Slugfest doesn’t go Rockies way

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The Reds beat the Rockies on Memorial Day by a final score of 11-8. The Rockies had a brief lead in the third inning, but from there it was all Reds and their offense. Cincinnati slugged five home runs and notched 17 hits on the day as they got to starter Chad Bettis early and often and didn’t slow down on the Rockies bullpen.

The very first pitch of the ballgame would set the tone for the Reds as Zack Cozart took one deep. The Rockies are a team who struggle early in games as they have given up the most first inning home runs. Their pitchers have gotten more aggressive and are walking people less often than in years past, but the opposing teams are wising up to this strategy and swinging earlier in counts.

The Rockies would counter the first pitch home run from Cozart with their own leadoff home run. Charlie Blackmon would take a pitch to start the at-bat, but on the second one he launched a ball to right field that landed in the seats over the Rockies bullpen. It was good to see from Charlie, but the Rockies were going to need much more offense if they were to win this game.

In the third inning, the Rockies would get some more offense and would take a good lead that looked like it would set them on pace for the win. With two outs, Carlos Gonzalez walked to keep the inning alive. Mark Reynolds singled, Gerrardo Parra singled in a run and a Trevor Story walk would load the bases. Taking his first day off of the year was Nolan Arenado and filling in for him was Daniel Descalso. Descalso has been swinging it this year since coming off of the DL. With the bases loaded and after a competitive at bat, Descalso laced a double that would clear the bases. The Rockies would take a 5-1 lead, but it would not last long at all.

The next inning the Reds would get to Bettis and had a big inning of their own. Going from down 5-1, the Reds finished the inning ahead 6-5. Seven hits in the inning and a walk were more than enough for the Reds to take the lead, but they wouldn’t stop there. They would go on to score five more runs in the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning and the Rockies bullpen, already taxed from some short outings by starters, was worked even further.

The Rockies would score three in the ninth, but it was too little, too late and the game would end with the Rockies losing. It is of utmost importance that Tyler Chatwood and Jon Gray pitch at least six innings these next two days. The bullpen is suffering right now and if the Rockies are to stay in the race, they need to get length out of their starters and give their bullpen a break.

There is one good thing that came out of this game and that is that Cargo appears to be starting his hot streak. After an abysmal start to May, Cargo has heated up of late and hit a home run yesterday. Now for Arenado to break out of his slump and this offense will be in full swing.

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Series Preview: Reds vs. Rockies

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Monday, May 30th 2:10pm: Dan Straily (2-2 2.98 ERA) vs. Chad Bettis (4-3 4.90 ERA)

The series against the Reds opens up with a great opportunity for the Rockies to get back to .500 with a sweep. They have lost four straight series, but they are not facing a good team in the Reds giving them a great chance to get back on track. They have their three best pitchers taking the mound and the series opens with Chad Bettis. Bettis has been very consistent this year in maintaining a good pace and going at least 6 innings. The Rockies are coming off of a rough series against San Francisco so they have to show they are hungry to compete.

Tuesday, May 31st 6:40pm: Jon Moscot (0-2 4.02 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (2-2 5.95 ERA)

Gray is coming off of one of his best start against the Red Sox. He went seven strong innings against the games best offense right now and ended one of the games hottest hitters 29 game hitting streak. Moscot hasn’t made an appearance since April 27th and he has given up three runs or more in each of his three starts. This is a good opportunity for Gray to get above .500 and decrease his ERA further, although neither of those statistics has been indicative of how well he has pitched this year.

Wednesday, June 1st 6:40pm: John Lamb (0-3 6.85 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (6-3 2.69 ERA)

Tyler Chatwood will make an appearance in the game three of the series. Chatwood has been the ace of this staff thus far and has started pitching terrific at home too. Coming off of Tommy John Surgery has been no obstacle for the righty and he has shown what he is worth to this Rockies team. Having a sub 3.00 ERA is a big deal for a Coors field pitcher and although his FIP is at 3.91, he has pitched well and has pitched to contact while maintaining consistency in the strike zone and getting batters out quickly.

