Battle of the closers, Rox take it late

Thank you Mark Reynolds. Thank you Greg Holland. But most of all, thank you Fernando Rodney. Down by a score of 4-6 going into the last inning, the Rockies needed to rally against the Dbacks closer Fernando Rodney. And that is just what they would do, with a little help from Rodney himself.

Leading the inning off, Pat Valaika singled to left field. Blackmon then struck out before LeMahieu’s walk. Nolan Arenado could not come through with a hit so the Rockies were down to their final out. With runners at second and third, Cargo was pitched around until he was given the eventual free pass to load the bases for Mark Reynolds. Prior to this at-bat, Reynolds was 2-8 off of Rodney with two doubles. Reynolds wouldn’t double, but he would squeeze a single through the left side to drive in two and tie the game.

Then, with Gerardo Parra batting, Rodney spiked two different pitches to allow the runners to move up and eventually score. The 40-year old closer has now blown to saves for the Dbacks and raises questions of how long he will remain closer. Archie Bradley looks to be next in line for Arizona and the upside of him over Rodney is going to be huge.

With a 7-6 lead, the Rockies could give Greg Holland the ball and do as he has done all year, lock it down. This was not a flawless save, he did allow a single and then a wild pitch to advance the runner into scoring position, but he came away with the franchise record 11th save in April regardless.

There are certainly some negatives to this win however. Tyler Anderson once again struggled allowing six runs in five innings with three walks. He also allowed three home runs, one of them being the longest of the year from Jake Lamb. The struggles of Anderson may raise questions of the rotation, especially with Jeff Hoffman putting out a much improved AAA start with 7 innings of shutout baseball and 8 Ks. Anderson would not get sent down immediately, but he is going to be on a short leash it seems and be evaluated pretty hard until his next start out.

The Rockies will go for the sweep on Sunday with German Marquez on the mound and also the likely return of Ian Desmond. It looks as though Desmond will make the start in left field with a lefty on the mound and it gives the Rockies a much needed bench/starter who can play all over.

Rockies earn series opening win

In what is the biggest series of the early season, the Rockies won the first game against the Dbacks. Each team recorded six hits on the night and both pitchers got into at least the sixth inning, but in the end the Rockies pushed across more runs than Arizona. Greg Holland locked down the 3-1 win for the Rockies to record a franchise tying tenth save in April.

The Rockies got on the board immediately when Nolan Arenado doubled and Cargo singled him in. It was one of two hits for Cargo, who also happened to by the only player for either team to record multiple hits. The Rockies would score another run, the eventual game winning one, when Trevor Story lifted a solo shot to center.

The shutout would not last any longer for the Rockies when the Dbacks scored  a two-out run after a single and a walk. Goldschmidt would single in the run to cut the Rockies lead in half. That would be the only run of the afternoon for Arizona and it did not phase young starter Kyle Freeland.

Freeland got through a much needed six innings. He only struck out two and allowed six hits, but the third inning run was the only blemish on an otherwise fine afternoon. Freeland would exit before the seventh to make way for Chris Rusin. Rusin struck out both batters he faced before Ottavino came on to face AJ Pollock. Pollock would reach third before Ottavino could get Chris Owings to ground out. Ottavino then worked a perfect eighth to send the Rockies into the ninth with a lead.

Greg Holland came on for the save, and as he has done all year, he locked it down. It took twelve pitches, nine of which were strikes, and the game was won. It was Holland’s tenth of the year, a league lead, and gave the Rockies sole possession of first place going into Saturday’s affair.

Series Preview: Rockies (14-9) vs. Diamondbacks (15-9)

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Friday, April 28th 7:40pm: Kyle Freeland (3-1 2.93) vs. Robbie Ray (2-1 3.56)

The Rockies won the series opener of a much needed series with an excellent pitching performance, solid bullpen work, and some timely hits. It put the Rockies back into first and likely cleared the memories from the last three games of the Nationals series where the games just got out of hand. Freeland having a good game was really important to keep the bullpen from being overworked early and taking a win against Arizona is always nice.

Saturday, April 29th 6:10pm: Tyler Anderson (1-3 7.11) vs. Zack Greinke (2-2 2.93)

Simply put, the Rockies need Anderson to pitch like he did in 2016. He has struggled through all of his starts so far and really needs to get back on the right foot. His command has struggled and going against a heavy hitting Dbacks lineup is not the best way to get back on track, but if he does pitch well it will really boost his confidence. Going against Zack Greinke is always some good motivation. Greinke was pretty bad last year all things considered and has returned to form this year. The Rockies are .274 as a team against Greinke which bodes well for this game. Trevor Story has also hit Greinke hard and with his home run on Friday, he may be (hopefully) heating up.

