Well, that was an exciting game, and I was privileged to witness it. I was holding my breath for three full innings as the Rockies managed to maintain a 1-run lead. With this pitching staff, a 10-run lead is never safe. As the top of the 9th approached, I began to make my way around the outfield, as I usually do, so as to be closer to the exit and make a run for my train when the game ended. Even as I did so I was telling myself, don’t get too close. This game could still go on much longer. And I wound up having to find another seat, because it went on for 3 more innings.
Here’s when this new pitching experiment really doesn’t work: when you pull your starter at the end of the 3rd and then proceed to play 8 more innings. That’s a bullpen game if ever there was one. The Rockies used 20 of 25 men in yesterday’s game: only Wilin Rosario of the hitters remained on the bench, and only Edwar Cabrera, Jeff Francis, Matt Reynolds, and Guillermo Moscoso didn’t enter as pitchers. Jeremy Guthrie and Christian Friedrich also did not technically pitch, but they were called on to run. If you’re doing the math, as I pretty much always am, that means Francis had better go really deep in today’s game. We’re looking at several very long innings from Moscoso if he doesn’t, and only Reynolds is fully fresh. I think Matt Belisle could go again today, and Rex Brothers probably could too. But the point is, when you rely on your bullpen as heavily as we do, you get yourself in some situations.
Which pitcher is to blame for the fact that the Rockies had to go into extras? The easy answer is Rafael Betancourt, who entered in the 9th to do his usual job, get 3 outs while holding a lead of 3 runs or less. Instead, Bryce Harper sent the third pitch Betancourt threw into the stands and tied the game. That’s what put the team in a must-walk-off situation. On the other hand, that lead should never have become one run in the first place. It was 7 runs going into the 3rd, and Josh Outman was looking really good. Then suddenly he was looking really bad, and he gave up a 2-run single and a 3-run home run. That’s the other problem with this pitching plan. It doesn’t matter how many pitches you restrict these guys to, all it takes is one bad inning to lose the game. Whether that’s the 3rd inning or the 7th is irrelevant.
Josh Roenicke, called upon to be the bridge, had a bad inning of his own in the 5th. It started with a lead-off double followed by an RBI single. If it had ended there, as it should have, everything would have been fine, and the Rockies still would have had a 4-run lead. But then Michael Morse grounded into what should have been a double play, and Chris Nelson threw the ball at the ground instead of at Jonathan Herrera, and instead of inning over we had runners on the corners with 1 out. A sacrifice fly scored the man on 3rd and then Ian Desmond came up and hit a 2-run blast. All of those runs were unearned, because even if the infield hadn’t turned the double play, Harper should have been out at 2nd, which would have meant the sac fly was instead an inning-ending flyout. So have I mentioned that the defense is bad, too, and that it’s not helping the pitchers out any?
Also bad: stranding runners. The Rockies collected 20 hits during this game and left 13 men on base. They grounded into 3 double plays, including one by Carlos Gonzalez that fortunately still scored a run. The worst of the double plays was Marco Scutaro, in the bottom of the 9th with 2 on and 1 out. That’s the worst possible scenario for a double play. I’m a fan of Scutaro, but he is so bad in the clutch it’s not even funny. That’s why I thought we were going to the 12th when he came up in the bottom of the 11th with a runner on 3rd and 2 out. But Scutaro was somehow able to do what he couldn’t do in the 9th, and singled Herrera home. An unlikely hero.
Tyler Colvin is true offensive hero of the game, though. Every time he came to the plate felt like a sure thing, and it was on 4 different occasions. He capped the Rockies 5-run 1st inning with a 3-run homer. He hit an RBI single in the 2nd, and RBI triple in the 4th, and a single in the 6th. That’s 5 RBI if you’re counting. This pitching staff better by Colvin some beers, because he is singlehandedly rescuing them all.
Conclusions? The pitching is still really bad, and we won’t make a real turnaround until that changes. On the other hand, we’ve got enough hot bats right now that maybe we can even win a couple of series before the All-Star break. Maybe.
The Rockies will take on the Padres for a 3-game series this weekend as the homestand continues.