Thursday, June 2nd 6:40pm: Alfredo Simon (1-5 9.60 ERA) vs. Eddie Butler (2-2 4.13 ERA)

The Reds send out another sub par pitcher to finish the series and the Rockies send Eddie Butler to the mound. Butler has had some decent starts this year, but he has also had some less than great starts. Depending on how he does during this game, the Rockies may need to evaluate moving Butler back to the bullpen permanently and bringing up either Kyle Freeland or Jeff Hoffman. Both of these pitchers are very close to major league ready and both could have an immediate impact at the big league club.

Rockies exceeding expectations, barely

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About two months into the season and in the midst of a 27 game straight schedule, the Rockies are doing a little bit better than I would’ve expected. But that does not tell the whole story, not even barely.

The Rockies have lost four straight series, winning only 4 of 12 games, yet they are still only three games under .500 and are within view of reaching an even 26-26 as they enter a series with the Reds. The Rockies have competed for much of the season, and while this does happen most years, with the Rockies starting the season looking good and quickly fading into obscurity come June, this year looks to have a different future. The Rockies have three starters who give a good chance to win every time they take the mound.

Tyler Chatwood has been far and away the best starter for the Rockies. Aside from a few rough starts at home, Chatwood holds a sub 3.00 ERA and is the Rockies winningest pitcher at 6-3. Chatwood has certainly established himself as a front man starter and there is no look to him slowing down.

Chad Bettis has been another bright spot for the Rockies. While I wouldn’t label him or his stuff as number 1 or 2 starter quality, he will be an anchor for the back of the rotation that is able to consistently go 6+ innings. Bettis is a completely different pitcher than he was two years ago and that means a whole lot for his future as a starter and for the Rockies. Bettis is an average pitcher, but he has heart and can compete for a team that is always in need of a solid 4 and 5 starter.

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And of course, no post about pitching goes without mentioning Jon Gray. Gray has had bad starts this year, there is no denying that, but he has also shown flashes of dominance that resemble a number one starter. Gray is still a very young pitcher and the development for a pitcher can go for three or four years. The fact that Gray has come out this year and pitched like he has against great teams like Boston, New York, and San Francisco shows he has what it takes to be a number one. His typical baseball stats like ERA and his win total don’t reflect that, but looking into the more telling advanced statistics tells a much more complete story. Gray has a FIP (fielding independent pitching, a statistic that is much more reliant on what a pitcher can control and is graded on a scale similar to ERA) is only 2.96. That is half of his ERA, but is much more telling of some tough luck that Gray has been running into. Gray has very much shown he has what it takes to be a big league starter and I expect great things from him going forward.

Those three pitchers will be a part of this organization going forward and will help the Rockies win a lot of games, but it takes five men to form a complete rotation and while the Rockies don’t have those starter in the majors yet, they are not far off. Kyle Freeland and Jeff Hoffman are two starters that are very close to being a part of this big league team and if they pitch even close to like how they have pitched in the minors, this Rockies rotation will be scary. With Chris Rusin and Eddie Butler manning the back end of this rotation right now, it is only a matter of time before one of Freeland or Hoffman gets called up. Both Butler and Rusin have shown some good performances, but neither seems to have a permanent place in the rotation. If either is to stay, it should be Butler who has pitched much better this year, but still needs to show more consistency.

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The bullpen is another piece of this Rockies team that has a bright future. Pitcher like Carlos Estevez and Miguel Castro have shown the ability to be shutdown pitchers for the seventh and eighth inning. With Adam Ottavino on the way back and eyeing a return soon, Jack McGee will be another piece that could solidify the back end of games. The Rockies are very close to replicating the formula of the Royals and Yankees of shortening games once they get to the eighth inning. With four shutdown pitchers at the back end of a bullpen, the Rockies will win many more games than they have in years past.

The offense has been hit or miss for the Rockies at times this year, but overall there have been some great consistent players and some pleasant surprises. Nolan Arenado is being Nolan Arenado. He is hitting for average and power, but is also walking at a much higher rate than he has in the past years. This is a great sign as Nolan’s one flaw was not reaching base as often as he should.

Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu have also shown the consistency needed out of a leadoff man and number two hole (DJ should be the permanent two hole). They are both hitting over .300 and don’t strike out a lot. With those two at the top of the order, the Rockies get men on base for Nolan and Cargo.

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Two pleasant surprises have been Trevor Story and Mark Reynolds. After Story’s historic start, he cooled off a bit, but he is still a big producer for this team and is a threat for a home run anywhere in the lineup. The strikeouts are a minor concern, but they will go down as he matures as a hitter. Mark Reynolds is a player reborn with a new approach. Reynolds has cut his swing down and is putting the ball in play very often. He is striking out at career low rates and is hitting for average. He still has pop, but I would much rather have this new Mark Reynolds than the one in the past who struck out 8 of 10 times and hit two home runs the other two at bats.

The disappointments for this offense lie at two positions. Catcher, manned by Tony Wolters primarily, and left field, manned by Gerrardo Parra. Parra has been about what you would expect, but he has been a base running nightmare this year. He isn’t walking very much and he isn’t producing with men on base. He will get better, but if not Ryan Raburn and minor leaguer David Dahl will be threatening to replace him.

Tony Wolters has been about what you could expect, but it doesn’t make his production, or lack there of, any less disappointing. With Nick Hundley injured, Wolters has been thrust into a starters job behind the dish. He has been terrific defensively and at handling the pitchers, but he is not doing well at all at the plate. Right now, the Rockies are content to keep him back there for how he handles the starters, but come the future and if the Rockies are competing, Wolters may find himself in jeopardy of the starting job for someone who is hitting better.

Going forward, the Rockies may not compete for the playoffs, but they will certainly be close to .500 and will be competitors next year, of that I am almost certain. This team is a much different one from the past years and the only thing holding them back now is everything meshing together. The pieces are there and they will only be getting better, it is just having them all work together.

Big eighth inning crushes Rockies rally

1024x1024.jpgBart Young, Getty Images

A six run 8th inning negate a four run 7th inning that gave the Rockies lead. After not being able to get much offense going at all against Madison Bumgarner, the Rockies got to the bullpen of the Giants. However, the Giants got right back at the Rockies and ended up winning 10-5 in a game that was a lot closer than the score leads on.

Early on the Giants got some offense from perennial all-star and MVP competitor Buster Posey. With two men on in the first inning, both reaching on mistakes by Butler, a walk and hit-by-pitch, Posey launched a three-run homer to right center field. It cleared the new raised fence, something that has seemed to bite the Rockies more than any opposing team visiting Coors. Eddie Butler was able to settle down from there, but still didn’t have a great start. He finished going five innings and allowing four runs, but he did hold the Giants to only four hits. Unearned baserunners always come around to bite you and that was a fact that came around to harm both teams.

The only run the Rockies managed off of starter Bumgarner came in the fifth inning. A leadoff triple by Cristhian Adames would give Charlie Blackmon the opportunity to drive him in. Charlie couldn’t get a hit, but a sac fly did the job just as well in bringing the runner in.

That run appeared to get the Rockies offense going. In the sixth inning they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. With nobody out, the Rockies were primed to score, but Bumgarner and the Giants defense had other ideas. A key strike out of Ryan Raburn kept anyone from scoring and then a slick double play ended the inning and rally.

The Rockies entered the seventh inning with a 4-1 deficit to come back from. With Bruce Bochy and a lead with his starter out of the game, the match up game and Bochy’s strength came into play. Pitcher Derek Law starter the inning by getting Dustin Garneau out. From there, lefty specialist Javier Lopez came on to face Gerrardo Parra and Blackmon. However, he walked both batters and as stated earlier, the walks would come around to score. Trevor Story came up, but he promptly struck out. The game was in Arenado’s hands and another rally seemed like it would die short. Nolan Arenado took a ball to deep right center, and it hit off the top of the raised fence. (There’s that damn fence again!) It went as a two run double for Arenado and it put the Rockies within a run of tying the game. Carlos Gonzalez came to the plate and he his very clearly getting his stride back. Against another lefty specialist, this time Josh Osich, Cargo took a 2-2 fastball to straightaway center field for a home run. The Rockies took the lead and the game was there’s to be lost.

