LeMahieu takes a brilliant AB. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
It was a thriller at Coors Field last night, wherein many unlikely heroes took up the cause of victory and were successful.
One who was not a hero was starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa. Much was made of De La Rosa’s inability to communicate with Wilin Rosario on Opening Day, but it’s pretty clear that that is not the biggest problem on our hands. DLR looked nearly as frustrated and equally as discombobulated last night as he did Monday, even though his battery mate was Jordan Pacheco. Since the organization has repeatedly insisted that they will not employ a personal catcher for DLR, it was a nice gesture for them to have Pacheco catch his second start. And it didn’t help. The problem wasn’t so much DLR shaking Pacheco off as it was that he didn’t look confident in any of his pitches, and his command was all over the place. He also botched an easy 1-3 force out on a weak groundball off the bat of Martin Prado when he just sort of walked right past it. It looked like he thought maybe he was supposed to be covering first base, but Justin Morneau was standing there, and DJ LeMahieu was too far away to get to the ball. The mistake was magnified when Mark Trumbo came up to bat next and hit DLR’s splitter over the fence in right field. Weiss pulled DLR after 4 1/3, primarily because he had already thrown 101 pitches.
DLR has to get it together. I can’t say anything about that that hasn’t already been said. He was given the opportunity to be the team ace for at least the first month of the season, and he’s being a childish diva who keeps making vague “I take the blame” statements that come off more like sound bites than actual expressions of remorse. Time to pitch like a man.
Luckily, the Rockies’ offense, after going through the lineup once to figure out D-backs pitcher Brandon McCarthy, decided they weren’t having this loss business, and they took matters into their own hands. Down 4-0 heading into the 4th inning, Carlos Gonzalez took a 4-pitch walk after one of his trademark ugly strikeouts in the 1st. Then Michael Cuddyer came up and launched McCarthy’s first pitch into the seats. After a groundout from Morneau, Nolan Arenado came up and hit a dinger of his own, closing the gap to one run. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that Arenado hit a homer in his next at-bat as well. After seeing him struggle at the plate, that was highly encouraging. I HOPE I’ll be able to say in the future that I was at the ballpark the day Arenado figured out how to have a major-league bat.
The 5th inning featured more offensive highlights; Charlie Blackmon, who can basically do no wrong right now, singled, stole 2nd, and then scored on a LeMahieu single. LeMahieu then scored from first on a Cargo single, because he was running as the ball left the pitcher’s hand, and he didn’t let up on his speed until he crossed the plate. LeMahieu almost came up huge again in the 7th inning. There were runners on the corners and nobody out. The squeeze bunt was on, but DJLM fouled it to the right side. No matter; new plan. He worked a 12-pitch at bat off Arizona’s Ryan Rowland-Smith, knowing he had runners to protect and runs to drive in. Eventually he found a pitch he liked and launched it to the gap in right center. It was hit perfectly; LeMahieu could not have done it better. The only problem was that center fielder A.J. Pollock ran it down and made an incredible catch. Of course, by that time, Blackmon was well on his way to 3rd, so. Luckily, Brandon Barnes was able to make it back to 3rd to tag up, so it still counted as a sac fly. As I said, LeMahieu couldn’t have done a thing better. It was a brilliant at bat.
Three straight doubles in the 8th by Morneau, Arenado, and Pacheco scored a couple more runs. And please do not dismiss the very important work of the bullpen, which took the 4 runs DLR had allowed and refused to allow another. I’m a huge Tommy Kahnle fan after seeing him in spring training, though I fear he’ll be sent down before too long, given that we have three pitchers coming off the DL in the next month. He allowed one hit and no runs over 1 2/3. Adam Ottavino gave up a lead-off double in the 7th, but then logged three gorgeous strikeouts. Rex Brothers pitched a 1-2-3 8th. And LaTroy Hawkins, apparently much more effective when working with a 5-run lead, managed 4 outs in the 9th, though one of them ended up turning into a baserunner thanks to a rushed throw from Arenado.
A great effort by almost all involved. Sometimes it feels like the Rockies just lay down and die offensively when the starting pitcher isn’t doing well. It’s an encouragement to see them take what they’re given and rise to the occasion. I hope this lasts. Also of note is the fact that Troy Tulowitzki was resting yesterday, so the team put up 9 runs without him. Pretty impressive.