The Colorado Rockies lost a miserable game last night. After staking them to a 4 run lead thanks to command issues from Tim Lincecum, the world champion San Francisco Giants essentially toyed with the Rockies from the 6th inning on, eventually winning by a 9-6 score. Giants’ hitters hit everything they saw (including an inexplicable Brandon Crawford home run). The Rockies’ bullpen, defense, and offense fell apart altogether and what could have been a statement win turned into the ugliest kind of loss.
There is blame to go around. Perhaps the bullpen is the main culprit. But I still cannot get past the “hits” column of the box score.
Four hits. That’s all. Four. No team has ever had to apologize for opportunistic hitting; it should excite the Rockies that they turned a mere 4 hits, along with walks, into 6 runs. But after the 2nd inning, the offense had two hits for the rest of the game: Troy Tulowitzki‘s home run and a Wilin Rosario single. Dexter Fowler walked and got to 2nd base in the 7th, representing the last real opportunity for the Rockies once the Giants had come back.
Look at this like a
2nd 3rd round game of the NCAA tournament. Think of a #9 seed playing a #1 seed. Those games often follow a familiar arc: the #9 seed takes advantage of opportunities early and jumps out to a double-digit lead. Then the game hits a lull where neither team plays particularly well. Then you hear the following refrain from whatever announcers are calling the game:
“Well (#9 team) is still winning, but I can’t help but think they missed an opportunity to put this game out of reach. It is dangerous to let (#1 team) hang around and think they can still win this game.”
Eventually the #1 seed wears down the #9 seed and takes the lead. It ends up being a close game and the #9 team even has some chances to win in the final minutes. But when the loss is official, you cannot help but think that they lost the game as much in the first half when they did not run away with a big lead as they did in the nail-biting moments of the 2nd half.
That was how this game felt to me. As Nicasio slumped-shouldered his way to the dugout after issuing those two 6th inning walks, I thought: “They let the Giants hang around in this one.”
After jetting to 5 runs in the 2nd inning, the Rockies had a chance to pile on, even if one run at a time, for the rest of the game. Tulo’s home run notwithstanding, they failed to do so. They got away from a good approach and essentially spent the rest of the game striking out and flaring weak fly balls into the San Francisco night. And they paid for it when Adam Ottavino and Wilton Lopez melted down.
A 4-run lead is nice, but it is not insurmountable. A 7 or 8-run lead would have felt much different, and it was realistic in this game given the distinct manner in which the Rockies scored their first 5 runs.
Yes the Rockies’ bullpen is to blame for this loss. But the offense, the facet of this team that has ambitions of leading them to glory, had a chance to seize this game, to “step on their throats,” as they say, and failed to do so. They can learn from this loss just as much as the horrendous pitching and defense.