Let’s stop saying that it can’t get any worse than this. We’re just tempting the baseball gods. They’re like, bahahahahaha! Oh yes it can. Yes it can.
When the Rockies signed Kevin Millwood last August, I was not happy. To me, he was just another washed-up veteran with nothing left in the tank who was hoping for one more moment of glory. You know, like Denny Neagle. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to let the Denny Neagle thing go. But Millwood was different. Yes, he gave up quite a large number of flyballs, many of which turned into home runs in the atmosphere of Coors Field. But he was also a consummate professional, a workhorse who could eat innings, make adjustments, and occasionally make a really awesome defensive play in which he caught a line drive, fell to his knees, and still made the throw to first. Kevin Millwood was a pleasant surprise, particularly in the morass of terrible surprises that was last season.
The decision not to re-sign Millwood was a six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other thing, in my opinion. He certainly outperformed my expectations in 2011, and likely would have been a solid member of the rotation again. But then the Rockies got Jamie Moyer, who has been just that, and who has been about the same as Millwood numbers-wise and cost-wise. Plus, the Rockies have gotten into the record books a couple more times thanks to Moyer. Millwood or Moyer, both would have provided about the same for the Rockies.
But it was Millwood, not Moyer, who took the hill last night as the Seattle Mariners came to town. And he was awesome. It’s just too bad he was pitching for the other guys. It took the Rockies 5 2/3 innings to get a hit, and then they totally wasted that opportunity when Marco Scutaro thought Jordan Pacheco‘s single could move him from first to third. No, Scoot, no. And please, can we stop making the third out of the inning on the basepaths? Or any out of the inning for that matter?
Why was Millwood so good? He threw a LOT of strikes, for one. 75 of them in 113 pitches. And the Rockies let an awful lot of good ones go by, including five called strike three’s. They’re all taking terrible at-bats right now. Nobody’s off the hook, because you’ll get a guy like Scutaro, so smart a lot of the time, who has a game full of dumb mistakes that cost his team runs. There is zero consistency, and you can chalk that up to bad coaching.
Perhaps the real shame in all this is that the best start of Alex White‘s career was tragically wasted. White has never gone seven innings in a major-league uniform, and he did that last night. He also allowed only 2 earned runs (a third unearned run scored thanks to a bad throw by Wilin Rosario). Most encouraging, I think, is that the M’s scored a run in each of the first two innings and after that White was nearly untouchable. What a turnaround from 2011, when an early run meant three more runs in the following inning. It’s clear that he’s learned to calm himself down and keep his head in the game, which is more than can be said for, say, Esmil Rogers. White only allowed 4 hits in the 3rd-7th innings. That’s solid.
Matt Reynolds pitched a nice 1-2-3 8th and then gave up a triple to Kyle Seager on the first pitch of the 9th. (Why does it work for other teams to swing at the first pitch? That never works for the Rockies.) A sacrifice fly scored run number four and sealed the defeat. Josh Roenicke came in and struck out Casper Wells on three pitches to limit the damage. Roenicke has really been awesome, by the way. His ERA is 2.91. In a season when every single pitcher seems to be struggling, don’t underestimate the value of a guy like Roenicke.
All right, so what have we learned? The Rockies are no good. Everyone who should be performing is not, and everyone who shouldn’t be is even worse. Can this series be saved? I will say this, and I wouldn’t have said this coming into the season: if there’s anybody I think might be able to prevent a sweep, it’s Christian Friedrich, who will be on the bump today.