remember. Andrew McCutchen hit three home runs for the second time in his career and drove in five and the Pirates as a team tallied 12 total hits. Gerrit Cole gave up 4 runs (2 earned) in six solid innings and pitched well enough to earn the Pirates an easy win.

The Rockies struggled again to get their offense going and they went only 1-7 with runners in scoring position. The Rockies offense will get going, but some cold streaks paired with key players missing has slowed their offense down and kept them from producing the timely hits. Charlie Blackmon being injured has caused a shakeup in the lineup that has led to inconsistency throughout. Some stability would be welcomed, but the injury bug has struck the pitching staff now and that bodes badly for the future.

The Rockies pitchers rank last in ERA and 26th in both WHIP and batting average against. This is pretty much what most people would expect, but if the Rockies ever want to compete, they need to step up on the mound. Young pitchers like Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood need to be top of the rotation guys and Jake McGee along with at least two other bullpen pitchers need to be shut down type guys. Castro looked to be one of those guys, but his injury has greatly weakened the bullpen.

Playing the Pirates has been difficult for the Rockies, and frankly the whole NL West, but something has got to give eventually and Wednesday night with Jon Gray on the mound is as good of a night as any.

Pirates win 5-1, Rockies drop below .500

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Last night was another strange game, not in the same way as the Sunday game, but its own unique brand of strange. The Pirates ultimately prevailed over the Rockies with a final score of 5-1, but that score does not tell the whole story at all.

The game started innocently enough, neither team scored through the first two innings and with Chad Bettis batting in the bottom of the second with two outs, the rain broke out and sent the game into a delay. It was a delay short enough to allow both pitchers to come back  out and remain in the game. Things started to break down for the Rockies in the fourth.

With the game still at 0-0, Nick Hundley ended the inning with a backwards K. The call by home plate umpire Lance Barrett was his fourth called strike three on the Rockies of the night. While blaming the umpires for a loss is never a good excuse, this was a night where Lance Barrett clearly influenced the game. Hundley argued his way back to the dugout over the called third strike and Walt Weiss went out to defend his player. This resulted in an ejection of Weiss, you can’t argue balls and strikes, everyone knows that. This was a case of Weiss protecting his player along with voicing his displeasure with the zone, that was very much wider than it should’ve been.

The Pirates scored in the next inning to earn the first run of the game and give them the lead. The Rockies couldn’t really out anything together and then the umpire struck again. In the bottom of the sixth with Ryan Raburn batting, Lance Barrett again called a very questionable strike call that resulted in the second out of the inning. This was Raburn’s second caught looking of the game, neither on balls in the strike zone, and he argued the call. He was on his way back to the dugout, presumably chirping a little on the way back, but with his back turned Barrett ejected Raburn. This is a case where the umpire needs to get over his ego and just let the player walk while saying a little. I don’t know what was said between the two, but had Barrett just walked away as well, this would’ve ended harmlessly. Instead Raburn was ejected and bench coach Tom Runnells came out to just get an explanation. In another questionable move by the umpires, the third base ump came down into the argument. Now this was an argument between home plate umpire Lance Barrett and Runnells. It should also be noted that the crew chief of the night had already inserted himself into the situation, as he should have. But what isn’t called for is the third base ump, who wasn’t a part of the initial argument nor the crew chief, coming down and getting into the argument. He just simply doesn’t belong there. The argument went on for a few minutes and somehow Runnells was never ejected. That was basically the end of the game for the Rockies.

The next inning was a complete collapse. Bettis went back on the mound with a pitch count around the 90-mark. It was good to see Bettis go back out there and try to go seven strong, but ultimately Bettis looked as he may have been out of gas. Gregory Polanco started the inning with a single, but then Bettis was able to get the next two batters out. Polanco worked his way to third and then pinch-hitter Jason Rogers walked. With John Jaso batting, Bettis threw a wild pitch that allowed Polanco to score. Jaso ended up walking and that is where Bettis was pulled. Recent call-up Scott Oberg came out and started exactly where he left off. Oberg gave up a three-run shot to Matt Joyce and turned Bettis’ admirable start into an ugly line.

The Rockies would go on to score a run in the 7th, but by then the score was 5-1 and they could not gather any further momentum. It was an ugly loss for the Rockies due to some bad umpiring, but they have to come out on Tuesday and try and take a win from the Pirates. It won’t be easy with Gerrit Cole on the mound, but no win is easy for a major league team.

Series Preview: Pirates vs. Rockies

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April, 25th 6:40pm: Jeff Locke (0-2 7.24 ERA) vs. Chad Bettis (2-0 3.33 ERA)

This is a good game for the Rockies to start their four game series against the Pirates on. It comes with Chad Bettis on the mound who has been really solid so far in all of his starts against a much less successful Jeff Locke. This is also a good game to see how the Rockies recover from a terrible loss on Sunday. This game could very well tell the tale of how the rest of this series will go for the Rockies.