And lose it is exactly what they would do. Carlos Estevez came on, and it most appearances Estevez has been great. This was a day where Estevez just didn’t have his best stuff and where Buster Posey was on his game. Two singles to start the inning put two men on for Posey and once again Posey hit one out. It was in nearly the exact same place as his first one, but it once again cleared the raised fence, not saving the Rockies. The Giants would score three more runs in the inning and the Rockies seventh inning rally was erased as quickly as it came. It was a bad game for the bullpen, but those will happen. In years past, this loss would go as more of the same story.

This year however, I will chalk this loss up to an off night. Depending on how the Rockies respond to this game on Sunday could show the real heart of this time. They face another tough match up in Cueto, but with some luck and small ball, the Rockies have a chance to win the series.

Rockies double their way to a win

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Tyler Chatwood was fantastic on Friday night and the Rockies offense got 11 hits, half of which were doubles, that eventually gave the Rockies the 5-2 win over the Giants. The Giants, who are 30-20 and were winners of 9 of their last 10, are no easy opponent especially when they have even year magic on their sides, but a combined effort from the starters, bullpen, and offense gave the Rockies a good start to their three game series.

The Giants did take the lead first, but it was because of a rare error by DJ LeMahieu and they couldn’t maintain any momentum from it. After the error, Trevor Brown singled and Jarrett Parker moved to third. The Rockies then got a ground ball from Chatwood that came right back to the mound. Parker held initially so Chatwood fired to second, Parker then broke for home and Trevor Story fired a strike to Tony Wolters. Wolters put the tag and Parker was called out, but after a review it was clear his foot beat the tag and the call was overturned.

The Rockies didn’t let the review get them down as they came right back to tie the game and then take the lead in the bottom of the inning. With Matt Cain out of the game because of an injury, Albert Suarez was forced to come into the game to finish the second inning. With his first full inning of work coming in the third, he ran into some quick trouble. Wolters hit a double that deflected off of the shin of Suarez and Chatwood moved him over on a bunt. Charlie Blackmon then came to the plate, and with a ball up and away from him he smacked a double to left-center. Nolan Arenado then doubled him in a batter later to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead.

From there, Tyler Chatwood settled in with the lead and started to dominate the Giants lineup. He would end up going seven strong innings (he probably could’ve gone eight) while allowing only four hits. The only run allowed was unearned and Chatwood lowered his season ERA to 2.69. Chatwood was efficient, he was accurate, and he was in control. He has had some problems at home this year, but his last two starts have showed his ability to pitch at Coors field with success.

The Rockies would score three more runs after the third inning. A Trevor Story double in the fourth and single in the eighth would score two more and give Story to more RBIs to his stellar rookie campaign. Tony Wolters would follow up Story’s eighth inning single with a single of his own to score the fifth and final run for the Rockies.

The Giants would threaten in the ninth as they scored a run to bring the game to 5-2. But with two outs and one on, Jake McGee came on for his quickest and easiest save of the season. He got Kelby Tomlinson to pop out on the second pitch of the at-bat and the game would end.

The Rockies will need to maintain some momentum from this win if they want to have a chance in the next two games of the series. Bumgarner and Cueto are starting for the Giants and they are no easy match ups. Eddie Butler takes the mound on Saturday and he is coming off a successful long relief appearance against the Red Sox. They will need him to pitch strong to pull out a win.

Series Preview: Giants vs. Rockies

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Friday, May 27th 6:40pm: Matt Cain (1-5 5.37 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (5-3 3.02 ERA)

While Chatwood hasn’t been particularly good at home this year, he is coming off of his best home start when he faced the Mets. He also has the benefit of facing Matt Cain who already has two losses against the Rockies this year. The Rockies have got to Cain in both of his starts scoring six runs in each. If Tyler Chatwood can mimic his success against the Mets, this game could end up very lopsided in the Rockies favor.

