THANK GOODNESS. There will be no sweep by the Padres this time. You just have to be thankful for the little things sometimes.
So this wasn’t Jeff Francis‘s best outing, and when you say that about someone who’s just pitched in San Diego, it’s a tad disheartening. But I’m still happy-ish with his work last night. The first three batters he faced reached base, and the Pads were already up 1-0 before he ever recorded an out. But he got three of those in a row without any trouble. He also struck out the side in the 2nd (with a Jesus Guzman home run in there somewhere). Then he got a pair of 1-2-3 innings before giving up a couple more runs in the 5th. All told, it could have been far worse. The good thing, I think, is how well Francis is using his offspeed pitches these days. His fastball keeps dropping in velocity, which would be alarming if he was an Ubaldo Jimenez-type. But he just compensates by throwing more breaking balls, and tosses in an 85-mph heater in there every so often for good measure. That’s what works for him, so it works for me. I’d rather that than, say, Jeremy Guthrie, who seemed to have no understanding of how to make adjustments of any kind.
Adam Ottavino and Rex Brothers did some good work after Francis departed. Brothers especially looked great, striking out both batters he faced, one on an 88-mph slider. Since Brothers is a guy who relies heavily on his fastball, it’s nice to see him mixing it up a little and fooling hitters with his other pitches. If that keeps up, he’ll save a game yet.
Matt Belisle, so reliable much of the time, unfortunately allowed a run on 2 hits in the 8th, and since the Rockies only led by 1, that tied the game. But he did fine in the 9th. Carlos Torres pitched a very good 10th and 11th and I’m not sorry he was awarded the win. And Rafael Betancourt made a 12-pitch save look easy. All in all, it was a solid night for the pen.
The Rockies had a fine night at the plate as well. It took them till the 4th inning to get anything going, but then they were up and running. They loaded the bases with 1 out in the 4th, ordinarily a perfect opportunity to completely flame out, but then the bottom of the order hit 3 straight singles, scoring 4 runs. That’s some quality plate appearances. Kudos especially to Josh Rutledge, who took 8 pitches to get his base hit, and only swung at and missed the first.
More clutch hitting happened in the 5th, even though the lead-off man, Marco Scutaro, reached and then was caught stealing 2nd. Those are the kinds of things that seem to put a pin in the offense at times, like, aw man, that guy screwed up, so I’m not even going to try. But instead, Michael Cuddyer doubled, and then Tyler Colvin hit an RBI single and Jordan Pacheco hit an RBI double. That was the point at which the Rockies decisively took the lead, and held onto it until Belisle allowed a run in the 8th.
Unfortunately, from the the 6th through the 11th innings the Rockies simply could not make anything happen. They were stymied by the Friars’ bullpen, including, of course, Huston Street. It wasn’t until the 12th that the bats took charge again. With Joe Thatcher on the mound, Cuddyer singled and was bunted over by Torres. Sidebar: I did not agree with allowing Torres to bat for himself, even though I understood that he was on tap to pitch the bottom of the inning if the Rockies didn’t score. However, under the circumstances, he did his job, and advanced the runner. The sad part is, now you know Jim Tracy is going to let every pitcher bat for himself in every game and he’s going to use bunting all the time. That’s how his brain works. In any case, Pacheco singled Cuddy home and Ramon Hernandez singled in Pacheco. A 2-run cushion was more than enough to seal the win.
The interesting thing is how little the top of the order contributed last night. The 1-3 hitters only reached base 3 times in 12 innings, and Dexter Fowler earned the coveted Golden Sombrero. Everybody else, on the other hand, had at least 2 hits, and Cuddy had 4. Pacheco drove in 4 runs, a career high, and Hernandez drove in 2. It was a quality performance from everybody except the guys who are supposed to get on base and start these rallies in the first place.
The series concludes this afternoon with Christian Friedrich needing a sold outing.