Sunday, April 30th 2:10pm: German Marquez (0-1 18.00) vs. Patrick Corbin (2-3 2.79)

With a series opening win, the Rockies only need to take one more game to win the series. A sweep would obviously be nice, but you take what you can get. On Sunday, the Rockies would like to get a nice start from Marquez, who struggled in his 2017 opener. It was against the Nationals who were just crushing the ball at Coors Field, so hopefully a change of scenery and team yields different results. He goes against Corbin who has pitched well this year on what may end the rubber match.

Nats take series with another offensive onslaught

 David Zalubowski AP Photo

The final three games of the series did not go well for the Rockies. The Nationals managed to score 15, 11, and 16 runs in the final three games of the series. The Rockies played bad defense, their starters did not do well, and the bullpen struggled mightily, though it was not the fault of McGee, Ottavino, or Holland. The Rockies just have to be glad to be done with this series and they can now head off to Arizona, only a half game back of the Dbacks.

Thursday’s game saw the Nats recording an 11 run inning and whacking 19 total hits on the afternoon. The big concern here and the driver behind the inning was losing pitchers and not being able to finish hitters when they were down two strikes. This was really the case for the whole series and it is why the Nats often pushed across runs.

While this series certainly looks like the worst case scenario for how the Rockies could perform on the year, it should get better. They will get three big players back soon, with Ian Desmond likely being the first to return within the next week or two. And while the offense has not been terrible, the depth has been and any amount of help in that regard will be beneficial.

Kyle Freeland will open the series up against the Dbacks and the Rockies desperately need to get at least six innings out him. The bullpen is taxed and tired and can not keep up with the workload that was put on them in the last series. This is also an important series as it could show who the contenders and pretenders are for the West.

 

Chatwood, bullpen struggle again

It might be time for the Rockies to start being concerned for their starting staff, especially Tyler Chatwood. For his third home start of the year, Chatwood allowed at least four runs again. Chatwood has just been really bad at home, for this year and the last one and without a drastic change he is a liability for every start at home. He has been great on the road, but too bad for him he has to pitch about half his games at Coors.

With Chatwood allowing five runs, the bullpen had to come in and try and salvage the game. With an early exit, Chris Rusin came in to try and keep the game in hand. Rusin could not do that as he allowed four runs in 1.2 innings. Chad Qualls came in after that and allowed two more runs. For the second straight game, Washington scored at least 11 runs and recored 14 hits.

The Rockies offense could not do what they did on Tuesday and keep them in the game, scoring only four runs. You can’t blame them entirely though as the game was just out of hand early. Sloppy play on defense certainly didn’t help as they had three errors in the game.

After the first game of the series, the next two have not been pretty. Sloppy defense, bad starting pitching, and some lacking performances from the bullpen have set the Rockies up to fail. Luckily, they send their best starter of the year to the mound on Thursday, Antonio Senzatela. Senzatela has been great and this will be a good test to show if he can be a stopper. The Rockies would love to split this series before they head out to Arizona for a battle between the top NL West teams.

Rox fall in 27 run shootout

David Zalubowski, AP

If there was ever a loss where you just move on and say “well played” this was one. The Rockies got down early, and had some bullpen falters along the way, but they never gave up despite allowing 15 runs to the Nationals on Tuesday.

German Marquez is now filling in for Jon Gray while he is injured and he struggled in his first start of 2017. Perhaps it was a sloppy first inning or maybe it was the delayed start that put him off his game, but whatever it was he ended up allowing eight runs in four innings with seven of those coming in the first two. The first inning saw a couple deflected balls and an error in right that allowed the Nats to score two runs and from there they took off. They would score five more in the second to take an early 7-0 lead.

But give credit to the Rockies offense, they did not count themselves out. The Rockies scored a run in all but the first and sixth inning while recording fifteen hits and twelve runs of their own. It is not often you lose a game where you score twelve runs, but sometimes things happen.

Jordan Lyles and Scott Oberg also had rough outings allowing two and five runs respectively. The Nats just had their offense rolling and Trea Turner even managed the cycle, the first of his career and the second the Rockies have given up this year. He recorded seven RBIs and along with Daniel Murphy who had five, those two players recorded a majority of Washington’s runs.

