Colorado Rockies Defeat Blue Jays As Tulo Returns

May 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Daniel Descalso (3) is congratulated after scoring against the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
May 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Daniel Descalso (3) is congratulated after scoring against the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

It was a big day at Coors Field as former Colorado Rockies All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returned for the first time since being traded last summer.

This was three different games within Colorado’s 9-5 win, so the only way to talk about it is to acknowledge all three.

1. The Return of Tulo

We’ve been anticipating this since the news broke in July 2015 that Tulo had been dealt to the Blue Jays for Jose Reyes and three pitching prospects. We couldn’t have known then that our reunion with Tulo would come so quickly, but thanks to MLB scheduling magic, Toronto came to town less than a year after Tulo’s departure.

I was really curious to see how the crowd would respond to him, because he has said a lot of negative things about the Rockies since the trade went down. But if you look closely at the things he has said, none of them have been directed at the fans. All the vitriol that exists is between Tulo and the organization, and the atmosphere tonight made it clear that we all knew that, Tulo included.

When he came to the plate for the first time in the second inning, the cheers far outnumbered the boos. Most of the crowd stood as they clapped. Nick Hundley took the opportunity to jog out to the pitcher’s mound so that we could have our moment with Tulo. And then he tipped his cap to us!

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My biggest worry was that we would give him love and he wouldn’t have any to show in return. Tulo is notoriously stoic and he values professionalism above all else. But tonight he proved that he knows he was lucky to have the support of this fan base for so many years. I’m glad that both sides can have fond memories of Tulo’s years with the organization, no matter what happens next.

2. The Pitchers’ Duel

Once we got the Tulo stuff out of the way, two starting pitchers took over and made it seem like this was going to be a very low-scoring game.

For the first five innings, Marco Estrada and Jon Gray switched places very quickly as both teams struggled to produce much offense. Other than a Devon Travis solo home run in the first inning, nobody scored, and only Colorado’s Cristhian Adames advanced as far as second base.

It was a bit of a tough break for Gray, who mixed his pitches effectively and struck out eight over the course of his outing but looked like he might take the loss thanks to one first-inning mistake.

And then part three rolled around …

3. The Rake-Fest

Something happened to both Estrada and Gray in the sixth inning, and that something was probably hitters making adjustments as they began to come to the plate for the third time.

With two outs, Travis doubled and then scored on a Josh Donaldson single. Edwin Encarnacion finally saw a pitch he liked from Gray and launched it into the seats in left for a two-run homer. Just like that, it was 4-0, Toronto.

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But the Colorado Rockies had plans for Estrada, too, and, before anybody knew what was happening, there were two runners in scoring position with only one out. Nolan Arenado, a bit cold of late, struck out, but Carlos Gonzalez, not cold at all, hit a three-run home run and made it a one-run game.

From there, it was a battle of the bullpens (other than Gray pitching the top of the seventh), and guess what? The Jays’ pen is worse than their Rockies’ counterparts! It must have felt just like coming home for Tulo: his team can’t hold the lead from the mound or drum up enough offense to bail out the pitching, and he himself pops out to second on his last shot in the ninth. Some things never change.

In the bottom of the seventh, many strange things happened. Tyler Anderson (yes, the pitcher) came to the plate to pinch hit. This was primarily a result of the Rockies having a very short bench: DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Story both sustained minor injuries in yesterday’s game, so both were resting, but neither has been put on the disabled list, meaning they were not available but not replaced. Both back-up infielders (Adames and Daniel Descalso) were already in the game, so the only pinch hitters available were Ryan Raburn and Tony Wolters. And, well, pitchers, I guess.

Anderson came to the plate with one out and Brandon Barnes on first and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt with two strikes. I don’t know that I’d have done it that way, but hey, it worked!

After that, pitcher Drew Storen plunked two Rockies hitters in a row to load the bases. Arenado finally came up with a big hit then, a two-run single, and from there four more runs would score, including two on a double by Barnes that bounced off the top of the fence in left.

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Jason Motte faced the Jays in the top of the ninth and surrendered another homer to Encarnacion, but he was able to shut them down after that to secure the victory.

I enjoyed all three of these games, but the third was the most fun. Baseball!