One trouble the Rockies have frequently faced is finding a way to win with their offense-heavy lineup in the pitcher-friendly parks of the National League West. (Hayden insightfully dissected this issue in a recent post.) It’s one thing to have a dugout full of mashers when that dugout is in Denver, but travel on to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and especially San Diego, and suddenly those guys don’t look so tough anymore. Their sure-thing Colorado home runs fall into outfielders’ gloves instead.
This was no less a problem in the first season than it is now. In mid-May, the Rockies went on a tough road trip that had them away from Mile High for two weeks. They played seven games within the division, four at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and three at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Their record in those two series was 1-6, and they were shut out three times. Two of these games featured Dodgers who pitched complete games.
On May 23rd, the pitcher of record for Los Angeles was Ramon Martinez. The Rockies had been complete-gamed and shut out by no less than Orel Hershiser two days before, but he’s the kind of pitcher you lose to more often than not. Martinez, brother to Pedro, was hardly so scary. But the Rockies were easily scared in those days, and they managed just 3 hits off Martinez in the entire game. Only Daryl Boston reached base more than once, on a single and a walk. Martinez allowed 7 baserunners in his 9 innings. He also struck out 8.
Meanwhile, what did the Rockies’ starting pitcher do with this unfortunate hand he was dealt? He, Willie Blair, did what so many others have done in the same situation: put his head down and pounded out the best start he possibly could. He lasted 6 1/3 innings and kept pace with Martinez that whole time, allowing just 4 baserunners prior to the 7th inning. And then LA broke things open.
Mike Piazza and Cory Snyder led off the inning with back-to-back singles and then executed a double steal. That put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. It takes a pretty talentless offense not to find a way to take advantage of that situation, and the Dodgers of the mid-’90s certainly were not talentless. Eric Karros and Jody Reed hit back-to-back singles to score Piazza and Snyder and put the Dodgers up 2-0. They wouldn’t need any more than that, but they tacked on a couple more with a Brett Butler sacrifice fly and an Eric Davis solo home run. It was a terrible end to a terrible road trip. Would the Rockies ever learn how to compete during these long treks through enemy territory (a.k.a. California)? The jury’s still out. In other words, not really.