April, 26th 6:40pm: Gerrit Cole (1-2 2.70 ERA) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (1-2 9.87 ERA)

Pirates ace Gerrit Cole has just gotten better in each of his starts, but he will not be facing an easy offense going against the Rockies. Jorge De La Rosa on the other hand has not been very good in any of his starts this year. He is a notoriously slow starter, but it is gut check time for De La to prove himself as the alleged number one of this staff. In my opinion, De La doesn’t have a future with this team and should be traded at the deadline, but for that to happen, he needs to prove he has some value to another team. Starting sooner rather than later on the success train is what De La needs and no better time than the present.

April, 27th 6:40pm: Jon Niese (3-0 4.24 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (0-0 9.00 ERA)

The battle of Jon will take place on Wednesday and it is a great chance for Gray to get his first career win. His last start against the Dodgers was a bit of a mixed bag. He gave up some runs early, but regained his composure until later giving up a couple more runs later. He also stuck out a career 10 batters. Building off his success from last start will be important, but more importantly is his ability to command his pitches, get through at least six innings, and prove that he has top of the rotation potential that most Rockies fans believe he has.

April, 28th 1:10pm: Juan Nicasio (2-2 4.50 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (2-2 3.47 ERA)

Juan Nicasio will make his return to Coors field as a Pirate in the series finale against the Rockies most successful starter thus far, Tyler Chatwood. Nicasio has had two pretty good starts in which he went six innings and earned the win, and then he has had two less effective starts in which he earned the loss. The Rockies will hopefully get the less effective Nicasio showing up at Coors. Chatwood is coming off his shortest start and will look to recover from a four inning outing against the Dodgers. He has easily been the brightest spot of the Rockies rotation and can end this series on a high note for the team.

Rockies lose a wild one at Coors

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The Rockies lost 12-10 on Sunday afternoon it what was the wildest game of the season. I don’t mean wild in an exciting way either, but rather wild in a gut-wrenching, poorly played, and rather disappointing game.

After being down 7-1 in the third inning, this game looked to be over, but anyone who frequently watches games at Coors knew this game was far from that, especially based on how the runs were being scored. The Rockies fought their way back into the game through determination, timely hits, and a lot of sloppy play on the Dodgers end and luck. They came back to score 9 unanswered runs and were ahead in this game going into the ninth 10-7.

The five run eighth the Rockies put up looked like the knife in the gut they needed to put the Dodgers away, and normally surefire closer Jake McGee was certainly going to put the Dodgers away. But as the story of this game unfolded and with the wildness of the eighth that let the Rockies take the lead, the ninth inning had to follow suit.

Jake McGee, who entered the game with a .080 ERA, had his first hiccup of the year and forfeited a terrible loss for the Rockies. The inning started harmlessly enough with an Adrian Gonzalez single. That was followed by what appeared to be a spectacular catch by Cargo where he jumped into the stands for a foul ball, but after review it was apparent he actually missed the catch. It didn’t matter too much as the batter, Yasmani Grandal, ended up grounding out anyways, but Howie Kendrick followed that up with a single and Kike Hernandez walked to load the bases.

At this point, my heart was pounding and I wasn’t feeling too confident in the Rockies ability to pull out the win. With the bases loaded and one out, Trayce Thompson walked to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Thompson grounded a harmless ground ball to Trevor Story for what looked like a sure thing double play that would end the game. Story bobbled the ball and was only able to get one out on the play and a run scored. That out proved to be the difference between a win and from there the Dodgers took that gift and ran with it. They would go on to score four more runs and take a 12-10 lead before finally the inning ended.

Kenley Jansen came on in the bottom of the ninth and finished the Rockies off for the game and series win. It was a game where the Rockies trailed by six to come all the way back and take a two run lead, to fall again in the end by two runs. It was a typical Coors Field game with both teams scoring in double digits and both teams piling on 11 hits.

The Rockies had six pitchers in the game, but only two of those pitchers gave up runs. Starter Jordan Lyles had a terrible start going only 2.2 innings and giving up 7 runs (5 earned). McGee would give up the other five runs on five hits.

The game was indeed a wild one, filled with bad defense, untimely and timely pitching performances, many ups and downs, and a wild final inning and a half. It is a game that will stick with Rockies fans for much of the season and has instilled the early season pessimism that always comes as a Rockies fan.

However, I take this game as a gut check. It isn’t a game to get down about or to say “oh typical Rockies, blowing the game and blah blah blah.” This is a game to look at and see the positives. The Rockies were down by six runs, they came back to take the lead. The Rockies pitcher was gone after two and two thirds, their bullpen pitched well enough for the offense to get back in it. The closer who has been lights out so far had his first hiccup, mistakes happen and he can come back and show us that he really is a quality closer.

The Rockies start a four game series with the Pittsburg Pirates on Monday. Both teams are 9-9 and looking to see how they will play for the rest of the season. The Pirates, unlike the Rockies, had fairly high expectations entering the season so if the Rockies can come out and win at least two of the four games, they should take it as a series win and confidence booster going forward.