Saturday, May 28th 2:10pm: Madison Bumgarner (6-2 2.17) vs. Chris Rusin (1-2 3.93 ERA)

It isn’t announced yet whether Rusin will make the Saturday start, but it is presumably going to be him or Eddie Butler. Whoever doesn’t start Saturday will likely start Sunday. Either way the Rockies offense will have their work cut out for them while facing Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner controlled the Rockies in his last start giving up only 2 earned runs (4 runs total) while earning the win. That was in San Francisco however, so with the Rockies at home they could flip that result around and come out with a much needed win against the division rival Giants.

Sunday, May 29th 2:10pm: Johnny Cueto (7-1 2.38 ERA) vs. Eddie Butler (2-2 3.58 ERA)

Johnny Cueto has been terrific this year and he absolutely handled the Rockies when he last faced them. Cueto went 8 innings of shutout baseball and the Rockies could not manage much of anything off of him. This game could very well end up the rubber match of the series so it is extremely important that the Rockies do whatever they can to get to Cueto. That means playing some small ball, having intelligent base running, and taking advantage of any mistakes made by the Giants. Either way, the Rockies will need their long relievers to step up and perform like they have in their best performances. It is certainly possible as both Chris Rusin and Eddie Butler have been pretty good in starter roles this year, but the Giants lineup is not an easy one to navigate and they always seem to play well at Coors Field.

Jon Gray stellar, JBJ streak ends at 29

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Jon Gray earned his second win of his career, and his first road win, against probably the best offense he will face this year. An early mistake gave the Red Sox a two run lead, but Gray settled down and the Rockies would go one to win the series finale by a score of 8-2.

The game would start much like the others of this series with the Red Sox offense getting on the board early. In the first inning with two outs, Xander Bogaerts reached on a single and Big Papi came to the plate. Like he has done all this year and his entire career, Ortiz drove a ball out to deep right field for a two run home run. For Rockies fans, it was like a bad dream all over again with the Red Sox offense punishing the pitching. However, Jon Gray would not allow another run and the Rockies offense would actually go off for what would eventually be an easy win.

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was cruising, not allowing a base runner through the first three innings. Charlie Blackmon would end that streak with a leadoff single in the first, but the next two batters would go down easy. Carlos Gonzalez then came to the plate, and coming off a three hit night on Wednesday appeared to give him some confidence in getting out of his slump. On a 2-1 curveball, Cargo went down and golfed a home run out to right field to tie the game at 2-2. It is a great sign for Cargo who had been scuffling and not producing as well, but he looks to be getting back to form.

The Rockies would come right back the next inning to take the lead and get to starter Buchholz. Gerrardo Parra led off the inning with a single and Trevor Story, batting seventh for the first time this year, would come to the plate. After an extended at bat and fouling some pitches off, Story got a ball he could handle and he took it to deep left-center field. The ball would get over the monster and land in the hands of a Rockies fan for a two run home run. That would put the Rockies up 4-2 but they wouldn’t stop there.

Daniel Descalso would follow the home run up with a single, and much like how the inning started, Dustin Garneua would come up and hit another two run home run for the Rockies. That extended the lead to 6-2 and the Rockies were looking good.

Despite some lack of control with his fastball on the mound, Gray had his secondary pitches working and that kept him in control of the Red Sox lineup. He was able to keep Jackie Bradley Jr. from getting a base hit, the first time he hasn’t had a hit in 29 games, and kept most of the Red Sox lineup down for the rest of the game. Two hits in the first and two hits in the fifth were all the Red Sox could manage on offense off of Gray and he finished with 7.1 innings pitched allowing 5 total hits and the two run home run in the first. He also walked three and struck out six on 95 total pitches.

The win was a great way to wrap up what was a difficult road trip. The Rockies went 3-6 on the trip, winning one game against each opponent. They come home for a three game set against the Giants on Friday and will look to make up some lost ground against the division leader. This series could mean a lot for the Rockies going forward. A sweep shows the Rockies are serious about competing this year and winning two of three keeps them in the hunt, but if they lose two of three or get swept it could mean trouble going forward.