Colorado Rockies Drop Series Opener to Pirates

Aug 31, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chad Bettis (35) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Chad Bettis (35) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite being fairly evenly matched with Pittsburgh record-wise, the Colorado Rockies were unable to come out on top at Coors Field on Monday, dropping a 6-1 decision to the Pirates.

Chad Bettis, so good in his previous starts, including six shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs, labored in the first inning. It looked like he and Nick Hundley were having trouble communicating. Bettis threw 25 pitches and wound up with runners on second and third. John Jaso, the runner on third, only stayed there because Carlos Gonzalez was in right, and you don’t run on him unless you’re feeling real strong. Bettis got out of the inning without allowing a run, but he was lucky to do so.

The Rockies’ offense showed up to play early as well, hoping to take advantage of a Pirates’ pitching staff every bit as unsteady. With one out in the first, Trevor Story walked, and then CarGo executed a swinging bunt along with an ill-advised headfirst side that nonetheless meant everyone was safe. Unfortunately, both Nolan Arenado and Ryan Raburn were called out on strikes, ending the threat.

It took Bettis about half as many pitches to get to three outs in the second. Alas, an evil thunderstorm descended on LoDo with two outs in the bottom of the second, resulting in a 30-minute rain delay.

Luckily, the delay wasn’t long enough to take Bettis out of the game, and he worked an almost-clean third inning. His first pitch to Jaso resulted in a comebacker which Bettis turned into a double play. Once he and Hundley got into a rhythm, Bettis found himself in much more pitcher-friendly counts and he did a great job keeping the ball down. Three routine ground balls got him through the fourth with no problem.

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Through the fourth, the Rockies were beaten not by the Pirates but by home plate umpire Lance Barrett’s strike zone, which was giving both teams (but especially the Rox) too much real estate inside and away. Hundley’s called strike three to end the fourth was the Rockies’ fourth of the night, and Walt Weiss was justifiably angry. He even got tossed! That didn’t seem to have an effect on the strike zone though.

The first run of the game came with one out in the top of the fifth, when Jaso grounded out to second with a runner on third. Bettis didn’t appear rattled, though, and Matt Joyce hit right into the shift to end the inning a minute later.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Rockies turned to what’s been working for them lately: small ball. DJ LeMahieu smacked a solid single to left and Bettis bunted him over. The Pirates were likely expecting Bettis’s bunt, but they were not expecting Gerardo Parra‘s, which put runners on the corners with one out. However, the Rockies made absolutely nothing out of that as Story struck out swinging and CarGo flied out to center.

Bettis finished the sixth with a strikeout and two more ground balls. He was at 93 pitches at that point, and his overall line was solid. The Rockies, unfortunately, still had Lance Barrett to contend with, and Raburn was called out on strikes with one out, leading to his own ejection. Somehow, bench coach Tommy Runnells managed to stay in the game. The crowd was small but hot. It’s really hard to get a rally going when the strike zone is so absurd.

Bettis tried to finish the seventh, but he ran into some more crummy luck. Gregory Polanco singled and Bettis had him picked off, but the umpire thought otherwise. A flyout to left, where Ben Paulsen had replaced Raburn, moved Polanco to second. He advanced to third on a groundout and then scored on a wild pitch, a pitch that came at the worst possible time because of the runner on third. It also chased Bettis from the game so that Scott Oberg could come in and give up a three-run home run. Bettis’s final line (6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 114 pitches) looks far worse than his performance actually was. Don’t worry guys, Chad Bettis is not broken.

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Back-to-back singles and a groundout that scored LeMahieu finally busted up the shutout in the seventh. However, that’s all the damage the Rockies could do as Arenado popped out to end the inning with two runners still on base.

The Pirates tacked on one more insurance run in the eighth to account for the final score.