Before I write this recap, I’d just like to say something unrelated. I’m moving soon (back to Colorado, as it happens), and so I’m emptying out my DVR because I have to take my cable box back to Time Warner this weekend. So I’ve just watched the 2010 and 2011 editions of 30 Clubs in 30 Days on MLB Network and I mean, if you want to cry, that’s the way to spend your time. Talk about falling short of expectations. Also, all the analysts talk about in those editions is the stability of the club and the depth of the farm system. And how great it is that the Rockies are such a homegrown team. Sigh. Also, Ubaldo Jimenez lies to Hazel Mae about wanting to play with Cargo and Tulo and that’s just not right.
Anyway, we’re in 2012 now, and nobody knows how that story ends, so all we can do is talk about today. Today the Rockies played two games at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, thanks to the rainout of the series opener on Monday. The theme of these games was offense, or rather the fact that there wasn’t any. The Rockies collected 9 hits total over the course of 18 innings, and only managed to score 3 runs. In other words, they’re lucky they won even one of these games.
In the first game, it took them till the 7th inning to get a hit at all, and that’s never a good sign. The Pirates’ James McDonald is nobody special, but we all know that this team loves to make mediocre pitchers feel great about themselves. McDonald threw 101 pitches over 7 innings and struck out 8. He only allowed 1 hit. It just so happened that that hit, a single by Troy Tulowitzki, was preceded by a Carlos Gonzalez walk and followed by a wild pitch and a Jason Giambi sacrifice fly. It was enough to put the Rockies up 1-0, because the Bucs weren’t giving McDonald any run support either.
Juan Nicasio can take the bulk of the credit for that. He was even more efficient than McDonald, throwing 95 pitches in 6 2/3, with 61 strikes. He did allow 9 hits, but he scattered them enough that he only gave up one run, and that on a homer by Pedro Alvarez. Unfortunately, he left the game before the Rockies could tie it up, so he’ll take a no-decision.
Hats off to the defense for some fine work in game one as well. Wilin Rosario threw out three would-be base stealers at 2nd, and Tyler Colvin made a rocket of a throw to get Jose Tabata trying to stretch a single into a double. If those guys hadn’t helped out, the Pirates would have won this game. I guess if you can’t get it done at the plate, you’d better get it done in the field.
Colvin also drove in the go-ahead run, and Esmil Rogers looked like the pitcher he could be for half an inning when he struck out the side in 14 pitches. Not a well-played game offensively, but everybody else did their job well enough that the team got away with it.
In the nightcap, there was no such luck. The offense was still anemic, this time scoring only 1 run on 6 hits. That one run scored on a solo shot by Ramon Hernandez, who joined Rosario with some great defense behind the plate today. But nobody else made any kind of offensive contribution. Nobody had more than one hit, and Dexter Fowler, Cargo, and Tulo all went hitless. You’re not going to win a game when that’s what the lineup does, unless your pitcher has a no-hitter going.
Jhoulys Chacin, in character, instead threw an 8-hitter, and only lasted 5 innings. He’s still really struggling to get ahead in the count and keep his pitch count down. I’m actually getting a little concerned about him because last season he seemed able to mix brilliant starts with difficult starts, and this season he’s yet to really put together an ace-quality one. Too many pitches, too many balls, not enough command. He’s got to get it together soon. I don’t like this Jhoulys. I don’t like it at all.
Somehow, Chacin made it to the 5th inning without allowing a run, but then the floodgates opened. With 1 out, Chacin gave up 3 hits in a row followed by a pair of home runs, and just like that the Pirates were up 5-0. Like I said, that cannot happen, especially on days when the bats are quiet.
Of note was the performance of Zach Putnam, called up today because some loophole in the collective bargaining agreement allowed the Rockies to expand their roster to 26 for a minute. No way Putnam wasn’t going to get a look under the circumstances, even if Chacin had been on track for a complete game shut-out. As it was, Putnam came into the game in the 6th and retired the side on 1o pitches, allowing just the lead-off man to reach. It was an efficient inning, and he used his fastball, his splitter, and his slider. He could be a righty specialist out of the bullpen soon enough, though there isn’t room for him on the 25-man at the moment.
Rex Brothers and Edgmer Escalona each allowed 1 hit in the inning they pitched but no runs. The blame for this game is equally shared by Chacin’s poor location and the lifeless bats. It’s a shame, because a team that can beat Milwaukee at home ought to be able to beat Pittsburgh anywhere. The Rockies could really have used this series victory.
After a travel day, the Rockies will be back at Coors Field this weekend playing the Mets.