Tuesday’s sellout crowd at Coors Field came to see fireworks. Once again, the Colorado Rockies delivered just that at the plate and after the game as well. The only problem? The Houston Astros had more bang at the end of the game.
Ian Desmond‘s two-run double highlighted a five-run fifth inning for the Colorado Rockies. However, Yuli Gurriel hit a pair of home runs, including a go-ahead blast in the seventh as the Houston Astros took the first of a two-game series against the Rockies with a 9-8 decision. The loss pushed the Rockies to 44-41 on the season and dropped them to 2-3 in a big six-game homestand with the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gurriel’s blast off Colorado reliever Jake McGee was his first of the year against a left-hander and his fourth career go-ahead homer in the seventh or later. He also doubled in the game, giving him a career-high 10 total bases.
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McGee and Bryan Shaw struggled mightily trying to control the Houston offense, combining to give up four hits and four runs in a combined inning that turned an 8-5 Rockies lead into a 9-8 deficit. Houston looked to add more but Colorado manager Bud Black went to Oberg to start the eighth.
With a pair of scoreless innings to end the game, the right-hander now has a 1.52 ERA at Coors Field this season, hurling 23.2 frames covering 21 games. He’s allowed 12 hits and walked eight while striking out 28 during his games in LoDo.
"“You have to pitch well late in the game,” Black said. “He’s making pitches. He continues to make pitches. What’s it going to take in the second half? It’s going to take more consistent pitching on our end and he’s pretty much been doing it all year.”"
In a time where Coors Field is seemingly eating up pitchers and spitting them out, the 29-year-old Oberg has become a steadying force when taking the mound in Denver.
"“When I take the ball, I try not to read too much into what’s already happened in the game,” Oberg told Rox Pile and other reporters after the game. “I just try to go out and throw my game and execute pitches. Hopefully my misses are in good spots where they can’t do too much damage.”"
So what’s the secret to pitching in Denver?
"“I’m not sure I know the specific answer to that,” Oberg answered when asked how he could explain his Coors Field success. “I know that I’m very familiar with this mound, the sights, the way the ball moves a little bit. I have a good feel for pitching here at home. Having that experience continues to help build moving forward.”"
Let’s not forget that Oberg posted a 2.45 ERA and opponents hit .213 against him last season. This success isn’t just a flash in the pan. Sure, there have been hiccups, but Oberg has developed into a reliable late-inning stopper for the Rockies for some time now.
That’s not bad for a guy who was optioned to Triple-A on April 24 after logging a 6.97 ERA in nine April contests last season. We talked about his return last season and some of the tweaks he made to improve in this article.
The Rockies will need not just Oberg to develop that feel for late-game success but their other relievers as well. Veterans such as McGee, Shaw and closer Wade Davis will need to solidify what has been shaken footing at times in order for the Rockies to make the postseason, let alone advance past the Wild Card contest.
What Oberg has done and continues to do is admirable. Now his secrets to success need to be contagious in the Rockies bullpen.