Chad Bettis turned in the best performance this season from a rotation that has continually outdone itself. After a 6-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants, we had to wonder: What might have been?
On a bright and sunny Labor Day afternoon, the Colorado Rockies continued their recent trend of playing well against good teams and poorly against bad teams. The team in question today was the San Francisco Giants, currently three games back of the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants are always a tough opponent for the Rockies, but it goes both ways, and the only thing we can be sure of when these teams meet is that weird things will happen.
Perhaps the weirdest of today’s weird things was the total shellacking of Giants’ starter Matt Moore, a decent-to-good pitcher acquired at the deadline by San Francisco. He was also nearly the owner of a no-hitter just a week and a half ago. He started out great, setting down the Rockies in order in the first two innings (provided you don’t count the should-have-been-an-error that allowed DJ LeMahieu to reach). And then the third inning happened.
It began innocently enough, with a walk to Cristhian Adames. Then pitcher Chad Bettis came to the plate and took a brilliant at-bat, squaring to bunt four times but pulling away each time as Moore delivered a ball. Raimel Tapia singled to load the bases and LeMahieu drove in the first run with a sac fly.
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At that point, Moore chose to walk Nolan Arenado to get to Carlos Gonzalez. That’s nearly always a mistake, no matter what hand you pitch with. CarGo lined Moore’s third pitch into the bullpen, and just like that the Rockies owned a five-run lead.
Nick Hundley tacked on a sixth with a solo homer, and Moore was removed a couple of batters later.
That’s all the offense the Rockies managed to put together, but that was all they needed, thanks to a flat-out masterful performance by Bettis. Bettis has been hit-or-miss this season, but, like every member of the rotation, he has had his shining moments. Today was the shiniest of his career: a complete game shutout with two hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts. He threw 103 pitches and came as close as any Rockie has come to a Maddux in years. The last Rockies (and until Monday, only) pitcher to record a complete game shutout with two hits or fewer at Coors was Jeff Francis in 2006. This is rarefied air our friend Chad is breathing.
The best part of watching Bettis pull this off was the way he overcame some initial adversity. He had a rough second inning, where he retired the hitters in order but worked himself deep into the count each time and wound up throwing 20+ pitches. He could have allowed that frustrate him to the point that it threw him off for the rest of the game, but he didn’t. He got right back out there in the third and began to dominate again.
I really feel that the Rockies will not make the playoffs this year. This, despite the fact that they will finish with their best record since 2010. In a season of what-ifs, perhaps the biggest is this: What if the Rockies’ rotation had been able to go deep into games the way Bettis did today. What if starters had kept the ball out of the hands of a bullpen that is more like a liability? Where would we be now?