Don’t look now, but the Colorado Rockies are no longer in the cellar in the National League West Division.
By courtesy of a three-game sweep this weekend of Arizona, the Colorado Rockies (18-29) have leapfrogged the D-backs and are now in fourth place, one-half game ahead of last-place Arizona (18-30) in the divisional standings.
The fourth-place ranking marks the first time since April 9 that the Rox have not stood alone at the bottom of the NL West (the team was tied for fourth on April 10 before occupying the cellar alone since April 11).
The series sweep of Arizona was capped Sunday before a crowd of 19,221 at Coors Field as Colorado rallied from a one-run deficit for a 4-3 victory. Trevor Story delivered the game-winning blow with a walkoff solo home run to open the bottom of the ninth inning.
In addition, the sweep was Colorado’s second of 2021 and its first for a three-game set this season (the club captured both games earlier this year against Houston). Their last three-game sweep came in August of last year when the Rockies swept the D-Backs in Arizona from August 24-26. For their last sweep of a series that was three games or more overall at Coors Field, you would have to go back to the 2019 season when in their final series of the year, the Rockies swept the Brewers.
Besides the game-winning hit, Story also had a two-out, run-scoring single to drive in Colorado’s first run against the D-backs as part of a 2-for-5 day at the plate.
After nabbing the first two games of the series against Arizona, the Rockies appeared to be well on the way to a sweep. The Rox took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning Sunday with Rox starting pitcher Jon Gray in control having allowed just one hit.
But the Diamondbacks, who had only four hits in the contest, took advantage of a couple of walks from Gray to tally three runs in the sixth. Arizona’s only hit in the inning was a big one, a two-run homer delivered by Pavin Smith that put the D-backs in front 3-2.
Colorado battled back to knot the contest at 3-3 in the eighth inning with Yonathan Daza (see 3 things below) plating the tying run with a fielder’s choice grounder. That set the stage for Story’s ninth-inning heroics.
But the Rockies shortstop certainly wasn’t the only “story” for Colorado against Arizona, which has now lost 13 consecutive road games.
Here are 3 things to like from the Colorado Rockies sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks:
1. Daza turns heads with his athleticism in the outfield
The native of Maratay, Venezuela, displayed his defensive skills Sunday with two highlight-reel plays in centerfield. First, in the fifth inning, he made a running over-the-shoulder catch going full speed to his right to rob Josh Reddick of extra bases while possibly preventing a run for Arizona, which had a runner on first base in the at-bat.
Then, an inning later, with runners on the corners, Daza sprinted to his left, dove, and hauled in a sinking liner off the bat of the D-backs’ Ketel Marte.
The out did result in a sacrifice fly and a run scored for Arizona but, again, Daza most likely prevented an extra-base hit that could have scored two runs.
2. Daniel Bard finds a way (somehow) to escape late innings
After a rough stretch of having allowed runs in eight of nine relief appearances as the team’s closer, the right-hander managed to maneuver safely through two, one-inning relief stints in the final two games against Arizona.
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On Saturday night, he worked around a leadoff double while recording a pair of strikeouts to post his fifth save of the season and nail down a 7-6 Colorado win.
In the series finale Sunday, he entered in the ninth inning with the game tied and permitted a double and a walk with one out. But he rebounded to get back-to-back strikeouts to avert the D-back threat. Bard ended up being the winning pitcher as a result of the Story game-winner.
Bard has now not allowed an earned run in each of his last five outings and seven of his last eight.
His appearances, though, have proven to be not for the faint of heart.
3. Young relievers show their mettle
Sticking with the bullpen theme, manager Bud Black has not hesitated to give some of the younger members of the relief corps opportunities, and a pair—Justin Sheffield and Lucas Gilbreath—responded well this weekend.
Sheffield was touched for a run in one inning (the eighth) in Colorado’s 7-1 win on Friday night. But the right-hander responded with a clean inning (the eighth inning, once again) on Sunday to lower his earned run average to 1.72 in 16 appearances this season.
Gilbreath permitted a hit in one scoreless inning (the seventh) on Sunday after the D-backs had gained the lead against Gray. Gilbreath has gone scoreless in four of his eight outings in 2021 in his first season of Major League action.
With the Arizona sweep and escape from the NL West cellar in hand, Colorado now prepares for a seven-game road swing beginning Monday with the opener of a four-game set against the New York Mets.
While the Rockies are 16-12 at home, the club is mired with a 2-17 road mark with losses in their last seven contests away from Coors Field.
Austin Gomber (2-4, 4.96) is slated to get the starting nod on the mound in Monday’s 5:10 p.m. (Mountain time) start against the Mets.