The Rockies had big offense days from LeMahieu and Blackmon who both recorded three hits and Tony Wolters as well who recorded two hits and scored two runs. Gonzalez, Parra, and Reynolds all had home runs in the game, it was just not enough to make up for the pitching woes in this one.

This was a character loss as it shows the Rockies fight. They will now try and right the ship with a good performance from Chatwood, who will look to not only improve on Marquez’s rough outing, but also on his own home woes. He faces Tanner Roark of whom the Rockies have only had a collective 20 plate appearances against.

Clutch late innings give Rox great win

Down 4-1 in the sixth inning, the Rockies were offense flat and needed to generate something. With Nolan Arenado on third after a triple and two outs, Reynolds was going to need to get a hit to drive in a needed run. He did more than that with a big fly that got over the left field wall and just like that the Rockies were within a run.

With the shutdown bullpen the Rockies have this year, the game looked to be swaying the Rockies way, as all they needed was a run to tie. They got that and more with another seventh inning two out home run. Recent call-up Pat Valaika doubled down the left field line and Blackmon came up as the next batter to club a two-run homer into the second deck in right. The Rockies went from down by three to up by one, and that would not be all they would get in the late innings.

In the eighth, the Rockies moved away from the long ball and decided to single the Nats out of the game. Five straight singles to start the inning put the Rockies up 7-4 and they would score still one more in the inning before handing the ball to Greg Holland, who came in just to get some work.

Holland did not work a flawless inning, as he allowed a walk and a double, but he did not allow a run and even had to face Bryce Harper as the final batter of the game, who he got to ground out to first to end it.

Tyler Anderson was really good until the sixth inning. Through five, Anderson had only allowed one walk and two hits, but in the sixth the wheels started to fall off. Anderson would allow the cycle in the inning to four different Nats hitters and with that they also scored four runs. Anderson would not close out the inning and failed to earn a quality start again. The Rockies should be happy with how Anderson started, but his failure to get deep is starting to become concerning, especially considering his 2016 campaign. Luckily the Rockies have had other guys stepping up and their bullpen has been terrific, but they are eventually going to need Anderson to get deep.

The Rockies send German Marquez to the mound for his first start of 2017 to fill in for Gray and his rotation spot. Marquez has potential to be a great starter and showed some flashes in 2016, but of course consistency is key and that is what they will need from him this year.

Series Preview: Nationals (13-5) vs. Rockies (13-6)

Monday, April 24th 6:40pm: Jacob Turner (0-0 -.–) vs Tyler Anderson (1-3 7.32)

The opening game of these two division leaders will feature a couple of question marks for the starters. For the Nats, it will be whether spot starter Turner can come in and hold the flourishing Rockies offense down at home. They have been hot the last couple of games and are likely riding a high into Monday night’s game. For the Rockies, they will be wondering whether Tyler Anderson can get back to his 2016 form. He has struggled early in his sophomore season and the Rockies really need him to get back on track as their number two starter, especially without Jon Gray.

Tuesday, April 25th 6:40pm: Joe Ross (1-0 3.86) vs. TBD

The Rockies have not yet named a starter for Tuesday’s game, though it is likely they make a call up. With Jeff Hoffman struggling early in the year, it seems German Marquez will come in and make the start and take over the empty rotation spot. Marquez showed good flashes last year and he will be yet another young pitcher in this Rockies rotation. With the recent success of young starters, the Rockies should be looking forward to yet another young guys taking the hill.

Wednesday, April 26th 6:40pm: Tanner Roark (2-0 3.65) vs. Tyler Chatwood (2-2 4.10)

Wednesday night’s game is the game with the most set matchup and it features two good righties. Tanner Roark has been good early with two decisions and a really solid ERA. Tyler Chatwood has been alright, doing a little bit better recently, especially his last road start, but at home he has still struggled. He really does need to straighten up, especially in a series where you’re facing one of the best teams in the league. Having Harper and Murphy definitely doesn’t bode well for Chatwood, but perhaps he will have a good outing at home.

Thursday, April 27th: 1:10pm: Gio Gonzalez (2-0 1.35) vs. Antonio Senzatela (3-0 2.08)

This is the best matchup of the series with both pitchers dominating early. Senzatela was terrific his last start out and will look to replicate that in a game that will likely be low scoring. This is a day game at Coors and the ball will be flying, but there could also be some bad weather that may impact the game. This series could really go any way, especially with some of the question marks on the mound. Both teams have some potent offenses and either team could go off during any game this series. The Rockies would love to come away with three games in this series, but losing any more than two would be greatly damaging to the team.

Rockies sweep Giants at home for first time since 2002

For the first time in fifteen years, the Rockies have swept the Giants at home, and they did it handily. Kyle Freeland was terrific, having his best start of the year, and the Rockies offense again came to play. They finished with a score of 8-0 to sweep the suffering San Francisco team.

For the second game in a row, Charlie Blackmon led off with a triple and scored in the first inning. This time Blackmon scored on a sac fly, but it still gave the Rockies an early one run lead that they would hold onto for the entire game. The Giants would manage six hits throughout the game and also walked three times, but they never pushed a run across and have now fallen to 6-13.

On the back of Senzatela’s terrific start, Freeland came out on Sunday and out-pitched Senzatela by going seven innings and allowing zero runs. He walked only one and struck out three, but the Giants could just never get on the board to make it a close game. This is fantastic news for the Rockies as it gives them two straight games with blowout wins where the bullpen did not have to work hard at all.

What it also presents are some challenges with the looming players on the DL. Three players are set to come off the DL sometime in May and with that the Rockies will have decisions to make. It is hard for any of Parra, Blackmon, or Cargo to lose playing time. Parra and Blackmon have both been fantastic, with Parra starting and staying strong and Blackmon coming into his own recently. Then you have Cargo and what he presents as an ever looming presence to get hot and carry the Rockies for a week.

There is also Mark Reynolds at first who has been terrific showing that he truly has reinvented himself as a hitter. While he did go 0-4 on Sunday, he has been great all year long showing increased power from last year while still showing discipline and the ability to hit for average. So while the Rockies have starters playing major roles that they just cannot remove, they will be given the ability, with Ian Desmond at least, to use him as a utility role player filling in around the diamond. The outfield is currently weak in regards to having a right-handed hitter, Stephen Cardullo being the only one. But with Desmond, the Rockies can give any three of the outfielders a night off, a couple of the infielders a night off without having to worry about depth.

David Dahl coming off the DL, which there still isn’t a real timetable one, would raise more questions as it gives them just another lefty. Right now, Cargo seems to be the odd man out with his recent struggles, but it is just so hard to remove him with his past. Dahl could fill in for any of the lefty outfielders and at any position, but what his role is remains to be seen.

Tom Murphy is the other player that should come off the DL and he has a much more obvious and straightforward role, relieve Dustin Garneau of his major league duties. Garneau has not been terrible, but he has been far from good and the prospect of what Murphy brings both offensively and defensively far exceeds anything Garneau brings. The Murphy/Wolters platoon will greatly benefit the Rockies once Murphy is ready to come off the DL.

Rox get first blowout of the season

AP Photo, David Zalubowski

A day after winning another one run affair, the Rockies offense decided they didn’t want to play a close game. The Rockies only scored in three inning Saturday evening, but they put up lopsided numbers in all of them to come away with a 12-3 victory over the giants. The offense came in all forms and it also came behind an excellent performance from Antonio Senzatela.

The Rockies started early scoring three runs in the first inning. A triple down the right field line set Nolan up for an RBI opportunity and he delivered with a run scoring single. Mark Reynolds then came up with a man on and two outs and absolutely obliterated a ball to left field. It was Reynolds fifth homer of the season and he now sits at a .339 average through the early goings of April.

The Rockies would score three more runs off of the Giants lefty starter Matt Moore in the fourth inning. Trevor Story would homer to start the inning, and while he did strike out three times, he appears to be heating up a little with his second homer in as many games. Dustin Garneau would then double in Cardullo who walked before being picked off at second. Before the inning would end, Charlie Blackmon would hit a solo shot to straight away center to give the Rockies a 6-0 lead.

The led would prove to be more than enough for Senzatela who would end up allowing only a run on a solo shot to Panik. Senzatela went seven innings with three strikeouts and zero walks on only 90 pitches. The start reinforces the fact that Senzatela is not afraid to pitch to contact and it shows it is working as well, as he has lowered his ERA to 2.08.

In the eighth inning, after the Giants brought the score to 6-3, the Rockies would close the game out with a six run inning. Singles galore would drive in most of the runs with the final two of the inning coming from a Mark Reynolds single, his third and fourth RBIs of the game, coming on his third hit as well. It would be the first time the Rockies scored in double digits and it also raises their run differential to a positive margin, after they were -7 the previous game.

The Rockies will look to close the series out with a hopefully good start from Kyle Freeland. Freeland has had moments where he’s looked good, but he has yet to show the poise and composure Senzatela has. The offense will try and give him an early cushion to hopefully lead to the eventual sweep.